It is with a touch of sad irony that the week after I lauded the venerable Tampa Film Review monthly film fest as the best of its kind, I am forced to report that its end is imminent.
The first thing announced by TFR chieftan Paul Guzzo at last Friday's event is that it is the last one. Not just for 2008, but for forever. Well, with the exception of next month's 5-year anniversary bash, but that will be a retrospective/best-of where the top films from the past five years will be shown. Quite an event in and of itself, of course, and yours truly intends to be there. But the final show with all original films was last Friday.
There is talk of others who may be interested in taking over the TFR in 2009, but as of this writing, nothing concrete. I'd love to see the TFR survive in some form or another, even if where the new "owner" takes it makes it impractical or impossible for me to attend personally anymore.
After the show we bid adieu to each other and the Romeo Coffeehouse, where it all began....and ended. To read my write-up of last Friday's films, more about the participants, and any last words, click here.
Tampa Indie Film: Mission Accomplished? Part 2 POSTED BY NOLAN B. CANOVA, DECEMBER 17, 2008.
The Bad News, Addendum
I had not originally intended to make a "Part 2" to last week's piece on the Tampa Indie Film scene. However, one Readers' Comments poster ("Bad News Puff Chrissy") lamented the fact that of The Good News, The Great News, and The Bad News I posted, the "Bad" could've been more expanded upon. My response reflected on my reluctance of seeming to side, even for a moment, with our stalkers and naysayers, adding, "what Paul and I do [turned out] to be a relatively thankless job for a too-often ungrateful and self-centered film community, I said pretty much all I wanted to say anyway, and wanted to end on a positive note. There will always be problems and personality conflicts, but we try and keep the big picture front and center."
While I still stand by that, I thought a lot more about it over the past few days and decided to expand on that a little after all. The reason being -- and I don't mean to be speaking for Paul here -- is that some of the "bad" news is what contributed to the TFR's demise.
Before I elaborate, please understand two things clearly: First, my experiences at the Tampa Film Review and with the filmmakers involved have been overwhelmingly positive, it's why I keep covering it. Second, I am NOT going to allude to any "lack of professionalism" (as our most vocal critic was always fond of repeating ad nauseum). That is not the point. That was never the point. The TFR is a bare-bones exhibition for up-and-coming filmmakers, not a professional workshop, nor was it designed to be. (Dan Brienza's pre-TFR meet-up is closer to that, but that's another story.)
The first thing I want to get out of the way is that what negative I've observed has nothing to do with the valiant efforts of the Brothers Guzzo, technical snafus and shifting venues notwithstanding. Annoying when they occurred, yes, but a petty grievance that was made way too much of by critics. The Guzzos did the best they could with what they had to work with (practically nothing, I can relate), but the fans followed them wherever they went regardless.
Now to the meat of it. Bloated egos I'm used to. Comes with the territory. No, my complaint stems from working with filmmakers who seem clueless about how to interact with each other and with us. Not all of them, mind you, many of them are super-cool and truly get what we're trying to do (OK, I said I didn't mean to speak for Paul, and yet I'm all about "we" now -- but our experiences are so much the same I feel like I'm pretty much covering the same ground). So many of them indulge in what they think of as "self-promotion" without really knowing what that is, where to draw the line, or how to show courtesy.
One of the most frequent complaints about the TFR is that filmmakers rarely stay through an entire TFR event, arriving very late and leaving the very second their film has finished playing. Since TFR is only two hours long, I don't think it's asking too much to stay and watch other short films since everyone stayed through your film! Got a plane to catch in the morning? Is the extra 30 to 60 minutes really going to make that much of a difference? Those who do manage to stay until the end (assuming it was a real effort to be made to watch your competition), race out the door, defeating all possibilities of an interview or photo-op. To those who stayed and spoke with us afterward, I thank you.
Thankfully, the Guzzos always lend me their TFR discs so I can re-watch them later for accuracy, crew credits and such when writing my reviews, which I take pretty seriously. These discs are always returned at the next event. Most of the time this is hassle-free. But a few times the disc was literally taken out of my hands by a filmmaker who doesn't trust that we're not going to steal their ideas, or secretly put the movie out on YouTube or something. All I can say is we didn't build our reps by f*cking artists over the last five years! (Note: it's also been observed on more than one occasion that the excuse was "this is the only copy I have!" While that may be true rarely, we never believed that, worst comes to worst, another copy, presumably created from the same data files, couldn't be made again! I mean, what if they accidentally stepped on it or whatever?) Conversely, the past few months the filmmakers haven't even bothered to show up at all(!), merely mailing it in and expecting a report back on how it went. Well, at least there's no hassle over the discs. (It's worth noting that some filmmakers have driven all the way from Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville to attend the Tampa Film Review, when locals found it to be too much trouble.)
I don't know about Paul, but with me, e-mail correspondence is hit and/or miss. Once their promotional material is sent, apparently an ongoing dialogue is neither desired nor acknowledged. Forget getting "thank you" notes, even for good reviews (although they do happen occasionally, for which I'm grateful). I can better expect to hear from them over negative reviews, if they write at all. Most of the time, though, they just vanish into the ether, happy they got what they wanted out of TFR.
