Blessing in Disguise

BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MANHATTAN, USA — I woke up today and, like all days, checked my email. Being a member of the press covering the festival at Tribeca I receive numerous emails every day. Today was no exception. As a member of the press, my job is to attend the press conferences, the press screenings and the general audience screenings. All three have a different feel or nuance.

The press conferences allow the press to ask questions of the writers, actors, producers and directors. It can be a more intimate setting that allows you discuss the motivation of the actors and filmmakers. It can also be far less intimate because, at these conferences, the goal is to sell the film. The passion and commitment to the film can create a stir and, as press, we can influence the ultimate success of a film by the films we choose to cover.

The press screenings allow the press to view a movie without the distraction or influence of the paying audiences. The oddest thing is that press screenings at Tribeca are extremely small. Most are very poorly attended with just a handful of press present. While it encourages objectivity, it doesn’t do much to promote enthusiasm because the theater is so “dead.” At other festivals, the press screenings tend to be better attended. We have been at Tribeca press screenings with as few as four (4!) members of the press in a theater that holds 400.

The audience screenings are typically packed. You can feel the excitement and anticipation for the film. A lot of this excitement or lack thereof, has been created by what the press has written or not written about the film. The press can and does influence the interest and support of film. So you would think allowing the press to do their job would be a priority. (See Cyndi’s post about the value of the press from a distributor’s point of view for more on this.)

cgpjrisk.jpgToday our email from Tribeca informed the press of a new procedure to acquire tickets to an audience screening. So far we have been unable to even get into a single general audience screening. The new process is that we need to ask 24 hours prior to a screening for tickets. They let us know in the morning if we will be blessed with tickets. Oh boy. Since there wasn’t enough time to request tickets, we decided to play it safe and go to a press screening of a film we’d heard really good things about. (Sundance pal, Levi Elder, told us THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES was one of the best films he’d seen.) We can always get into press screenings so we decide “better safe than sorry.” At least we could be certain we’d have something to write about.

The screening was set for a new venue, the Clearview Chelsea West. Being a little tight for time, we hailed a cab headed north. We arrived with at least 15 minutes to spare. We were informed, however, for unknown reasons, that the film ad been removed from the list for press. We were curtly informed that it would not screen. Would have been nice to know. Could have saved 10 bucks on the taxi and slept in. But, then, a blessing in disguise, we wanted somewhere to sit so we went to the TOWARDS DARKNESS Press Conference (see blog entry) and talked with some very talented folks. It all turned out in the end.

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