Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hate Mail

Normally this blog is published on Fridays and you have probably already ascertained that this Wednesday posting is due to special circumstances. A comment was posted on the March 15th edition of “Diary of an Unchosen Film” by someone I can only assume is Peter Deerel or one of his staff. It was motivated by the nearly 7 emails that Peter and I traded yesterday. It seems that he’s a little confused about why I am so upset at him and is no doubt upset that I’ve publicly blasted him in this blog.

I’d like to state right here, right now that in my mind the issue had been settled. I smashed him on all the relevant points and he resorted to humor to try and reduce the animosity between us….(we call that conceding to victory on the East coast). Anyway, even though the nature of his emails and my response and his responses to my responses made for excellent blog posting…. I do have a wee bit of journalistic integrity and had decided that while I utterly and completely despise his position and what he stands for, he was man enough to email me personally and argue his case. And for that I had planned to keep the correspondence between us a private matter. But this posting of a comment is over the line. I should probably point out that if you haven’t already figured out, I’m the sole person responsible for this blog, all comments hit me on the BlackCherry and are dealt with accordingly. Also, please be advised that I publish all comments on this blog, pro or con, as long as they are germane to the debate. I do not believe in censorship…even when comments come from the ill-informed and are motivated by concerns other than pure discourse. So let the record show, that I posted your pathetic attempt to defend your festival and its position…but in doing so, you have compelled me to really set the record straight and let the world see just what the fuck goes on in my world.

Peter Dereel is no doubt upset at the imagery I used to describe my displeasure with his giving my film the “best of the rest award”. I’m quite sure that he feels that my wishing his cock would get caught in his zipper and spontaneously combust his nut sack….is a bit harsh. But everyone that is lampooned on this blog…gets it harsh….it’s the spirit of “The Diary…” and the faithful readers wouldn’t have it any other way. So maybe this all stems from a misunderstanding about my level of “pissy-ness”. But that’s irrelevant when you email me directly from the blog….once you do that… it’s on, motherfucker!

So, I will post the emails in their entirety and you can judge for yourself if I’m a cock or not. But I think the real issue here, is that Peter has no real web-visibility and googling his name returns a hit on my blog that is like the 5th entry on the first google page of his results. Not the kind of thing you want when you are a festival director and your festival is gearing up for its next appearance. So I guess he’s pissed or worried or just trying to protect his reputation…honestly, I don’t fucking care. The title of festival director is not a paper tiger….it’s an actual position…and whether you meant to or not, you personally vouch for the festival you run…it comes with the job. If you don’t like it…then don’t do idiotic shit like give a filmmaker you rejected a “Best of the Rest” award.

Anyway… it all started yesterday with this email…which rattled my Blackcherry at 7AM when I was sleeping off the effects of 6 pints of Guinness and 6 bowls of dirt weed.

Hi,Someone forwarded your blog to me. I've got to say that l'm a bit surprised that you're so upset not to be chosen in the Official Selection. I'm also not sure what you're getting at regarding the extention of the deadline, the deadlines were all set in September on withoutabox.com.Sorry for the confusion about the award. I had a few people email me wanting to know what it meant, l'm a little disappointed that you weren't one of them seeing as you feel so strongly. Your film was one of the films awarded the "Best of the Rest" award. We got this idea from other festivals such as Tropfest that want to reward good films that didn't quite make the cut. We had about 650 entries and had screens for only about 110 shorts and features. There were about 75 or 80 other films that we genuinely would have liked to have shown if we could have, but we couldn't, so we decided on a "Best of the Rest". It means you were in the top 30%, but for whatever reason didn't make it into the top 20%. lt's not selection in the screening list, but we consider it to still be a great achievement considering we had several entries from Cannes, Oscars, Tribeca etc.


Now, he means well. He wants to defend his point and he honestly can’t understand why I’m upset…I mean why would he understand?….unless he’s ever shot a film in his life. Unless he’s actually put his balls on the table and took the chance at getting in the game. I mean, if he’s actually shot a film even once in his life, he’d get it. But he doesn’t. I wasn’t exactly pissed when I received this email… but I thought it took balls…big fucking balls to try and defend a defenseless position… but in dream I was having when the vibration of my Blackcherry woke me up….I was banging the shit out of some Canadian chick that walks dogs for a living… so I had to get back at someone.

