I learned many things at the recent LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival where we premiered The Deposition of Lou Bagetta. This was my first such event attending as a filmmaker and it reminded me of being a young kid in a new school standing with a tray full of food in the lunch room, wondering where to sit. But it wasn’t a school, it was a theatre. And I didn’t have a tray full of food. And I knew where I was going to sit. And I had friends and I wasn’t a pimply virgin in Sears Toughskins™ jeans.
THE WHOLE POINT
Film festivals are about networking. Indeed, many folks are using their films as “calling cards” in the hopes of introducing themselves and their hoped-for talents to other members of the film and entertainment community.
For that reason it’s wise to actually bring calling cards. I kind of understood this but too late – and ordered business cards three days before I left for Los Angeles. They arrived the day after I returned from said city. So, I met lots of great folks and handed them my outdated cards with the wrong email address and website info. Nothing makes an impression like, “Here’s my card, but first let me write stuff all over it because everything on my card is wrong.”
UNDERSTANDING THE RED CARPET THING
This is where you have your picture taken in front of the logos of all the sponsors. One thing that is very noticeable is that when famous people stand on the red carpet there are lots of flashes and activity. For the non-famous it’s a different story. Some ladies on the carpet ahead of us were taking way, way too much time. We asked them what the delay was and they said the photographers told them they needed to get more film. Film! That was a nice LA way for the photographers to say “You are not famous and we will not take pictures of you.” So, don’t take it personally when you approach the carpet and the photographers decide that’s when they’ll go swap out their batteries or take a cigarette break. Just make sure you have a friend with a camera.
If you are interviewed, it’s always good not to say stupid things that will never make it to air. Short and simple sound bites. It’s harder than you think. You should probably practice at home, even though the thought of you standing around your house alone, pretending to be interviewed, may seem like the saddest thing in the world.
Regardless, have fun with your interview because the reality is that unless you’re famous, the interviewer is just kind of humoring you and/or honing her interviewing skills.
DRUNK FRENCH GUY WITH BAD BREATH
If you are a drunk French guy with bad breath, do not fall over a table and spill whiskey on me. Even though you told me you loved my film several times, the most I’m going to take away from this encounter is that you had bad breath and spilled whiskey on my leg.
Parties seem to be what the festival thing is all about. After all, if you try networking during a screening you’re going to be shushed.
Parties involve drinking a lot of alcohol, especially if the sponsor is a vodka company. In New York this is never a problem because you stumble out of a venue, wave your hand and a man from Pakistan will stop his yellow car and bring you home for about $8. In LA you have no such luck. I had two glasses of wine, asked the restaurant to call us a cab and spent $50 to have a Persian bring us to the festival venue. That’s more than 1/3 of what it cost me to fly the 2,818 miles from New York to Burbank.
This is what happens: People approach you, look at your nametag, and see what film you worked on. If you’ve done a film they really liked, it’s great. They say, “Dude, I loved your film!”
Mingling with filmmakers is, for the most part, great. You have something in common: a desire for attention and/or a love of filmmaking. There are only two times when mingling with filmmakers is not great: when you haven’t seen their film, or when you’ve seen their film and didn’t particularly like it.
If you missed the filmmaker’s screening, you need to come up with an excuse and make an effort to show you’d like to see the film in the future. You can request a DVD or ask when it will be screening again. In the case of some short films, they might even be up on YouTube so you can tell them you look forward to watching the film in a tiny window on your laptop.
But if you saw the film and didn’t like it, that’s a whole other problem. It can be very awkward. One time I went to a screening of the really bad film 13 Ghosts. An actress from the film was sitting in front of me, and I spent the whole screening worried that at the end she was going to turn around and say “What did you think?” at which point I would have had to kill myself. Fortunately for us she had an ass-kissing sidekick girlfriend who leapt to her feet when the lights came on, started clapping and shouted “You were great!” We used that time to get up and slink off.
But if you’re not so lucky, you may have to talk to someone whose film you didn’t really care for. This is when it pays to be Paula Abdul. One technique is to focus on what you did like. Perhaps the story and acting were awful but it looked gorgeous. In that event you can mention how much you liked their technique, framing, lighting or make-up. If an actor stood out you can always focus on him or her. Or talk about the budget and how much they made the film for. If a film was truly awful and you find yourself hard-pressed to come up with anything to say, you can excuse yourself for cheese cubes.
One way to gauge whether or not your film is a success is if people make an effort to approach you to tell you they liked your film. I tracked down the gentleman who made Miracle Investigators because it was wonderfully smart and funny.
DISHEVELED OBESE MAN WITH LONG, STRINGY HAIR
If you are disheveled obese man with long, stringy hair do not point your finger in my wife’s face and say, “I don’t like you because someone like you would never give me the time of day.” First of all, pointing is not nice. Secondly, my wife is very nice and would have given you the time of day up until you came across like a drunk, insecure misogynist.
HORS D’OEUVRES ON TRAYS SERVED BY SEXY WAITRESSES
Just stand near the kitchen. That’s where they come out, and they never make it more than 12 feet away from the kitchen.
AUDIENCE FAVORITE AWARD
The organizers told us we missed the Audience Favorite award by a factor of 0.2. That means that if we’d had just a few more folks in our screening we’d have been handed a glass statue by a sexy girl dressed up as Supergirl. Never underestimate the importance of getting people to go to your screening.
TALKING TO PEOPLE YOU’VE SEEN NAKED
If you find yourself talking to an actress who you’d just seen naked in a screening, try to pretend that you didn’t just see her naked in a screening. Even if she has perfect, natural breasts. And wonderful genitals. Just focus on the other things. But definitely not the breasts and genitals because that’s not important.
Film festivals are a lot of fun. For maximum networking, have business cards that don’t require you to correct them with a pen. Don’t be an insecure fat guy or drunk French one. Stand near the kitchen at parties if you want to eat. And naked girl.