“Nightbeats” Unreels at Method Fest
Had a full Saturday of Method Fest at Calabasas, and exploding community just west of the San Fernando Valley. This was a sleepy little town in the Augora Hills up to just a few years ago. Now it’s a rapidly developing city with a large City and Community Center, hillside developments and one of the largest Mercedes Benz dealerships I’ve ever seen. There’s a lotta money in them there hills.
Bon and I started the day at the Agoura Hills Cineplex where two of the eight screens were taken over for Method Fest screenings. Movies started at noon so we were there at 11:45 handing out 4×6” Nightbeats cards and pushing our movie on the unsuspecting public. Film festivals accept and screen your films, but it is largely up to the filmmakers to promote and push their films and pull in an audience. The bigger the attendance, the better the chance of reaping an audience favorite award come awards night. Also, audience members are given slips of paper with scores for each film, whether short or feature, and they judge a film as “Great. Good. So-so. Poor.”
We were also joined by Julianne Gabert and Galen Howard from the film. Julianne had been in Los Angeles during the week doing casting for a horror film to begin shooting in Sacramento in April and stayed on through the weekend to attend the festival and drum up support for Nightbeats. Galen drove down specifically for the film and to check out what else was playing. They both are bouncing balls of energy and positive energy, natural minglers who schmoozed with other participating filmmakers and pressed cards into the hands of festival goers.
You never know who is coming out for a festival. Much of an audience, especially at a screening of several short films, is made up of the cast and crew of films being played, and their family and friends. Being an L.A. Festival that alone can bring a healthy crowd into a screening.
My film festival experience began in the early 1980s going to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, a dozen or more yeas before the Sundance Film Festival started to take root. I went as an aspiring filmmaker/screenwriter and cinema lover who wanted to have my horizons broadened outside of the Hollywood-fed mainstream movies that we were getting in St. Louis, my hometown, at the time. It was an explosion of vision for me. At that first festival the honorees were Robert Altman, Jean-Luc Godard, Maurice Pialet and Russ Meyer. That’s where I met Russ and remained friends with him for the remaining 25 years of his life. I would keep running into this nerdy-looking guy babbling in high-falluting about intellectual meanings of the films, who I later found out was Paul Schrader. People made the effort to go to the festivals then to see the films. Of course, this was in the era when independent films were scarce as hen’s teeth and had to be made on 16mm at tremendous individual cost and with virtually no chance to get shown anywhere.
That festival going audience can now get that experience through the Sundance Channel and IFC and Netflix. As a result, the audience that does turn out for a festival can be smaller, more adventuresome, but also, much fewer. It’s this audience that I am seeking the most. People who don’t have any participation in our film. Who are coming because they are curious and want to see it. Who make the effort to come out to the movies and have the opportunity to personally connect with the people on the screen and the people behind the scenes.
That’s the audience that we were lucky enough to have at the Method Fest screening of Nightbeats. Film lovers. And a few very welcome friends. Among them was Galen’s writing partner Ryan Finnerty, as well as Galen’s cousin, an editor of documentaries who was nominated for the Oscar for the editing of Hoop Dreams. He greatly responded to the film and was extremely impressed by the honesty in the performances by the actors. He could see that The Method-style of acting was alive and strong in the cast. Everyone in the audience mentioned that they were transported by the mood of the night conveyed in Nightbeats, were held in suspense by the mystery element that purveys the movie, and nobody was suspecting the surprise twists at the end.
One man in the audience, a writer and critic whose passion is the classic noir films of the 1940s and ‘50s, commented that Nightbeats fit perfectly into that mold of classic noir storytelling.
In all, having Nightbeats play at 9:15 on Saturday was the perfect cap to a Method Fest day. In fact, the people who came to see the screening wanted to stay and talk to us so much that Security ultimately had to file us all out onto the patio so they could close up for the night. Always a satisfying feeling to have people want to know more about your film and want to keep talking to you about it.
Thanks to the audience for Nightbeats and big thank you’s to The Method Fest for recognizing our film.