03 June 2007

Shameless cross-promotion (of myself and an indie film experiment)

Here's a review I just wrote of a film called A Coat of Snow that has some Colorado references and turned out to be more than meets the eye, a real achievement in naturalistic filmmaking.

Here's the concept: young woman brings a video camera to tape her cousin's bachelorette party, upon the request of the bride-to-be. Only the party keeps getting derailed before it really gets going.

The kicker: the whole thing is the product of one person's imagination, even though it looks like it is really unfolding in front of a friend of a friend's video camera.

Whether this is any fun to watch is the question you may have to ask yourself.

My geek fire is all stoked because I had a nice chat with the director, Gordy Hoffman, about his writing. I deliberately refrained from speaking with him until I had finished writing my review. We talked the next day. Here's how it went:

Me: "You wrote that movie?! That's freakishly impressive!"
Gordy Hoffman: "Yeah, I did."
Me: "That's so impressive!"

OK, that's not quite all of it. We had a much better talk than that. He told me I said things other people called out in their reviews, too, and when at first he sounded defensive he turned out not to be. He called mine a thoughtful piece and answered most of the issues I raised in my critique. He also said I had pointed to a "huge hole," which "no one else had mentioned," that, he said, "every time I see it I say, 'that is sooo bad!'" The women's failure to respond to a situation as an emergency at one critical moment broke the story's credibility for me, and apparently for the director as well in hindsight.

We had a thorough talk: when I clarified my unfavorable comments about the acting, I zeroed in on one actress whom he then agreed gave a weaker-than-usual performance in his film. He told me how he regrets having insisted on unknown actresses ("I could have had Claire Danes for the bride! Mena Suvari called about it."); I said that would have given you a completely different experience as a viewer because the moment you recognized Claire Danes or anyone else, you would know immediately it was fiction. It might not have been as surprising or successful as his film turned out, whatever its flaws may be.

In the end I knew he didn't hold my review against me because he asked if I'd like to moderate the Q & A at the screening of his film in Denver on the weekend (I declined, not being much for public speaking; and I prefer to conserve my energy for writing anyway). By the end of our conversation, despite the occasional industry jargon that sailed past uncomprehended, I felt I had spoken with a peer.

Hoffman's got a steep incline to climb to get people to watch his indie film and he knows it, though; in the director's own words, it's a "challenging" movie, not fare for the many "chamber-of-commerce film festivals" that dot the map these days.

I'm glad I saw his film, though. Learning about yet another way to write for film was an interesting experience (and his BlueCat Screenwriting Competition script loglines page inspired me to write a better blurb about my own novel). "Keep in touch," Hoffman said, generously. "OK, in about three years, I might have a screenplay for your competition," I replied, before he clicked off and returned to the life of a struggling indie filmmaker and I to my life as indie writer.

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