When you dream about showing up to a film festival with your first feature, you think about a few things. You want a sold out screening with a line around the block. You want the audience to go head over heels for your film. And of course, you want the all too famous bidding war.
You can’t help but hear the many stories of competing distributors fighting it out in hotel rooms til the wees hours of the morning. An all night auction pumped up by festival adrenaline that makes executives feel like gladiators, whose only choice is win or die. I always wondered what went on in these rooms. Why does it take so f’n long?
Well, if you’ve been keeping track of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, then you’ve probably read or heard that my film “Thank You For Smoking” was the source of one of these wars. A battle so hard fought that two studios continue to claim to own my film. I’ve woken up to a quite a few humorous headlines. My favorite being, “Searchlight Smokes, Paramount Fumes”.
The truth is, I couldn’t be more excited about Fox Searchlight distributing the film. In my opinion, they’re the best in the business. For many years now, they’ve represented an unparalleled taste for great movies and a home for important filmmakers. I couldn’t be more proud to join that family.
You’re probably wondering why two companies claim they own the same film. As my main character, Nick Naylor, would say, “I can’t speak to that”. My own speculation, without a firm grasp of the details, is that it is hard to come close and then lose. I am certainly surprised that this continues to be a story day after day up here in Toronto. Certainly, nothing good can come up of that for either party.
The only positive light I can see coming out of all of this is the perception that “Thank You For Smoking” is a great movie and worthy of this attention. I only can hope that it will encourage more people to see it. I look forward to see people this coming Saturday at our final screening at the festival. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd this story attracts.
Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a ton of press. This is mostly in part to our very impressive PR man, Jeremy Walker. He’s been whisking me away to interview after interview with various North American press outlets. It’s the craziest thing. You walk into hotel room after hotel room, and each one has been converted into a different looking set.
And they give you all this free crap. One place, E-Talk Daily, even gave out roll away suitcases, filled with free swag. I’ve gotten everything from sunglasses and jeans to a brown faux-fur lined hot water bottle.
It’s actually a bit exhausting. I don’t want to bitch, but it’s hard to answer the same questions in the same careful and rehearsed way over and over all day. After a while, you feel like real tool.
The highlight of all of this was meeting Steven Soderbergh. We were doing press in the same courtyard and had the same PR firm. Chris, my PR rep introduced me to him. I went on and on about how much I admired his work and what he was doing for independent cinema. Yesterday, I saw his film “Bubble”. It’s fantastic. He’s living the dream. He gives directors like myself a continuously moving target, that pushes us to do greater things and reminds us why we do what we do.