Hence I responded:

Peter...What I am offended at it that every single film festival on this planet advertises that they are different, they they look beyond the typical to program a new an interesting festival that values the artform and that values the filmmaker and time and time again the film festival makes the same series of decisions as other festivals. Films are picked by running time and "approachibility".You sent 3 emails telling me (and others I would assume) that you were extendending your deadlines (that's a verbatim quote, I'm not embellishing) and you asked filmmakers to "get their films in". So I initially have a problem that you felt it necessary to solicit more entries when you were months into your call for entries. I am aware that you can not play us all...but who really suffers in scenarios such as these.....those of us with long-form shorts. You aren't going to exempt a 4 or 8 min. Short unless its truly bad...but if that was the case, it wouln't have even been in contention in the first place. Yet 30 min shorts have to be nearly flawless to gain acceptence.....because your festival like many on the planet seems to think that this is little league and that your main responsibility is to play as many films as possible. I am offended that no matter what you said....the final decision came down to runtime....that's pathetic. A 6 min short and a 30 min short are wholly different creatures. I'm not trying to get my feet wet...I am showing you that I can work with multiple locations, actors, lens types, shooting days ect. I am demonstrating the level of my filmmaking ability and why me and my crew...should be in the feature film ranks. But that doesn't matter, what matters is the length of the section. I'm quite sure that you have your share of "little girl in distress" shorts and "magical snowman" shorts and all that other cliched, pedistrian bullshit that has no insight, and takes few chances....but it has a nice short 9 or 11 minute runtime so you can fit it in.And for the record....why are you even accepting entries from films that were considered by or won awards at Cannes or Sundance or Tribeca or the Academy? It is not as if these filmmakers need exposure or opportunities to screen. No, you consider them to make your festival prestigious.....at the cost of (and on the backs of) truly deserving filmmakers. It's no great secret what type of films win awards or even get invited to the top tier......it's conformity and keeping your aspirations low. Take for example last years Academy award winning short "West BankStory".... A 16 min musical parody of the Israel and Palastine situation that is wholly devoid of the hallmarks of filmmaking....takes no chaces, has no great dialogue, is not visually appealing......yet it's the academy's selection....and that means you'll give it and films similar to it (like the slate of nominess all of which I've seen and none of which I fear going forward....because they lack vision and individuality and that will surely be exposed with a longer running time say...a feature film!) a chance.Peter, we have exchanged several emails, esp. When you guys lost my film. You went out of your way to sell your festival and the program you were assembling.And then you don't accept me. I can deal with rejection....but a "best of the rest award"? Only a jaded and out of touch film festival could ever think that a non-competetive paper award would make an exempted filmmaker feel good. Maybe you don't understand why people make films are what their motives are....but awards mean shit. We want to play and the only people who are allowed to play are those who play it safe.Don't give me an award to mask the fact that you exempted a good film. You cannot attempt in any way, shape or film to recognize the level of work and craftmanship of a film...that you won't program. That stinks of being unwilling to publically stand behind your decisions. You didn't program the film, I'm not happy about it. That should be the end of it. Attempts to call attention to, or give props to....a "good" film that wasn't selected is hypocritical. Do you wish us to believe that the selection process is so skewed, so political...that good films (films that you yourself have called good) are exempted? Or that a hidden set of priorities that dictate selection exempted certain films that should have been included? I could play this game for days; but what I am getting at is that you aren't prepared for good films. You have other concerns than programming the best fest you possibly could. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but you should state it plainly and let us decide if we wish to apply.The film festival has outlived its usefulness and that is what my blog is about. I got to festivals on a monthly basis (I've played 2 in the last 16 days and I'm playing another in 5) and what I can always count on is shitty films....predictable films with poor lighting, bad dialogue...unoriginal concepts.....and they always get in.we are supposed to be practicing to shoot features yet the shorts with the least potential are always selected. We see this at all festivals time and time again! I had hoped that you would be different and judging by the number of emails you, myself and my publicist traded...I was sure you were. But you didn't put your foot down. You exempted my film because of it's length.....when it's a 30 min catagory...why don't you just make it a 18min's or less category....if that's all you want to play.And since I'm probably coming off as some bitter and jaded director I'll give you a chace to defend your festival. Tell me, out of the 110 shorts you programmed...what percentage are shot on film? What percentage posses more than 5 locations? More than 4 speaking roles? How many utilize actors who's ages range more than 40 years? How many have car stunts? Fight sequences? How many coordinate art dept, production design and wardrobe? How many have really stand out dialogue? How many have a unique and distict visual style? How many have a color pallet? How many have color-timed their films and did work on post-sound? How many are actually taking chances? And how many of the films you've programmed played It safe....which you've handsomely rewarded with a programming slot?Will you feel confident years from now saying that your festival took chances and assembled a diverse program.....or will you be haunted by the fact that you choose to be practical and sensible in an Industry and an artform that is anything but.The lackluster and diminished state that independent film is currently occupying is in large part due to the actions of individuals like yourself. I'm not asking you to take a chance at a theatrical release, only in screening new an innovative work.The desire for bankable and presold property that so haunts Hollywood...has permeated the ranks of the film festival. You sound like a distribution exec. Who sees film strictly as a commodity....and cannot appreciate them individually.I have long called for the death of the festival, for they serve no real purpose anymore. When festivals receive a "good" film that confronts their assumptions...they become quite perplexed as to what to do.My film is an experiment to assess how receptive the industry is......and I can say conclusively that you are not receptive to new ideas. If you have not yet ascertained, we are not a bunch of aspiring filmmakers with a dream....we are working professionals who are about to radicalize indie filmmaking. My feature will not play a single festival....it's going straight to release and you can spend all the time you want selecting fims according to your stealth criteria.....while others are shaping he industry and the world.The cinema is a most potent, most virle artform and cannot be contained by financial concerns or programmers tastes. I hope at some point you decide to abandone this safe course you've chosen and join us in what truly is a revolution....because one of us will change the course of film.....one of us will return the artform to its rightful place atop critical, financial and cultural mountains that collectively are the cinema.

