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January 26 at 1:26pm

What Defines An Event? 10 Thoughts On Transforming Small to LARGE

By Ted Hope

Hollywood will survive because of its ability to develop, produce, market, and distribute “Event” pictures. Whereas Hollywood’s Event Pictures are defined as being designed for general audiences, Truly Free Film can have its own event pictures too by focusing on specific audiences and understanding what it is that will drive people out of their house to do something in conjunction with others. So what are those qualities of “event”?

  1. A conversation that inevitably will continue after the screening is over. It is an event if you are compelled to discuss it afterwards. Is that a memorable scene? A relationship to the world we live in? Truth? Understanding? Passion? Beauty? Transcendence? What? What is the return the audience gets on their 90 minute investment? It’s the after-effect, the conversation.
  2. Content whose impact is enhanced by timely consumption. The audience recognizes that their social and intellectual capital will increase by having been among those whom participated — and thus are compelled to attend.
  3. A once in a blue moon opportunity. It expires, is used up, & is gone gone gone. If you don’t go, you will never get this chance again. It is dated and defined by that date.
  4. There are many pieces that fit together into something much much larger. Maybe it is part of a series or a sequence. Maybe it is the fact that the screening is only part of a bigger activity.
  5. The awareness that a lot of people will be participating somehow. The larger the audience the more it is an event. The wider the audience the more it is an event. The more an audience is spread out, the more it is an event.
  6. The memory, the understanding, and/or the appreciation of the participation changes as time passes. Events aren’t static. They grow and transform.
  7. Events have a material aspect to them. We take events home with us somehow, but generally via the merchandise that we barter for with our dollars.
  8. People you will never know are talking about it. When the Velvet Underground or The Sex Pistols first played they were events, perhaps not so much in the moment, but certainly in terms of how they were discussed long afterwards. It is partially the knowledge that we have that others are talking about what we participated in that defines an experience as an event.
  9. Anticipation. What makes us think about doing things in advance? How often do we need to be reminded that something is happening here?
  10. Commitment. If we commit to participating in something, it’s importance grows tenfold. If we, by either our own volition, or the badgering or heckering of our friends and acquientances, commit to something, it becomes the event of the moment.
I am up at the Sundance Film Festival now, where every screening feels like an event. People wonder why certain films can pack the house at a festival but no one shows up when booked for an actual run. The context of a festival creates the urgency. Yet even still here, you feel that not enough is done by just putting it up on the screen. Filmmakers need to focus more on the context they create around the film. In this day and age it is irresponsible to simply screen your film. You need to build ramps up to the event, and bridges after the screening — tools & processes that keep the conversation going. It is surprising how few examples there are of folks who are doing it well.
For me, right now, being here in Park City, perhaps the most perfect practice of this is Banksy and his film Exit Through The Gift Shop. The mystique and craft and philosophy of the street art and artist leads me to the movie and keeps me wanting to see the film even though my schedule does not yet permit.

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  1. pangofilms / Jan 26 at 1:26pm

    Excellent ideas. Makes me think of Slumdog Millionaire.

    I was listening to a Peter Jackson interview yesterday and he was asked about watching movies on ipods, etc. He said that DVD's and ipod viewing are a sort of souvenir of the event of actually watching the films in theaters, in the same way you see the Empire State Building, and then you bring home a postcard of it and put it on your wall. He was talking about big movies, but I think it's always been true about movies since VHS has been around.

    I think that films need to be visual to separate themselves from today's handheld world. Style is a big part of what makes a film individual.

  2. pangofilms / Jan 26 at 1:26pm

    Doesn't a theatrical release to some extent make a film an event? Even in the competitive environment of two or three years ago, a film that got into even one theater in NY or LA got attention, or at least a review, in the media that it wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I mean, a theatrical release is still rare enough to qualify as an event for a small film. And it gets attention because of it. Because it's exciting when a small film gets attention like that, and, of course, even more exciting when an audience reacts.

  3. JeanDodge / Jan 26 at 1:26pm

    Congrats, Ted. You have just listed all the attributes of street theater at a protest rally.

    Or, yes, a Sex Pistols show, which, last time I looked wasn't really possible anymore. The next time i want to see something transgressive I'll bring a roll of quarters to the Lusty Lady where the workers are unionized.

    But yes, that is the challenge. I'd like to see Rooftop cinema in Williamsburg or attend the Cinefamily in LA once a month and see a movie made with love and care from our own rising from the ashes indie community. But that presupposes someone can scrape by a living on what is split at the door on a microcinema economy level, which is fine if you don't actually want healthcare or a family, or require more than one shopping cart to live out of, or needlessly hang on to that second suitcase of belongings, etc.

    Perhaps the "event" everyone is invited to is the film shoot itself, somehow, if not in person then in a virtual manner. What's good about that is that I can see for myself which movies are going to be worth attending – I'm growing weary of supporting mumblecore simply because I believe in DIY ethos. Show me a movie with the moxie of D. Boon and i will get in the van.

  4. Bob Hammel / Jan 26 at 1:26pm

    Films as events make sense and create a whole new level of experience. But yes, the audience has to be engaged. If the event is theater, it only happens once and is therefore special. Seeing the film is not the event, but the community experience it brings to people is — that is the one time thing. Film is becoming “community film” Just like community theater — a group of people get together, and put on a show, and invite their friends. Some dedicated and talented and lucky people move on to money making, compromised, gigs — the rest have the opportunity to create, enjoy the community they make, and work their day jobs. The system gives the lucky ones the chance at the big time (whatever that is), the rest get to do something they love.

    I don’t want an audience on a film shoot. As an actor I am incredibility bored waiting. As a director/producer I need to make the movie and not create an amusement park for an audience. If you want to participate fine, if you want to watch, then you need a life.

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    Bravo, Ted! Bravo!

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