Kind Of A Drag

I think it’s fair to say that the people running the TCM Classic Film Festival are a little too restrictive and traffic-coppy and dare-I-say obstructionist in their dealings with the press. Okay, with me. They’re running a very well-organized, very popular film festival here (all the screenings I’ve been to have been 80% or 90% sold) but today’s experience in trying to get into a q & a with Warren Beatty and Alec Baldwin at the Chinese sixplex following a screening of Reds was needlessly problematic.

I just wanted to cover the q & a but I dropped by the screening about 45 minutes before the film was due to end to get a seat and be ready. But I was told I couldn’t go in because they weren’t letting people in midway — I needed to be seated at the very beginning of the show — and they also couldn’t allow me to witness the q & a, again because I hadn’t been seated at the start.

“But I’m press and I just want to cover the q & a,” I said. “Isn’t the point of issuing press passes so press can cover? I’ve seen Reds six or seven times. Can’t you just let me slip in unobtrusively and take a seat?” No, the street-punk usher and then a female publicist said, because it’s a closed screening and there’s no room. “Have you looked to see if there are seats?,” I said. “I’ll give you $100 right now if there aren’t a few seats open…there are always a few empty seats.”

Two publicists later I was finally allowed to slip inside, but up to that point their resistance had been very dug-in and officious. And they were adamant about no photography or recording. I said “okay, sure, no problem, fine”…but I was thinking, “Why? Why restrict the press from covering in a relatively thorough way? Why don’t they just say no flashbulb photography? If they want to be this private about it why even hand out press credentials? What’s their hang-up?”

They really had a broomstick up their butts about this and that. It was like dealing with security people at some private corporate gathering in some Rocky Mountain retreat.

And then I got in there and Beatty and Baldwin took the stage, and there were suited and T-shirted goons hovering everywhere, giving everyone “looks” lest they might be tempted to pull out an iPhone camera and snap away. And then I was told to turn the sound down as I tweeted because the “sending” sound was bothersome. Sure, no problem….dicks. Then when it ended the crowd was kept inside the theatre like cattle in a stockyard pen so that Beatty and Baldwin could stroll out unbothered by pesky film fans and their grubby mitts and iPhone cameras and whatnot.

Overall the Classic Film Festival staffers feel too corporate and controlling. They’re nice and professional but they’re not “cool.” Their basic attitude is, “If we don’t control things really carefully and say no about this and that, the natural unruliness of human nature will overrun our festival and turn it into chaos.” I now have a bad taste in my mouth, and if anyone asks me privately about this festival henceforth I’m going to make a face and start bitching a bit and rolling my eyes.

41 thoughts on “Kind Of A Drag

  1. I had a discussion with a publicist at a festival about how I wasn’t allowed to videotape the Q&A sessions after screenings because I’m press, but the 400 people in the audience could record the entire thing with their iPhones without an issue. I could go on youtube and embed the video other people took. Ultimately the press is the only one being denied shooting their own video at a festival because they’ve allowed themselves to be marked.

    Luckily the guy I was talking to understood the issue and didn’t make me bag my camera during the Q&A.

  2. Honestly? Finding out they’re not letting people come in midway through a movie sounds like a good thing to me as a movie-goer. Even if it is Jeff Wells.

  3. Jeff, this ISN’T what you want to hear and you probably don’t care, but for whatever it’s worth:

    If I’m 2 hours and 10 minutes into watching a movie, I wouldn’t want you or anyone else “slipping in” and plopping down behind me, either. It breaks the spell of the movie for those who see you do, for those whose personal real estate you invade… You’re caught up in a movie, then suddenly some lone wolf dude SNEAKS IN and pulls up a chair. Happens all the time at multiplexes, and it always takes me out of the movie, because then I’M wondering if you’re gonna do some distracting shit, because anyone who’d theater-hop is likely to do some other nuisance activity like texting or breaking out a bag of McDonalds. And like YOU have seen REDS six times, but I as the person you’re distracting don’t know that. I just see a guy entering a movie 2 hours in progress, and now IT’S ON ME to wonder how the fuck you could POSSIBLY know what’s going on, and thus you’ve created a big distraction and essentially COMPROMISED THE MOVIE for those who saw it.

    Face it, Jeff, if you were watching Social Network in a 2/3rds empty theater, and some RANDOM GUY slipped in and plopped down right behind you in the CLUB SCENE, it would DRIVE YOU INSANE wondering what they were getting out of the experience and how they couldn’t appreciate anything that was going on.

    That said, yes, it’s bullshit about the actual Q&A… but don’t the Movie Godz disapprove of sneaking into in-progress movies? That’s TOTAL Eloi behavior.

  4. I get the feeling that this TCM festival is for out-of-towners.

    For them it must be pretty cool. Pay $500 for a pass, fly to L.A., stay at the Roosevelt, see classic films.

    Nice for them.

    As a neighbor though……. uh, I dunno. True, seeing a classic at the Chinese is a thrill but it seems like a shlep, especially when, (no offense to non-Angelenos), we can see a lot of these films on any given week at the Aero, Egyptian or New Beverly.

  5. if they don’t want to seat him film – so be it. But they ought to at least let the press sneak in during the end credits to find a seat for the Q&A.

  6. Beatty was a great filmmaker. I got chills during the scene where the Internationale is sung, it made me want to stand. Powerful, beautiful filmmaking.

    Makes sense to ask you politely to wait until the film is over. Fascists.

    How was the q&a?

  7. I like how this column on the Q&A is seven paragraphs complaining about getting into the event, but it contains no actual information about the event itself.

    I’d love to have been able to see “Reds” on a big screen again. Would that really have been such a chore?

  8. In addition to the ELOI tools who hop movies at the megaplexes, theater staff who stroll in with their lightsaber toys are useless.

    In the past month, I’ve attended screenings where:

    1. someone left the fire exit door half-open and bleeding light into the hall.

    2. a third-row ELOI was facebooking with what was evidently an iPhone7 from the future with radiant light levels as bright as the digital projection.

    And these theater staff people stroll in, and do nothing.

    If they’re not going to do anything, why create yet another disturbance?

  9. milton: because we get fired if we don’t. originally, it’s to make sure sound levels are okay, picture is fine, and no one’s bootlegging. but yeah, most ushers just walk through quickly so they don’t get written up

  10. Late seating at screenings is a big no-no at most film festivals, at least at screenings that are near capacity and any screening with name celebrities is going to be full or nearly so.

    The simple reason is, it’s bloody annoying for people IN the audience while some late goober stands there, looking lost, trying to find an empty seat and if there is an empty seat, it’s not going to be easily accessible.

    Haven’t you bitched on here before about irritations like this at screenings?

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  12. I could go on youtube and embed the video other people took. Ultimately the press is the only one being denied shooting their own video at a festival because they’ve allowed themselves to be marked

  13. hey’re running a very well-organized, very popular film festival here (all the screenings I’ve been to have been

  14. I’ll give you $100 right now if there aren’t a few seats open…there are always a few empty seats

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