Marcus D. Russell

Filmmaker and theoritician

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

I had really thought that that would be the end of it. I mean I dropped mad characters on this guy and indicated why I felt as strongly as I did to his decision to give me an award. So several hours pass and I think that it’s basically over… then around 6:19PM EST he sends me another email:

Thanks for the quick reply.There are so many issues raised, but the main ones seemed to be running length and originality.Our website has the list of films that made it, and their running lengths. They start on http://www.dereel.com/Films1.htmAs you can see from this page 4 of the 8 films were in the 20 to 30 minute range. Overall we chose 20 films in the 15 to 19 minute range, and 18 films in the 20 to 38 minute range (about 30 % of the films are in the 15 to 38 minute range) so we had no problem choosing films that are longer shorts.The judges actually scored each film based on Originality/Creativity, Production Values, Acting, and Entertainment value - the length of time had nothing to do with it. After the deadlines elapsed (all set in September as "Earlybird", "Normal", "Extended" with different fees) the films were rated and the top 110 were selected. Your film rated well Production Values, and Entertainment Value, but the judges thought the Originality/Creativity were too low "another Tarantino wannabe", and the acting of the lead let the film down.Of the 75 people we gave a "Best of the Rest" award to most emailed to say it will help them with their film's publicity, or that it was a nice pat on the back to the others that helped them finish their film. l recognise that this isn't what you and the cast and crew of SexLoveAndZParts are after, but that is the spirit in which the award was given.



