One Down: 49 Film Festivals to Go

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Here’s My First Acceptance

Congratulations! Your New Media submission, “We Built A Ship” (17-minute version), has been officially selected into the 7th Annual New Media Film Festival in the 3D category.

They’re going to run it in 3D. All too exciting—and that $45,000 prize would be a nice donation to the shipbuilding effort.

They want the film for opening night. I am asked to cut my 92-minute feature down to a mere 15 minutes. Gulp!

QED

Fear not! As an old pro, I’m used to cutting things down. I’ll never forget “Amazing Amsterdam.” The city is a destination for the British Gas salesman of the year. A short film is needed for the sales convention. Each shot in the official Chamber of Commerce film is about 10 seconds long. I cut them down to one second each. Ten minutes to one minute and not a single shot missing. It looks great.

My own film reduction is a little harder. I leave in the opening sequence and jump to a longish piece about making the frames (ribs) and laying the keel. Another huge cut to frame 36 and hey presto, 92 minutes is chopped to 17. Quite Easily Done.

Tears in My Bedroom

That afternoon, next-door neighbors Sally and Martha come over. I’ve got to say that the New Media Film Festival folks had a good idea. You can’t ask visitors to watch 92 minutes, but “Hey, would you like to see my film? It will only take 15 minutes!” is more enticing. Sally and Martha say yes and are trotted into my bedroom, where the 24-inch JVC 3D monitor lives, right next to my bed. (Am I weird or what?)

They put on their 3D glasses. I start the movie, tiptoe out and close the door. I come back 17 minutes later and turn on the light. Martha is crying. Not just crying—sobbing. She is a mess. “It’s so beautiful, so beautiful.” Wow, that’s a good reaction. I’d better warn the New Media Film Festival people to have plenty of tissues handy.

Big-Screen Screening

A week later there’s a private screening at a local cinema. You have to be so careful about these things. Unless you want to disqualify yourself from film festivals, any screening has to be strictly private. Mine was organized by the shipyard and was for only the ship’s builders and donors. There are no tickets on sale but the theater is full.

I’m as nervous as a kitten. I’ve had so many bad experiences. The worst was at the National Film Theatre in London, where my 16mm film was so badly threaded in the projector that the sound was muffled and unintelligible. I was sitting in the center of the theater. I did nothing, just sat there wincing.

Showtime

Back to my big screen event. My film starts and, as expected, it looks good. People in the audience see their friends (and even themselves) on the big screen. There is excited chatter and laughter.

After one sequence, the audience breaks into spontaneous applause. Have you ever been in a cinema where the applause is in the middle of the film? They do it again and again. This is heady stuff for me.

Is anyone in there crying? Only me. It’s so beautiful.... 

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