SOUTHWEST SWAN SONG
the snow began to fall last Friday afternoon, I knew I was in for a
travel nightmare. The
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
just hope that Escalate
finds it's way to the screen a bit more expeditiously.
remaining EvenHand air dates on the
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
DVD & video street date is January 20, 2004 thanks to the folks at Arts
-- 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:
To buy our original September 11th memorial T-shirt, CLICK
All profits go to charity.
This work is
licensed under a Creative
© 2003 Cypress