Ok, so.. I read that.. and it was on. His decision to answer only part of my charge and to give me his analysis of running times in no manner refutes the fact that…when pressed for time… it’s longer shorts that get excised…not a bunch of shorter ones. Well I will applaud (with one hand) the programming of shorts longer than 20 min’s….but, it doesn’t change the nature of the debate. And I informed him of that:

My main contention is that a runner-up award is not a nice thing. Don't attempt to marginalize what happened. Of course other filmmakers think it will help their public relations and visibility...because their films have no visibility.My PR is doing quite well thank you. And I've generated my accolades the old fashioned way.....by soliciting reviewers and getting them to weigh in on my film.I understand that all of this is a business....and you are free to do as you see fit. But your "pats on the back" are best saved for amateurs....it's not reassurance I seek, or need for that matter.Also, not that I make a habit of answering my crtitics....but you might want to read a few of SLZ's reviews before you blantantly assume that I am a Tarantino rip off who lacks originality. You and your programmers can have nothing but an opinion because I already have critical accalim....from more than 1/2 a dozen reviewers.......furthermore, you might want to take of your rose colored glasses and fundamental assumptions and experince the film. My film has little in common with Mr. Tarantino other than profanity (unless you feel that he soley created non-linear narratives)....and it has been clearly stated in several reviews that my profanity and narrative are meant to lampoon the current state of indie film not rip it off. All of which seemed to have eluded your programmers.....do you think that your selection procedures will allow you to accept something truly innovative? You feel that my film is Tarantino-esque because you have no other way to describe what you saw. Well check out "Looker" or "Time Rider" or "millenium"....all of which predate pulp fiction by more than a decade + 5 years.....but again it's the assumption and misconception at the begining of the process that allows this. It seems that there are many assumptions being injected into the selection process by your programmers, they're the generational equivalent of those that thought Hendrix just made a lot of noise....it might be beneficial for them to open their minds and not assume that they can quickly size up a film....some of us might do something complex....creating something from nothing via hypertextuality. All of which is clearly layed out in the thesis that founded this project nearly 7 years ago!Again....you aren't prepared to appreciate the new stuff, you can't even remove your own misconceptions about indie filmmakers when screening films for submission. You might want to actually read some of my application materials and visit my site before making such an accusation..... I don't have an issue with my rejection....if you read any part of the blog you know that I vehemetly feel that film festivals opinions don't matter.Lastly, have you looked at the correlation between festival winners , theatrical release revenues and career longevity? It would seem that the contemporary film festival does an abysmal job at identifying rising talent and soon to be prolific filmmakers. And that makes this entire exercise moot.

This is my last email.


Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

I believed that my email was concise and on point and indicated that even though I was individually offended at his actions….that I spoke on behalf of filmmakers and the application situation collectively. That should have been the end of it. But nooooo….

No worries at all.Just one last point. You're shooting the messenger as l am one of the organisers, not one of the judges. One of the early emails l received asked for feedback, and l was just giving you some of the comments from the judges, both good and bad.

Best of luck


Now I don’t want to come right out and say that he’s full of shit… cause I don’t know him like that. But ….”Holy backpedal, Batman!” Is he for real? I mean c’mon Peter you had balls when all this began… don’t go limp dick on me and dish it to your staff. I mean there it is… in his email…the inability to take responsibility… I pounced on him like the Alpha-Male that I am….

I never asked you for feedback. Not once in our correspondence....not once from any of the more than 100 festivals I have applied to and been rejected from. Your opinion of my skillset is of little importance.You must have me confused with someone else.And you emailed me, you defended your festival and your selectively returned fire all throught this correspondence....don't hide as the messenger.....I'll lose what little respect I have for you


Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

It was silent after that. I sat there…Blackcherry in my hand.. waiting for the reply….and then it came…

You may not have asked for it but "Cooperdog" did...

Ha.. are you for real? First of all it’s Cooprdog….that “e” in the middle shit is not happenin’! And what is this humor? Is that what you are down to? Have you lost the willingness to argue your point or have your realized that I’m hella serious about this film/blog/theory thing and you are really wished you’d have never emailed me in the first place.

Be a man Peter…stick by your convictions…no matter how jaded and ill-informed they may be. I know that you think we are all bastard step-children waiting for the smallest amount of attention from a film festival…but we are on to you and your check-cashing brethren. I need you like a need a glow-in-the-dark umbrella..and I live in Cali, motherfucker! If it were not for filmmakers submitting to festivals like yours you might have to return to your former occupation…which I heard was sucking cock on a highway median during rush-hour. In the future I suggest you pick your battles more wisely, you might come across someone who’s better informed, better prepared, more passionate…and who likes to argue. Consider yourself smashed!

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