Guest editor Felim Mac Dermott on truly earning that applause.
Imagine you are at a festival screening of a competition film in the Palais du Cinema in Cannes. You felt the film was mediocre, but at the end of the film, as is traditional, the audience erupts into applause. You comply with the mob, and clap. The well-dressed audience in the Palais stare at the screen, where a live feed of the director and actors fighting back tears is projected. As the applause builds, some members of the audience take to their feet for an ovation. You remain obstinately seated, and think, ‘I’m not a sheep!’ but as more and more offer the ovation, you eventually succumb to peer pressure, subjugate your critical judgment and join the crowd. I’ve been in that crowd, dressed up like it’s my grad, clapping away. It means nothing.
As you no doubt know, each festival has films in competition, while certain major festivals like Cannes, Toronto, Berlin and Sundance also have market screenings – to whom access is limited to buyers and if seating permits, journalists and programmers (sales are key). Sales agents or production companies pay for a slot in a marketplace screening. There is no quality control or filtering of any sort – the marketplace screening function is primarily to attract buyers. Buyers are like wolves, with well-honed sensibilities for what they are looking for. They don’t see film as the highest art form that mankind can aspire to: it’s a product – they evaluate its merits, negotiate a fee, handle it well and try to make money. Schlock slashers, thrillers (with soft porn), and cheap-as-chips horrors are all products – easy to flip (straight to video), and the 20-word synopsis in the market catalogue demonstrates this.
The full article is printed in Film Ireland 130.
Category: Back Issues Articles