Connect with us

Paul Osborne Gets His Official Rejection

Paul Osborne Gets His Official Rejection

Articles - Directing

“Oh, yeah, you guys are infamous,” said Bruce Fletcher as he leaned back in his chair, his trademark jack-o’-lantern grin stretching across his face. “You’re downright notorious.”

He was referring to the reaction our documentary about film festivals, Official Rejection, generated when it came up in conversation during a recent informal gathering of various festival directors at the Toronto International Film Festival. When I asked him exactly which festival directors where there, Fletcher, himself the head of the Idaho International Film Festival, refused to name names. While all of these directors had seen the movie, he’d determined that only a few of them had done so because we’d submitted to their festivals; most had obtained a copy through other means. Fletcher didn’t wish to identify anyone because then we would then know which ones had been guilty of illegally duplicating our DVD screeners.

I nodded my understanding, then asked what exactly he meant by our being infamous among this group.

“About half the festival directors were on board with Official Rejection,” he said, fishing in his shirt pocket for a pack of smokes. “The other half thinks it’s obnoxious as hell. Of course, when I asked them exactly what they found obnoxious, the whole thing just turned into them trying to justify the questionable behavior and tactics that your film calls attention to in the first place.”

It was a reaction we’d anticipated, even during production. Trying to play a movie about film festivals at film festivals, especially one that explores the unwritten and unspoken politics of the circuit, was always deemed a dicey proposition. So many of the imperfections in the system we wanted to explore—premiere status, nepotism, studio interference, the favoring of star power over quality—were the elephants in the room that most moviemakers were afraid to simply discuss, let alone question.

As my friend and fellow moviemaker Karl Hirsch quipped, “Playing Official Rejection at a film festival is like trying to play Super Size Me at a McDonald’s.”

The response from film festivals did indeed turn out to be quite bipolar. Some genuinely embraced the flick, even going so far as to create special events around it. The deadCENTER Film Festival of Oklahoma City hosted an “Official Rejection: Life and Times of Independent Film” panel following our screening, and Fletcher’s IIFF played two movies featured in our documentary,Ten ‘til Noon and Johnny Montana, along with Official Rejection as a kind of festival-within-the-festival.

“We offered the double whammy screening and panel because we felt the film was enlightening for both audiences and moviemakers alike,” says executive director of deadCENTER, Cacky Poarch. “A record number of film enthusiasts attended both events and the feedback we received was tremendous.“

Then there were the other festivals; ones who tended to have a more negative reaction. A top programmer at a major film fest even went so far as to call me to deliver his rejection of our documentary personally; although to his credit, this was done completely without malice and was taken, by me, as a great courtesy. This programmer told me that he’d really liked the quality of the moviemaking, but took issue with much of how we approached the subject matter. I didn’t argue or counter him; after all, it was amazing to be able to get this feedback and well worth every penny of the submission fee just to listen.

One particularly sticky area for him was the section of the film about programmers. “Are you implying we don’t watch the movies submitted all the way through?” he asked. “Okay, okay we don’t watch all of them all the way through, but come on. If they’re bad in the first half an hour, they’re not gonna suddenly get better. And I know you have some idea of just how many submissions we have to get through.”

It’s an understandable point: Programmers are notoriously overwhelmed with literally stacks and stacks of movies to watch. But what about the issue from the moviemaker’s side, where a submission fee of $80 means that the festival has been paid more than 40 bucks an hour just to have someone sit and watch a film? That’s a pretty fantastic wage simply to plant oneself in front of a television. As such, it’s not hard to understand how failing to watch the whole flick, and giving it every chance all along its entire running time, could be seen by a moviemaker as a violation of trust. Both points of view here are valid, but rarely before our documentary had that of the moviemaker’s been heard.

This issue seemed to be endemic of the way these festivals regarded Official Rejection overall: No one was saying that the content of our movie wasn’t true. Rather, they just would have preferred it if we hadn’t gone there.

“The fact that Official Rejection played so few of the larger fests shows how cowardly some of those festival directors are,” says author of The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide Chris Gore. “When the camera is pointed their way, they take cover. The potshots are fair. Festival programmers need to grow a pair.”

In the end, though, whether it’s been accepted or shunned, Official Rejection seems to have opened up the discussion about the realities of the circuit, good and bad, for moviemakers and programmers alike. And if it has then every rejection we’ve received is a badge of honor and we’re proud to wear them.

For more information on Official Rejection and to order the DVD, being released November 17, 2009, visit www.officialrejectiondocumentary.com.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Articles - Directing

  • Articles - Acting

    Editor’s Weekend Pick: Short Term 12

    By

    MovieMaker‘s pick of the films out in theaters this week is the award-winning, heart-pumping Short Term...

  • Articles - Acting

    Fictionalizing Truth: Lee Daniel’s The Butler & More

    By

    We’ve all seen those stately biopics (usually with Oscar aspirations), in which renowned actors portray real-life...

  • Articles

    MovieMaker Editor’s Pick: Prince Avalanche
    by MovieMaker Editors

    By

    MovieMaker’s Editor’s Weekend Pick is director-writer-producer David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche, starring Paul Rudd and Emile...

  • Articles

    Thor Freudenthal Sets Sail with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
    by Kyle Rupprecht

    By

    German-born moviemaker Thor Freudenthal started his career in visual effects and animation, working on such films...

  • Articles - Cinematography

    Best Of: The Most Bodacious Surfing Movies

    By

    Much like an ocean wave, the surfing movie subgenre has seen its share of peaks and...

  • Articles

    Tattoo Nation: Director Eric Schwartz (Part 2)

    By

    In Part One (of this interview, we talked to Colorado-based Tattoo Nation director Eric Schwartz about...

  • Articles - Directing

    Things I’ve Learned As a Moviemaker: Kevin Smith

    By

    Director, screenwriter, sometimes actor, and all-around major geek Kevin Smith has deep roots in independent moviemaking,...

  • Articles - Acting

    Perfectly Paranormal: Ghostbusting in Film

    By

    Where would the world be without the paranormal investigators of cinema? Overrun with evil spirits, demons...

  • Articles

    MovieMaker Editor’s Weekend Pick: Storm Surfers 3D
    by Rory Owen Delaney

    By

    Storm Surfers 3D delivers big wave-riding experience for moviegoers!  This week’s MovieMaker Editor’s Weekend Pick is...

  • Articles

    Laurence Anyways: MovieMaker’s Weekend Pick
    by Kelly Leow

    By

    In recognition of the Supreme Court’s landmark dismissal of California’s Proposition 8 and its striking down...

  • Articles - Directing

    Things I’ve Learned: Neil Jordan’s 12 Golden Rules of Moviemaking

    By

    In the last few years, Neil Jordan, whose career spans three decades, has written and directed...

  • Articles - Directing

    Re-Vamping: Ten Unique Takes on Vampire Mythology

    By

    In celebration of the release of “Byzantium” this Friday, we’ve come up with a selection of...

  • Articles - Directing

    Things I’ve Learned: Gus Van Sant’s Six Golden Rules of Moviemaking

    By

    Gus Van Sant is one of America’s most heralded, iconic independent auteurs.  Based in Portland, Oregon,...

  • Articles - Acting

    Sloppy Seconds: The Best (and Worst) Horror Remakes

    By

    Horror movie remakes are a dime a dozen these days, with retreads of such genre classics...

  • Latest

    Instagram

    Moviemaking

    Comments

    RSS MovieMaker RSS

    To Top