Monday, December 13, 2010

Amherst screening

This past Wednesday, Saberfrog had its third public screening, this time in Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo.

This screening was held at the Screening Room, a location I've gotten to know as the site of Buffalo Movie-Video Makers (BM-VM) meetings. It wasn't a huge turnout, but I once again turned a profit. Much of the audience was made up of BM-VM club members or friends.

Each of the public screenings has been for a different audience, and each time there have been differences in the audience response. The Rochester screening generated laughter from beginning to end. The Buffalo screening at Squeaky Wheel seemed slower to warm up to the film, but were laughing a lot by the end.

Both of those screenings were for a presumably arty/culty/nerdy audience, who weren't fazed by the film's multi-layered narrative or its shifts in tone and genre. The Screening Room audience seemed less “extreme”, and so certain elements of the film played differently.

The Canadian references seemed to get a stronger reaction this time. A throwaway reference to a Canadian actress had never gotten a laugh from any other screening, public or private, that I'd had for the film – but it got a huge laugh from one viewer this time. By contrast, John Karyus' final line of dialogue got no audience response at all, which was unusual.

Watching the film this time was a strange experience. I was now far enough from the events of the film – both the production experience, and the real-life experiences that inspired the script – that I was able to view the film fresh, as if it was made by someone else. For perhaps the first time, I realized what a truly strange film it is, and how bold some of the story twists are during the climax.

The post-screening Q&A was fun, as the audience was a small group who mostly knew me and had heard about the film during its long development. One viewer told me how (pleasantly) surprised he was by the amount of seriousness in the finished film, considering how the trailer (which I'd shown at BM-VM meetings a couple times) had been largely comedic. He was also impressed by the number of themes and story threads in the film, which also weren't hinted at in the trailer. I explained that I chose the film's most easily-explained aspect – Josh's quest to find his friends – as the focus of the trailer.

Both of the Buffalo-era screenings were attended mainly by friends or friends of friends, a clear indication that the flyers I'd been putting up along Elmwood and Main were not effective advertising in terms of drawing the public's attention. Putting up those flyers was a fun excuse to hang out in arty sections of Buffalo during the past week or so, but they obviously weren't doing the trick.

Getting the film's debt finally paid off has changed my priorities a bit; I'd like to have more screenings of the film, but I don't have to. I'd originally planned to roadshow the film in other cities and states, but without the hometown advantage of Rochester and Buffalo – or the ability to attend or promote screenings in person – I would need to find a new approach to publicity. For each of these three screenings I was scrambling just to get the word out in time, and while I've always got the film mentioned in event listings, I'd never had time for the extra step of getting real press or reviews.

With the year drawing to a close, and winter weather kicking in, I think I'm ready to take a break from public showings of Saberfrog and start submitting the film to festivals. It's time to let the rest of the world, not just Rochester and Buffalo, see the film.

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