In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering writes for Film4.com about the experience of pitching up in Sundance with your first theatrical feature film…
I wake early and head to the filmmaker’s Lodge on Main Street where festival-goers hang out and come to hear different people talk on panels about different things.
These are three figures I admire for their depth of understanding of film and their prolific talent. They are in their particular ways, masters of the genre – Ben is almost reinventing the wheel, Eduardo reinstated found footage firmly into our consciousness and Roger Corman has made literally hundreds of films – he’s kickstarted the careers of de Niro, Scorsese, Coppola, Jack Nicholson and so many others and on top of that he seems really nice.
The moderator is Tim League who is a massive figure in the indie and genre world, running the Alamo Drafthouse and hugely instrumental in SXSW festival.
We go on stage sit and the panel begins. We talk about our influences in the genre, personal heroes, why the genre has enduring appeal, how the genre has shifted and techniques in our own films – how to create fear.
I’m really enjoying it – it’s energizing sitting with such illustrious figures – and they are all generous, and inclusive. And funny.
The audience return several times to funding – there is an understandable and general moaning at how hard it is to raise cash in the indie world.
Where I think this gets interesting is when we talk about how this has perhaps meant directors must increasingly have a sense of responsibility for the money that is behind their film.
Creative choices must surely be made with the audience in mind but are the days of creative purity that Robert Redford referenced really part of a bygone era?
Are we driven in our ideas and our execution of those ideas by the force of the marketplace any more than those before us? Certainly it’s arguably easier to get a genre film financed – but does that really mean ideas are being compromised?
Perhaps it was always really like this – it’s just got more explicit.
Either way it means there are probably lots of projects that may well be wonderful but that disregard the audience and so end up in dusty drawers.
And maybe this is no bad thing – personally I’m acutely aware that tonight my film will be watched by a paying audience and that excites me. And without sounding like a twat, humbles me. No, I sound like a twat.
But I mean it.
I made this film with an audience in mind – I feel less like an artist painting in isolation and more like a craftsman making furniture – and if the chair is too small for anyone to sit on then surely it’s no longer a chair? Tonight I’ll know.
Carrying those thoughts in mind the panel finishes and I head out to do press and publicity up and down Main Street.
The commercial facet of filmmaking that we were talking about in the panel and Redford mentioned at the brunch becomes quickly apparent. I’m with two of my cast – the amazingly talented and cool Alice Englert and the amazingly talented and funny Allen Leech and various sponsors of the festival (I guess), or maybe just companies doing publicity, I’m not sure, but they want to take photos of them with hats on, shoes on, headphones on, gloves on, typing on computers, listening to music, drinking water that has been ‘influenced’ by fruit, eating beetroot crisps flavoured by smoking herbs at low temperatures and so on.
And in between these are the movie press interviews and photos. Some really want to know what the film is about, some ask pertinent and probing questions, others just want to know if we’re having fun.
This is no bad thing – and it’s a reality. It’s the commercial world. Yes, the world would be beautiful and wonderful if money never existed – then there’d be no wars and we’d all look after each other and wear hemp.
But to make films we need money upfront and we need the audience to buy a ticket and it’s impossible and unnecessary to deny that all this flurry in some way enables that.
But it’s just a part.
We begin to sense a rising buzz about our film. How that happens I’m not sure – but it’s fantastically exciting. People are talking about it, they are asking about it, they are telling us they want to see it.
And it’s sold out…