SAIFF puts its left foot forward

This evening was the opening night premiere of the film festival. The organizers did a great job of getting a ton of press to attend and the AMC movie theater at Lincoln Square was packed with about 500 attendees.

The evening started off with the press interviewing some of the filmmakers. The marketing manager did a good job of getting the shrinking violets in front of the press, talking about their films. Pitching my film on camera was an excellent learning experience.

And then we waited for the opening film, Hope And A Little Sugar (HAALS), to start. And waited. And waited. The organizers were having technical difficulties with the projector and seemed to be working furiously to fix it. But when the 8:30 PM screening time eventually became 10PM, they cancelled the screening and offered to refund everyone their money.

It was a very tough situation for the organizers. Everyone was tired and hungry and this seemed to be an issue that was truly beyond their control. I’ve heard that the festivals last year and the year before were superbly run so I am sure they’ll get past this glitch and have smooth and timely showings going forward.

Update (Oct 5): Here’s the skinny. SAIFF required filmmakers to submit in one of three formats – Beta SP, DVD and 35mm. Apparently HAALS was in digibeta. So SAIFF had organized a special projector, making an exception for this film. Apparently the first lens was not the right one, so they got another lens. With the new lens, apparently the film, instead of taking up 100% of the screen, took up only 75% of the screen. So it was not that the film was distorted in any way, it would have been like seeing the film on a smaller screen. Okay then. But no, not okay. Apparently the director, Tanuja Chandra, was ready to move forward. Great news, smart lady — there are 500 people who are getting grumpier by the minute! Oh, not so quick — the producers refused to let the film be shown.

Are you kidding me?? You are getting to be the opening night premiere of SAIFF. The organizers have done a ton of marketing and you have 500 people who will see your film. And you refuse to let them screen it? Bad, bad call. The producers, Glenn Russow and Scott Pardo, don’t seem to have produced before (per IMDB). To me, the cardinal rule of producing is to do what’s best for the film. In my opinion, it would have been so much better to let 500 people see the film on a slightly smaller screen size than to have no one see it.
[Note: the surfeit of “apparently”s is due to the fact that this is one version of events and I didn’t get a chance to confirm this with the filmmakers]

It’s my guess that it was fully within SAIFF’s legal rights to force them to screen the film, but they played nice. Not sure they should have – most people left for the night annoyed that SAIFF didn’t have its act together. If the reality was different, it is in SAIFF’s best interests to protect its brand name – festivals are the ones that dictate the rules, not the filmmakers.