Thursday  December 11, 2003


Happy Holidays!

As the snow began to fall last Friday afternoon, I knew I was in for a travel nightmare. The Sundance Channel had submitted EvenHand to the Santa Fe Film Festival and had further offered to fly me out to New Mexico so I could attend. The weather was not cooperating, however. The trip to LaGuardia was painfully slow and there was already several inches of the white stuff on the ground. And, of course, every possible source of information provided by American Airlines said the flight was due to leave on time. Yeah, right. If a volcano were to erupt in the dead center of the main runway, you can bet that the airlines would all tell you their flights are preparing for an on-time departure.

After a half-hour at the gate, they announced a two hour delay in departure. A half-hour later, the flight was canceled, along with every single other flight leaving from LGA. By the time I got outside, there were already 10,000 people waiting for the cabs that were nowhere to be seen. I opted for the M33 bus to the 7 train (Subway) and I guarantee I made it back to Manhattan before most other folks.

After settling in with a scotch, a call to American Airlines revealed that they had a seat available on a flight leaving for Dallas from Newark at 9:00 AM the following morning. I was stunned that a flight was available -- weren't there a ton of people desperately trying to escape from New York? I was further baffled that they were pretending that a flight would even be departing, but decided to play along with their little fantasy.

At 6 AM on Saturday morning, the snow had already begun to fall again, after a mostly snowless night.  The news was also reporting a winter storm warning and calling for blizzard conditions. In addition, the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike had already been reduced to 35 MPH and several major accidents had been reported, including the obligatory jack-knifed tractor-trailer. I had a hard decision to make: do I attempt to get to the airport, with the distinct possibility that I might spend the balance of the weekend huddled on the floor at terminal A?

I finally decided to let New York City's beleaguered cab drivers make the call for me. If I could find a cab at 6:30 AM on a snowy Saturday morning and if, further, the driver was actually willing to drive me all the way to Newark airport, then I would give it a shot. Of course, there was a cab waiting at the light as soon as I got to Broadway and the driver just shrugged when I told him my destination. Damn!

Once at the airport, my worst fears were realized. 9 o'clock became 10, 10 became 11 and the snow kept pouring down. Then, miraculously, we were instructed to board the plane. Even more astonishing, the plane took off with almost zero visibility and about three inches of snow on the runway. I was going to get to Santa Fe after all -- or die trying.

On the airplane, I had some time to reflect on the last year. EvenHand has participated in more than twenty film festivals and three additional screenings. They have run the gamut from small regional festivals to big international events. Attendance has ranged from ten people to sold-out crowds of more than 400. I have made many friends and learned a tremendous amount about the festival circuit, the state of independent film and the prospects for finding distribution in today's difficult climate. There's not much I would do differently, given the chance; I think the festivals I attended were, for the most part, worthwhile. Even some of the smaller regional festivals offered surprising opportunities or connections. At the very least, each one represented a chance for a live audience to see and respond to my work, for which I am grateful. 

Well, I arrived at the theater in Santa Fe ten minutes before my film was scheduled to start. I made a brief introduction, then joined Katie Lanegran, the Sundance Channel's representative, at the filmmaker's dinner. The Q&A after the film was excellent, which has actually been my experience at every single festival I've attended (except the very few that failed to offer Q&As).

In other news, the Jacob Burns Film Center screening in Pleasantville was one of the best. New York Times critic Janet Maslin moderated the Q&A afterwards. Having someone of her stature and intelligence leading a discussion about one's film is tremendously gratifying and flattering. I look forward to screening future work at their beautiful facility.

I wish I could say as much about the Queens International Film Festival. I agreed to screen EvenHand there because they offered to include my film in a series of screenings they had planned as a remembrance for September 11th. When they scheduled my film, however, they put it four hours after the last of the 9/11 films had screened. Thus, anyone who had attended the earlier screenings was long-gone.

Lovisa went to the local police precinct with some postcards to try to drum up interest in the film. The results were pretty hilarious. She told the desk sergeant about the film. After her brief pitch, he looked at her and said "This is a police precinct, you know." She reiterated that EvenHand is a film about cops. Then she asked if she could leave some postcards. The sergeant looked at them and said "Pig Stand. You mean, like cops are pigs?" Yeah, whatever.

The Subway ride out to Queens was interminable. They were doing weekend work on the tracks, so there was only local service, and Forest Hills is somewhere near the Cayman Islands. The theater had about twenty five people in it, which was disappointing. Even worse, though, was that the festival was running a full hour behind schedule. After my potential audience had to sit through two dreadful short films, about half of them gave up and left. So, EvenHand screened to an audience of 12 people. Great. The icing on the cake was receiving my print back from the festival with tails out. That's the sign of a rude and lazy projectionist.

One guy made an interesting follow-up comment during the Q&A. After I answered his first question by explaining that the film was shot in March - April of 2001, he said "Oh. I thought this was a new film." This made me realize how little is understood about the process of independent filmmaking outside of our world.

I first read the script for EvenHand in 1997. That was four years before we made the film. During that time, we made two other films, Julian Po and Cherry. Throughout that period, I was also maintaining a dialogue with Mike Jones, the screenwriter, about the script. I would give him notes, we would have discussions, then he would write a new draft. Once I was happy with the screenplay, we finally greenlighted the film in late 1999 and the process of raising financing began. This took another year and a half. Once financing was secured, pre-production finally began in January of 2001. After 26 days of shooting, the editing began in May 2001. Alex Albanese, the editor, didn't come on board until December 2001. He and I locked picture by June 2002. After a few initial festival rejections, the film finally premiered at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles in November of 2002. If you break it down, it all makes sense, but I can see why, from the outside, it seems to take a ridiculously long time to get a film made.

Let's just hope that Escalate finds it's way to the screen a bit more expeditiously.

- Joseph Pierson

The remaining EvenHand air dates on the Sundance Channel are as follows:

Sunday 12.14.2003  6:15PM
Friday 12.19.2003  1:35PM
Saturday 12.20.2003  3:00AM
Wednesday 12.31.2003  9:30PM

The DVD & video street date is January 20, 2004 thanks to the folks at Arts Alliance America -- why not buy a copy for your indie film library?

The EvenHand listing on the Internet Movie Database has started getting votes. If you have seen the film, please take a minute and register your vote there. Thanks to all who have left great reviews on the IMDb site! Here's a link:


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Copyright 2003 Cypress Films, Inc.