Tuesday  June 17, 2003


Bill Dawes, Bill Sage, Joseph Pierson, Io Tillett Wright and Mike Jones

The past week was pretty insane. EvenHand had been accepted to four film festivals that all took place between Wednesday, June 11th and Sunday, June 15th. I was determined to attend three out of the four, and succeeded in doing so with the help of some accommodating programmers at the various festivals and a grueling itinerary. Here's the line-up:

The Newport International Film Festival
I took the 7:05 AM Amtrak train up to Newport on Wednesday morning, arriving just in time to participate in a Music in Film panel. My fellow panelists were both composers, so I was able to provide the director's perspective on music, which is necessarily different from that of the composer. I then got my badge and goodie bag and had a couple of hours to wander around the foggy waterfront to admire the great old wooden boats. The $7500 lobster boat was tempting, but there are no bargains in the boating world.

Joseph and Wendy Mitchell of indieWIRE at the Newport Film Festival party in New York

Evenhand screened at the Opera House, a small theater in the center of old Newport. The facade was a mess due to an ongoing renovation, but the theater itself was pretty decent. Attendance: about 60 people, all pretty enthusiastic. Excellent Q&A, always a good barometer of how well the film was received. The coolest thing was being approached by a group of student jurors who lavished my film with praise (although I guess they eventually saw something they liked better). After the screening there was a great festival party at which I met many interesting people, staying up much later than I intended. First thing the next morning I was on a 7:09 AM train back to NYC. From Penn Station I took a cab directly to LaGuardia Airport to catch a plane to:

The Atlanta Film Festival
After a quick cab ride I was at the hotel, within walking distance of all of the significant festival venues. A 20 minute walk led me to the Omni Hotel where I was told I could collect my badge and other goodies. What a pain in the ass. No one at the hotel had any idea where the filmmakers lounge was and after a couple of phone calls I finally found it, totally unmarked and occupied by a forlorn looking intern and some candy bars and Cokes. By then it was almost time for the EvenHand screening, so off to the Rialto theater I went. By the time I got there it was pouring rain. The theater was great, although depressingly huge. Not a great turn-out, although the festival organizers made a point of apologizing for the thin crowd, attributing it to a change in venue from previous years. Every festival suffers from growing pains at some point, and it was very nice to know that the folks at Atlanta were aware of and concerned with the problem.

I had to pick up the film immediately after the screening so I could courier it directly to Lake Placid for the next screening. The projectionist had already rewound and canned it by the time I got into the booth. He was an ex-cop and said he watched the entire film (which he doesn't often do) and really liked it. Another in a series of grass-roots law enforcement endorsements, and none, by the way, because I make cops look good, but rather because I apparently tapped into some of the truths of police work.

Thomas Espy, my former crack set dresser on the film, met me for dinner after the screening with some of his friends. He apparently has forsaken the film business for a career as an assistant district attorney in Atlanta. Probably a smart move, although I'll miss him on set.

The Atlanta party was a blast, especially the after-party at the Claremont, a decidedly quirky strip joint. I have never been in a strip joint before (really!) and, while definitely amusing, this one was not the place to alter my disinclination to ever enter one again. Have you ever seen a man beaten about the face by a woman's breasts while being derisively called "whitey?" Well, it's not a pretty sight. In spite of the weird goings-on, I actually had a chance to talk to some other festival participants and thereby elevated the level of discourse just a hair (and I'm not just saying that in case my wife ever reads this).

The following morning, head throbbing and 50 pounds of film in hand, it was back to New York and pretty much straight to the 2 Train to see Roger Clemens secure his place in history: 4000 strike-outs and 300 wins! Fun, but sitting in the pissing rain for three hours was kind of a drag. Up bright and early Saturday morning and back to Penn Station with the "A" print of the film for the:

Lake Placid Film Forum
Lake Placid is a rather picturesque town, situated in the middle of the Adirondacks. The leftover Olympics buildings and ski-jumps lend it a surreal air, but its mostly pretty low-key. On the way into town I got a phone call with some excellent news: I won "Best Director" at the Atlanta Film Festival. Hot damn, my first EvenHand prize and a great one to win as a first-time director.

EvenHand screened at the Palace Theatre, a great old movie house that has been rather sensitively carved up into four smaller theaters. Tim Orr, the film's cinematographer, was there, seeing the film for the first time with an audience. We screened in one of the smaller theaters, which was fine considering that our competition was the new Alan Rudolph film with Mr. Rudolph and Campbell Scott in attendance. In spite of that formidable opposition, we managed to attract a good sized crowd. Another excellent Q&A and some nice praise from a retired NY State Trooper.

Tim and I hung out at the party that night and did some catching up. At one point I said "hello" to Buck Henry on account of his past participation in our Vonnegut adaptation of several years ago, Harrison Bergeron. He was, as someone predicted, kind of cranky. Oh well.

Conclusion: each of the three festivals was absolutely worth attending. I only wish they had not all been in the same week; it would have been great to attend all three for their duration and actually take the time to watch some other films. I definitely have to see Zero Day at some point -- it has won "Best Film" at two festivals at which EvenHand was in competition. Damn them!

I noticed the other day that the EvenHand listing on the Internet Movie Database has started getting votes. If you have seen the film (and liked it -- don't be mean!), please take a minute and register your vote there. Here's a link:


- Joseph Pierson


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