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Dan Talbot

Dan Talbot

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I like to imagine someone sitting at home on Wednesday night, flipping through the channels with a remote control and coming across this image: Dan Talbot at the Gotham Awards, accepting his Industry Lifetime Achievement Award with a slowly-spoken, 20-minute collection of anecdotes and thank-you’s…
[photo by eugene hernandez, via IFC.]

In talking about James Joyce opening a movie theater in Dublin in 1909, or Ousmane Sembene riding a bike to deliver his own film prints, or citing the early days in distribution for Don Rugoff, Cy Harvey, Bob Shaye or the Weinstein Brothers, Dan Talbot gave rich, informed, passionate tales from the front lines of film releasing. I’ve watched his speech two more times on tape.

The problem was that a number of the 1,000 people attending the Gotham Awards on Wednesday didn’t really seem to care. I saw Ethan Hawke returning to his seat near me (midway through Talbot’s acceptance speech) and asking someone next to him, “Who is this guy?!” Exactly. Many other folks checked emails on their Blackberrys, chatted with friends, or just got up to grab a cigarette. And an IFC rep apparently approached Mike Leigh, who would take the stage later in the evening, to make sure his speech was only 4 minutes or less. Meanwhile on the telepromter, producers tried to get Talbot to cut his speech short, flashing a “please wrap it up” sign mulitple times.

“I know it said wrap it up, up there, (but) i’m not gonna do it so quickly,” Talbot admonished, during his speech.

Almost like a wardrobe malfunction, Dan Talbot’s speech Wednesday night just didn’t fit into the norms of live TV etiquette. Certainly it was against the traditions of awards season. In “independent” film we expect our awards shows to mirror those of Hollywood…a red carpet pre-show, witty scripted banter by celebrities before presenting an award, valuable gift bags, and short little thank you speeches.

When someone veers from the norm, how else do we respond but by mocking them. Witness Thomas Haden Church later in the evening, attempting a joke about Dan Talbot reading poetry, or something like that…

What was truly enlightening were the people who immediately “got it.” One indie/foreign film publicist leaned over to me during the speech and asked that I “be nice” to him in my write-up about the ceremony, while the head of acquisitions for one of the smaller distribution companies excitedly cheered throughout Talbot’s talk, even applauding the mention of the famed Regency Theater, and another tireless insider/advocate stood to clap supportively when Talbot finished his speech.

Anthony Kaufman summed up the moment well, and appropriately the Hollywood trades never mentioned it. They wrote their stories about the Gothams before the cerermony, working from a pre-written list of winners and never anticipating that something real might happen.

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