Back to IndieWire

Premiere Status (part 2)

Premiere Status (part 2)

Anthony Kaufman’s recent article about Tribeca–a festival that seems hell-bent of pissing-off everyone inside the indie film world–made much ado about the subject of Premiere Status.

One quote caught my attention:
The jury called the film: “A beautifully executed original vision. The kind of movie that you just love to discover.”
“Festival directors blame the obsession with premieres on the press and the film industry for paying close attention only to the newest of films. “As a programmer, there’s nothing I’d like to do more than to pick the very best films,” says Los Angeles Film Fest programming chief Rachel Rosen. “But the premiere issue is very important to both the industry and the press. It may be frustrating, but it’s the reality of the situation.”

ANY festival programmer who forsakes the “best films” in exchange for a premiere should seriously reconsider their vocation.

Perhaps this is easy for me to say, as I am writing from Atlanta, as opposed to LA or NYC. But quality should be the cornerstone of a reputible festival program, no matter where the festival unspools.

In Atlanta–and at other highly regarded festivals all over the country programmed and run by talented folks like Tom Hall, Skizz Cyzyk, Erik Jambor, and Brian Gordon (to name just a few)–we decided not to put filmmakers in the uncomfortable position of having to choose to save themselves for us. Nor did we want to get into pissing matches with fellow fests in our same frame. In the era of digital projection, it is easy for a movie to play a dozen fests at the same time, something that was simply not possible when a 35mm or 16mm film print was required.

If this makes us “regional” then so be it.

Our audiences don’t seem too concerned.

Nor do the visiting fillmmakers.

In fact, screening quality works gives filmmakers the chance to see films they might have missed at other festivals–and it generates a sense of comraderie between visiting filmmakers whose paths inevitably cross along the festival circuit. (This is the type of synergy that contributed to the production of a film like HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS.)

As for audiences (and press), in my experience, people come to the festival to see good films. Passing on a quality film in order to secure a premiere of a lesser film does not impress the press. Any fest hoping to attract the attention of a distributor with a mediocre premiere is deluding itself.

This practice is akin to rejecting a prospective partner because they aren’t a virgin.

(As a side note, likening Festival Premiere status to virginity proves quite useful. To wit, the festivals are akin to male suitor. Films are women, protecting their virginal premiere status: “The loss of virginity can be viewed as a milestone to be proud of or as a failure to be ashamed of, depending on cultural perceptions. Historically, these perceptions were heavily influenced by perceived gender roles, such that for a male the association was more often with pride and for a female the association was more often with shame.”

In other words, a proud festival like Tribeca seeks to empower itself by deflowering the most virgins, and making those who have already premiered elsewhere feel shameful. Seem like a stretch? In the Anthony Kaufman article SEX ADDICT Caveh Zahedi admits that he “regrets about his decision” to give it up to Tribeca….

Even more useful is the section of the passage related to “Technical Virginity”, a bit of Clintonian sophism practiced by filmmakers who boast multiple “World Premieres” selectively claiming “Director’s Cuts” and “Work in Progress Screenings” and the like.

One could argue that Tribeca’s obsession with premieres comprimses the quality of their program: Post critic Lou Lumenick characterizes the line-up as a “stack of mostly mediocre films.”

To not include films like GREAT WORLD OF SOUND or HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS or THE INEVITABLE UNDOING OF JAY BROOKS just because they premiered elsewhere does a disservice to your audience.

I’m proud that we programmed these (and many other) worthy films in the Atlanta line-up this year. We had our share of World Premieres and regional premieres. We just didn’t toot our own horns about it.

Finally, I’m proud that Craig Zobel’s GREAT WORLD OF SOUND won the Grand Jury Prize in Atlanta this year.

Ponder those words.

And now view them in light of the fact that the film played Sundance, SXSW, Sarasota and a few others before ever coming to the ATL. If we were hung up on premiere status like some other festivals, we would have passed on it.

In January, New York Times Manohla Dargis wrote an article championing Craig Zobel’s film. She laments the fact that, “GREAT WORLD OF SOUND was, perhaps unsurprisingly, shown out of the main dramatic competition.”

In Atlanta, the film screened in competition.

And it won.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized and tagged