SXSW: Don't Heckle Your Own Movie! (And Other Pro Tips From Austin)
As a bunch of brassy strippers once taught us, you've gotta have a gimmick if you want to get ahead. The same goes for dancers as it does for indie films, three of which demonstrated that time-tested lesson Monday night at SXSW. Which brings us to our Movieline Pro Tips of the Day: Bringing fun/hands-on props to delight the crowd after your movie screens can help the goodwill linger. Loudly heckling your own movie for kicks while a dozen or so journalist types sit near you, aghast and annoyed? Not so much.
Case Study #1: Bellflower
We'll start with one of Monday's success stories: Bellflower, the visceral slacker-nihilist tale about two friends whose plan of starting an apocalyptic gang a la Mad Max goes horribly awry. Central to the plot is a souped-up, super-charged, heavily modded muscle car painted black, outfitted with exhaust flamethrowers and tricked out to be the kind of down and dirty '70s muscle car Satan would love to make love to. Her name: Medusa.
Filmmakers Evan Glodell and Tyler Dawson brought Medusa to SXSW and put on a flame-filled, engine-revving demo for audience members as they filed out of the theater. Then, with the help of Drafthouse impresario Tim League, they hosted a live cricket-eating contest, awarding the winner the chance to ride along inside of Medusa. (The winner -- of course -- was League. Come to Fantastic Fest every September and you'll learn why that's not surprising.)
Case Study #2: Fubar: Balls to the Wall
The two stars of the cult mockumentary sequel Fubar: Balls the Wall were both slated to arrive in Austin for their SXSW premiere when a border-crossing "incident" prevented one of them, Dean "Deaner" Murdoch (portrayed by Paul Spence), from making the trip. Or maybe Spence never planned on coming to Austin at all. No matter; the film's distributor, Screen Media Films, took the opportunity to send out a "press release" regretfully announcing Deaner's detainment just hours before Fubar 2 premiered -- and co-star David Lawrence, in character as Terry Cahill, carried a life-sized Deaner cut-out at the evening's promotional stops.
Case Study #3: The FP
In comparison, the media impact made by the Trost Bros.' throwback Dance Dance Revolution actioner The FP was not the good kind, unless you're of the "any publicity is good publicity" school of thought.
After the makers of The FP introduced their film late Monday night with an impromptu Four Loko drinking game (because why not?), one crew member proceeded to loudly jeer at the screen throughout the film. A few audible shushes went unheeded; by the time the credits rolled and the jovial cast and crew descended to the front of the theater for a post-film Q&A, plenty of critics and bloggers in the audience were well past exasperated.
Said writers took to Twitter immediately following the screening, which would have been a good thing for the film had most Tweets not been pointed complaints towards the crew member in question. The FP earned itself press coverage, but almost none of it had anything to do with the film.
Ironically, the screening was held at Austin's Ritz Theater, which is run by the Alamo Drafthouse and, like every other Drafthouse venue, employs a strict no-talking, no-texting courtesy policy for moviegoers. The issue gets tricky, of course, when it's a filmmaker who's doing the disturbing.
But the real tragedy here wasn't the fact that critics had to listen to chatter through a film (which, granted, is terribly annoying and distracting and shouldn't be tolerated) nor that the obnoxiously loud filmmaker was either ignorant of or unconcerned by the fact that they were ruining the experience for everyone in the theater. The film is a solid midnight movie selection rife with '80s and early '90s-era references and dialogue, delivered with total seriousface by its cast. Period details are evocative, acid-washed jeans and pagers and raver boots and all -- although director Brandon Trost muddles his definition of exactly which period said clothing, lingo, and filmmaking conventions are from. In any case, there's certainly enough in The FP for genre fans to like. And unfortunately, thanks to FPgate, bloggers may find it impossible to divorce what they thought of the film with how they remember the experience of watching it.