Wednesday night’s opening of the Lone Star International Film Festival in Fort Worth showed a festival delivering on its promise as it kicked off its third year. But along with that promise comes a few growing pains.
I suppose at this point I’ve gone to enough opening night and centerpiece festival screenings to know that they never start on time – a trend that is not unique to Lone Star by any means. Seven-thirty never means 7:30. And the requisite lateness – whether at AFI Dallas, VideoFest, South By Southwest, etc. – always comes from the same place: too much speechifying before the show.
If I were named king of the film festival universe, I would institute a rule that says you may have no more than two speakers before the film – one person from the festival and someone from the festival’s presenting sponsor. Wednesday night’s program featured not one, not two, but three speakers from the festival, plus someone from presenting sponsor Sundance Square, plus one of the filmmakers.
This is not to say that everyone’s heart wasn’t in the right place – there was definitely a sense of gratitude from all who spoke. And the sponsors expect the pub. But if you truly want to be appreciative of your audience, keep the chatter to a minimum and roll the film. That’s what they came to see.
When the projector finally did crank up a few minutes after 8, it played a film that was absolutely worth the wait.
The Scenesters was an inspired choice to open the festival. Showing a film with a plot about making a film to an audience full of film enthusiasts sends a clear message that, above all else, Lone Star is about the movies and knows its audience. Scenesters centers on a wannabe auteur who takes a job documenting crime scenes for the L.A. Police Department. He eventually becomes interested in the story of a crime-scene cleanup guy who has a better nose for solving mysteries than the dufus detectives assigned to the possibly related cases. When the director and his producer decide to turn the crime documenting gig into a real documentary starring said cleanup guy, the pursuit of justice takes a back seat to the pursuit of art. It’s extremely smart and very inside baseball in the best way – never more so than when the producer justifies his extramarital affair by explaining he was sleeping with someone from Miramax in an attempt to land a distribution deal.
Several of the filmmakers were in attendance – including a couple of former North Texas residents – for a Q&A following the film. But as the credits rolled near 10 o’clock, the stampede toward the exits began. And the people who left had one of two things on their minds – the beds in their houses or the booze across the street at the afterparty. Those are pretty strong forces at work.
Which brings us back to the beginning of the night. If the movie had started (relatively) on time, would the crowd have stayed? I suppose it’s impossible to say for sure. But if the question is: Would the audience be more likely to listen to a Q&A that starts at 9:15 or one that starts at10? I think I know the answer.