Check out some photos from the night:
Last Thursday was the world premiere of Summit at the Manhattan Film Festival. It was such an overwhelming night for me because I was both excited and extremely nervous. I have a complicated relationship with my first feature film in that I'm incredibly proud of what we accomplished (in large part because of the context in which we accomplished it: the lack of a budget, the insane challenges we faced (read Shooting Summit)) and am so grateful for what I got out of it: I met most of my best friends and favorite co-workers, I learned, really, how to make films & what kind of filmmaker I am, and I gained an audience and dedicated group of people that have continued to follow my work. However, I also understand how flawed the film is and, considering I've made a 10 episode web series and 3 short films since Summit, I feel it's very much a reflection of who I was, not necessarily who I am as a filmmaker. So you can imagine that finally being able to share it with the world was both exhilarating and terrifying.
As it turns out, people have truly been as eager to see the film as I've been to get it out into the world because we had over 115 people at the screening: many family members of mine and the cast & crew, but also some surprising friends, old & new, and, even more surprising, people I've never met in person who had been following the progress of the film via social media. It was wonderful seeing how excited people were. Of course, it made me more nervous though.
Sitting through the film was painful, I'll admit, for 2 reasons: one, because it always kind of is; it's the most vulnerable an artist can be, in the room sharing their art with an audience, but even more so when you're 2.5 years removed from the time it was made (and 3.5 from writing & feeling good about the script) and knowing that some of the flaws you see so clearly now they'll see too. And the other reason, I'll try not to harp on a lot because I did my fair share of (private) social media complaining after the screening, but the projector was old, low quality and calibrated incorrectly, so it not only screened my film in SD instead of HD, but was 3 shades too dark and had a green tint on the image. I was pissed, especially considering the festival undoubtedly made at least $1,000 off of my audience that night and that audience deserved to see the film as intended and as I was promised it would be. It's frustrating that they didn't change the settings on the projector when testing the films knowing that they could and should do so; there's no way they watched my film during a test screening and felt it was an accurate depiction of the streaming version I submitted. I said I wasn't going to harp, but it was truly upsetting. As a horror film, mood and atmosphere are so key to a viewers experience and so much of the experience of my film was lost. On top of that, the hard work and talent of my DP, Gaffer, Colorist & really the whole camera department (not to mention my actors who were at times literally too dark to be visible) were completely disrespected. I know it wasn't just my film that suffered, other filmmakers got in touch with me to discuss it. But I digress. You live and you learn, right? Like everything with Summit, this was another learning experience, this time about what to expect from festivals and how much you can try to control everything, but so much is out of your hands. Aside from the projector issue, the festival does have its merits (like the unique revenue sharing model) and I'm happy to have been part of it. I just wish there had been more care put into the screening. The experience did give me a lot of things to consider with other festivals moving forward.
All of that aside though, the night actually ended up a success. The audience was really engaged with the film. Like really! There were lots of laughs when I hoped for laughs and loud gasps when I wasn't sure if we'd get such vocal reactions. I could feel that the audience enjoyed it. Someone said after the screening, "You had them, they were with you every second; they were absorbed and completely on this ride with you. That's impressive." The visual issues with the projector were undeniably apparent, but it didn't detract from the audience experience too much it seems because the vibe in the room really was present and engrossed! I was able to relax and enjoy the film more because I could feel most of the room doing so. After the screening there was a Q&A and despite fuming (on the inside) about the projector when I walked up on the stage, I was able to let it go (for the moment) and enjoy the night when I realized how many questions the audience had. I really loved being able to discuss the film with an audience that had finally watched it and truly enjoyed it. It was quite exhilarating.
After we left the screening, a lot of people came over to say wonderful things. I think we met our biggest fan, who literally bowed in front of me and was "star struck" by the actors. That was one surprising and overwhelming encounter, something very cool but not something I think I'll get used to. Some other things said to me personally (I'll mention comments about the film below) were: "Keep going at what you are doing. You're terrific at it" and "That was excellent. You have a long wonderful road ahead. Quote me on that!" I'm not going to let any of that go to my head, but it was pretty awesome to hear.
We then went to a local bar and hung out for a bit longer, chatting with each other & some audience members that stuck around, celebrating the fact that the film was finally seen. The next day, I got a lot more comments via social media from people who really didn't have to say anything but chose to. It was such a lovely surprise, finally getting objective comments about the film. I quoted a few of the not too spoilery ones below.
That's it for the premiere. We're still waiting to hear from other festivals. July will bring some news. So fingers crossed for more screenings (with better projectors) and opportunities for this film to be seen!
I only know of 2 other horror features that screened as part of the festival. There could have been more, I'm not sure. But I know they awarded 50 out of 102 films with awards. It's really cool that we were one of them.