An Interview with "Delinquent" Director, Peter Hall
by Anthony Kaufman
Peter Hall feels like he's in a playground with no one around to be play
with. Like most filmmakers, he's got a movie that he wants everyone in
the world to see, and from the many festivals he's attended around the
globe, he might just do it. But finding wealthy playmates to join him in
the sandbox and give the film a sustainable theatrical life is no easy
(or inexpensive) task.
I met Peter Hall at Clips, a New York Screening series, a few week back and while drinking Coronas in
a West Village bar, the producer-director-writer of "Delinquent" told me
his story of ups and down, recuts, blow-ups, distribs, markets and the
relentless quest for his audience.
"It is a movie that was rejected basically by Sundance, Cannes, Toronto,
Telluride, I mean, I had no connections whatsoever." Hall's efforts to
get the film into a major festival were first thwarted. The almighty
Sundance shot him down once and he considered waiting "for Sundance
again. I waited for Sundance a couple times and that wasn't a great
move. That was before people realized they shouldn't wait for Sundance,"
he says, smiling, as if proud of insulting the indie mecca. While in a
festival in Germany, Hall said, "You go to Sundance or you go to Hell,"
but he quickly reassures, "But it's not that way anymore."
As Hall discovered, there are an abundance of festivals and markets,
with as many opportunities for filmmakers as Sundance. His first major
bout with the industry came in the Independent Feature Film Market, the
famous craze of anxious filmmakers seeking support, encouragement and,
of course, money. "I had a screening at IFFM where I drew a lot of
attention and then they did the usual walk out after half an hour." But
Hall made the mistake, he sees it, of "going to the IFFM with a movie
that wasn't perfect."
Now he advises, "Your best bet is to finish your movie, cut a nasty 7
minute trailer, make it really good, pique their interests with the
trailer and then all the buyers will want to go the screening." Looking
back, however, Hall reflects on his first mistake. "My failure was good,
because we kept going." If he had finished the film at that point, he
wouldn't have made the changes that would eventually lead to
"Delinquent"'s present state - a state Hall seems to be sincerely proud
Out of the IFFM, he did, however get two valuable contacts: he got
invited to a festival in Germany called ex-ground, which later became
his path to the underground film scene in America and he got an
unofficial publicist in T.C. Rice, ("Bad Lieutenant") who initially
advised him informally and then later became his distribution contact.
Rice guided the film to a debut at the Palm Springs festival where
Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy liked the film, but condemned its "boxy"
16mm format. Afterwards, Hall was inspired to make the needed changes.
He and cinematographer Todd Crocket added 10 closeups that would help
clarify the story, cut 6 minutes and included a scene that was
originally taken out. And then pulled another $50,000 in credit cards,
recut it, and blew up the 16 to 35mm with the help of John Allen Assocs.
in northeast Pennsylvania. "An amazing blowup," declared Hall.
With the new re-edited, re-mixed 35mm print and $15,000 video transfer
from a fresh 35mm interpositive, Hall began chapter two of his journey
in film industry playland. Now he was in the unfortunate position where
distributors all over the U.S. had already seen and rejected the film,
but to Hall, a "completely different film" (from the 16mm with a
scratchy sound track). The trick was now to convince distributors that
"Delinquent" was worth seeing again. Miramax was one of the few to a take
a look at the film in its newly refurbished form, but Hall says, "they
would have bought it a few years ago," but now, since Disney's
influence, he didn't have much of a chance.
When Peter began to get depressed again, there was the sold-out debut at
the Montreal World Film Festival. In a bar after the screening, Hall met
Gary Hamilton of Beyond Films, Ltd. (now distributing "Love Seranade") who offered to buy the film's international rights. "I got 5 figures as an
advance, and there were things that still needed to be done, it needed
an M&E, it needed a trailer. They let me cut my own trailer which no
American company would ever let you do. They were cool to work with;
they were wonderful."
They sold on four continents, but still nothing in America, England,
Germany or Japan. But the film will be released theatrically in Italy,
sold television in Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina.
And the $1,500 sale to Bulgarian cable and video insures a good master
went for bootlegging all over the former Iron Curtain.
Other international screenings included 1,600 people packed into "one of
the biggest movie theaters I've ever seen" in New Delhi, India, the
Euro-debut at Ireland's Galway Film Fleadh, Sweden's Umea International
Film Festival and Portugal's International Festival de Cine where he had
to wait 4 months for his $2,500 prize money for Best bet first-time
Getting into America was a different struggle, however and it began with
the underground festivals. "New York Underground was a blessing," Hall
says, and Chicago Underground, "made by people who care about detail,
and really help people" helped him make some great connections. Judging
from Hall's frenetic demeanor and love of the underground music scene,
these festivals seemed a perfect place for him to jumpstart the life of
his new film. "Without Chicago, my movie would not be coming out in
Hall does not want to see him film go out as an art-film. "I have to
reach young people," he claims with a passion, worried that an art-house
release will not bring in the desired crowds. He took the film out of a
very respected art theater in Beverly Hills, because he was afraid it
would drown there. "It was a very good theater and I was proud they
wanted the movie, but I just felt it wasn't going to work for my movie.
One week is not enough to reach my audience. I want my movie to be out
for a few weeks."
"I am going to kill to make people see this movie," says Hall. He has
planned a web site, T-shirts, a leaflet campaign and will hand out 700
dubbed copies of the trailer to fraternities and sororities at UCLA and
groups of kids in Westwood near the Mann's Regent where the film debuts
theatrically on September 12th.
Later in Manhattan, Hall was introduced to the Clips people and agreed
to screen his newly cut trailer at their quarterly mini-market of
independent film, hoping for additional funds to help boost the press
for the film. He wants to make enough money for print ads ($15,000 a
week to fork out for NY and LA) and then he still hopes to book the
"I'm used to the credit card treadmill," he says off handedly. Hall's
persistence is unrelenting; he has the energy and honesty that it takes
to exhibit a film. From zero recognition at major festivals in the U.S.
to now distribution in New York and Los Angeles, Hall has traversed the
wacky playground that is independent film. It's not for everyone and as
Hall concedes, "No two movies succeed by the same path."