TIFF 2015: Respecting an Artist’s Efforts Should Be Step One

While we don’t do reviews anymore, we still attend as many films as possible during festivals and various openings. It feeds into our many initiatives, and allows us to be up-to-date on the evolution of films to effectively communicate with the industry. However, after attending a few P&I screenings and such, I am truly and utterly irritated.

No, I take that back. I am properly livid.

TIFF makes it a point to lay down a foundation to allow public screenings to exist along side industry screenings, to allow any type of visitor to enjoy the films that the festival has to offer. I respect that, in addition to the amount of time filmmakers take to try and be there when their films are showcased. Public screenings are timed so they are available at the most effective hours of the day, with major films showcased after work hours (which is a smart business decision) and industry screenings in the morning for working journalists (it’s their day job anyways).

So why am I irritated?

I had an opportunity to attend a screening of an international independent film this past weekend. It had logistical complications, as it was shown before the transit lines even opened, but I made an effort to make it down. With every screening I visit, I go in with the assumption that it could be incredibly awesome, an absolute train wreck, or anything in between the above two. You have to assume anything is possible. Films are meant to be entertainment consumption, and your opinion is what will drive (or kill) a film. It’s the same model used by live theatre productions, where they continue to exist even after years of opening. Sure, the cast change, and the show is tweaked a little, but the foundation remains the same. The only thing keeping it going is consumer demand.

“For consumer demand to add value back, it is important that the experience be fully experienced”

However, for consumer demand to add value back, it is important that the experience be fully experienced. You can’t go to the CN Tower, stand in the middle of the tower, and say the view is rubbish. You gotta go to the windows, up-close, and experience it. It’s the same with film. You can’t watch 10 minutes and be like “this is rubbish”. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy would not work if you saw the first 10 minutes now would it?

Well, I am sitting in this movie theatre and 10-15 minutes in, people start to leave. Then 30-45 minutes in, many people start to leave. Some leave, and come back closer to the end of the film. How can anyone make a judgement on a film without seeing the entire production? I will go back to my Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy example. That movie was a long film, with very dry scenes, and often little to no movement. You had to have patience of steel to enjoy that film. However, when you stay till the end, you are properly rewarded.

Leaving a production, whether it is a live theatre performance or a movie playing on the big screen, is simply rude and disrespectful.

We in the entertainment industry are constantly nagging everyone about “supporting upcoming filmmakers” and pushing for “greater acceptance of all film”, but we can’t even spend 2 hours watching someone’s work that, let’s face it, probably took them months to plan and execute. These indie filmmakers are taking on a lot of risk, creating a production that could be a hit or miss, and if not picked up, something that will sit on the archive shelf until someone decides to put it into some typical distribution model. You cannot support talent without properly understanding their work. It’s just not possible.

“There are legitimate reasons to not sit out a production”

If a production makes you uncomfortable, triggers emotions you can’t handle, I can understand that. I’ve had a writer who saw a film that was a nightmarish experience, and I wouldn’t want anyone to sit through that. Funny enough, that writer did see the whole thing. There are legitimate reasons to not sit out a production. Feeling bored or not caring is not one of them. We as a society constantly push to not judge people, but allow ourselves to judge a work in a couple of minutes. What people don’t understand is that in the arts, judging a persons work is judging them.

What drives me up the wall even more from this experience is that I was in an audience of press and industry people. Are some of these people who left 30 minutes in going to write a review about this film? If so, based on what context? If you see a movie in its entirety, and it sucked, then be critical about it. The industry already stigmatizes failure, so critical feedback is something any artist would appreciate. Reviews are opinions, nothing more. We’ve torn apart films that have been critically acclaimed by the masses. It’s how that goes. However, if you expect me to believe that some press watch only part of a film and make a judgement based on that, then I am glad I took reviewing out of the platform.

The only way that storytelling can evolve is if we provide critical feedback based on our total experience. The half-arse approach to doing things died a long time ago. We live in a uber competitive world, with an arts and entertainment industry that is just one big commodity machine. If we can’t even respect people’s works, then what is the bloody point?