Wednesday, September 26, 2012

People who like more than one thing

I started writing this blog entry on September 17, while sitting by the waterfront at FDR Drive and East 23rd Street in New York City. I was attending IFP's Independent Film Week, and an outdoor film screening was about to begin, of excerpts from various feature films that indie filmmakers were making through the organization. I've been attending this conference for several years in a row, and while I continue to find its panels and lectures to be informative, I've found that having the opportunity to network with other filmmakers is even more beneficial.

This year I got to meet one-on-one with a respected advisor in the field of independent filmmaking and self-distribution, who acknowledged the steps I'd taken so far – a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog, a YouTube trailer – and gave advice on additional steps to take.

Fishing for constructive criticism, I asked if there was anything that I was currently doing wrong. With a slightly pained expression, she brought up this very blog, saying that it read more like a diary than a film production blog. I couldn't really argue with this. Much of the past year has been slow behind-the-scenes, so I took to writing about other things that crossed my mind – movies, culture, philosophy. For me, though, these topics were at least indirectly related to the themes of the movie, or to experiences that had influenced its creation.

In the world of indie film and self-distribution, I've repeatedly heard two pieces of advice which seem to contradict each other. One is that a filmmaker should concentrate on filmmaking, and leave the publicity and marketing to someone else. The other is that you, as a filmmaker, know your film better than anyone else and that therefore only you truly know how to market it.

For me it's been tricky because Saberfrog is a warped comedy that resulted from the uneasy mental state I was in when I wrote and directed it. In other words, Saberfrog is a personal film. And in order to truly understand the film and its potential audience, I had to understand the fool who made it.

About a week before going to the IFP conference, I made a somewhat shorter trip out of town to discuss my upcoming screening tour at a meeting of the Buffalo Movie-Video Makers. During my Q&A, I was asked: “What did you learn about yourself while making the film?” That was a pretty profound question, which I don't think I quite managed to answer, even after several years spent nurturing this nutty project.

I think the answer lies with something that John Karyus said when I interviewed him for a promotional video. I asked him who he thought the target audience was for Saberfrog, and he said, in part: “People who like more than one thing.”

To some degree, he was referring to the film's combination of elements from different genres, saying that it would appeal to people who like both character-based drama and B-grade horror movies. I thought that was an insightful statement, but I also think it runs deeper than either of us realized at the time.

One of the themes in Saberfrog is the tension between following your heart and following your conscience, between being a fulfilled person and being a moral person, between being a child-at-heart and being a responsible adult. Most people seem to believe that only one of those two paths is the right one, and that the other is false and delusional. But I guess I'm a yin-and-yang kind of guy, because I'm only truly happy when I'm fulfilled in both areas. I think it's important to do what pleases you, but I also think it's character-building to do the things that you don't feel like doing, or don't think you're good at.

A lot of people don't seem to think like that. The Internet age is all about niches and cliques, and finding the community of people just like you while shunning (or trolling) everyone else. Many people are happy to belong to a clique, whether it's based on politics or music or what have you.

But I've never happily belonged to any one clique. They each have their different prejudices, which go unchallenged if you only fraternize with people just like you.

Maybe you know the feeling of not quite belonging in any one place, to any one group. You might be a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. You might be a Christian Goth, or a small-government atheist, or a Black Republican, or something else entirely that doesn't even have a name yet.

In fact, that's how every movement starts. Someone sees things differently. Someone says and does the things that no one has thought to say or do before, but which seem completely obvious afterward. Or someone says and does the things that no one else dares to do, because it seems so against the grain … and once they do, it becomes clear that other people secretly felt the same way and were just waiting for someone else to say it out loud.

Not everyone starts a movement, but I'm sure there are many restless souls out there who don't accept the shortcuts and easy answers that other people are content with.

So if you care more about seeking answers than following rules ... then this film is for you. This film is definitely for you.

And if you like foul-mouthed comedy, the movie has that too.

So come see Saberfrog.

How's that, Sheri?

Sunday, September 30 - Hamden, Connecticut. The Outer Space, 295 Treadwell St, 3 pm.

Monday, October 1 - Baltimore, Maryland. No screening scheduled, but I'll be in town!

Tuesday, October 2 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave, 8 pm.

Sunday, October 7 - Cleveland, Ohio. Cedar Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 2 pm.

Thursday, October 11 - Buffalo, New York. Hallwalls, 341 Delaware Ave, 8 pm.

Saturday, October 13 - Toronto, Ontario. CineCycle, 129 Spadina Ave, 8 pm.

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