As you're probably assessing by now, this is what I meant by not really understanding self-promotion. If you're a filmmaker, and you recognize yourself here, do yourself a favor and assign public relations to someone else.
Speaking of emails, I was not aware until Paul Guzzo told me earlier this year, that over the years, a few artists demanded to be taken off his email list because of negative reviews I wrote, and told never to contact them again. That he supported our teamwork to that extent is a testament to his strength and dedication. I've been cut out of a few email lists myself. Which brings me to my final thoughts...
For anyone who hopes to continue the TFR, or write reviews of same if I can't, please be aware: this is, flat-out, an ego-driven business. I've said that before but it bears repeating. It never ceases to amaze both Paul and me how much the artists feel entitled to and how much they expect to get for free. We are volunteering our time and efforts to HELP filmmakers get discovered and their films exhibited. We did not sign on to become their personal press agents.
Nolan's Pop Culture Review is not now, nor has ever been, a strictly promotional website for Tampa indie film. It is a pop culture, op-ed website that frequently features Tampa indie film. While my personal beat has been local film and I appreciate being kept in the loop regarding local fests and indie films in production, that does not obligate me to post schedules, films-in-production, or hundreds of movie posters right here on the homepage! I'm sorry if that was misunderstood. Paul Guzzo's Indie Film News is closer to what you're looking for there. And the Message Board is always available for that as well.
Paul Guzzo has noted that submissions to the TFR had fallen off in recent months. Besides the possibility of competing events thinning the herd, the alternate speculation is up-and-coming filmmakers find it more convenient to upload their films to YouTube, MySpace and the like, and wait to become "viral" or something. While YouTube and MySpace are fine for what they are, I think it is unrealistic to expect to become famous or recognized just from that exposure alone, if that's what you're counting on (I know it happens occasionally). It's hard to beat a live audience and subsequent networking, even if you find it scary or inconvenient.
A suggestion to whoever takes over the TFR, if any: please make clear with the artists you work with exactly what is involved in both the exhibition and review process. Tell them don't make just ONE disc and leave with it (deal-breaker? So be it)! Tell them it's a two-hour event and their presence is expected to introduce their film and take questions after. If they don't have time for this or can't be bothered with these details, then you don't have time to be bothered with them.
There is way too much talent out there that still needs to be uncovered and discovered. Common courtesy and a better understanding of the process will help everyone's cause immensely.
THE YEAR THAT WAS, PART 1. January -- June, 2008
January. The first two issues of the year looked like we were still in 2007, as my upgrades could not be completed in time, but the articles were new anyway! By issue three (#408), PCR 2008 was more "underway". January saw the second installment of John Miller's CANOVA comic, then still in color. Yours truly fretted about its Archiving and still does! Paul Guzzo was optimistic about the Tampa film community "family", an irony in context of later events. Terence Nuzum would write his only column of the year(!), a two-part Audio Philes on the top albums of 2007. As yours truly boggles UFOs over Texas, the model for the Mona Lisa is positively identified. This month began a terrible year for celebrity deaths, as they dropped like flies, starting January '08: Chess Master Bobby Fischer, TV horror host legend Vampira (Maila Nurmi), Brad Renfro, Allan Melvin, and Susanne Pleshette begin the dark roll call. The Presidential race heats up as Hillary Clinton, still the strong Democratic contender before Barack Obama thrust forward later, visits Florida, as does Republican John McCain. February. ED Tucker attends F/X Con and observes the passing of Toy Shop magazine. Roy Scheider becomes the next celebrity casualty of 2008, Mike and Matt write up their memories. Cuban dictator Fidel Castro resigns office, citing health problems; his brother Raoul takes over. I am captivated by a young patron of The Village Inn restaurant sculpting with jelly packets. No Country For Old Men rules the 80th Annual Academy Awards as the particularly aggressive Grim Reaper steps up to capture Ben Chapman, Steve Gerber, Dick Fletcher (Tampa newscaster), and William F. Buckley, Jr. PCR's own Matt Drinnenberg cites the 50th anniversary of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, particularly sad in view of former editor Forry Ackerman's later passing. February ends with a bang as yours truly reviews young filmmakers for the Gasparilla Film Festival, but even more exciting, meets the legendary "Wizard of Gore" himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis and his producer David Friedman at an Ybor City gathering masterminded by PCR scribes Andy Lalino and ED Tucker. March brings with it more fan fests like Orlando's MegaCon, and one political sex scandal after another seems to sweep the nation. Dawn Wells is busted for pot, and yours truly attends the Bay Area Renaissance Festival with Lisa Ciurro and her in-laws. As we ponder what church Obama's been attending when hearing Rev Wright expound anti-American hate-speech, Prince Sirki comes to Earth to take Arthur C. Clarke away from us. Nolan's Pop Culture Review celebrates 8 years online, and the Iraq War "celebrates" 5 years of futility. April welcomes a new columnnist for PCR, Chris Munger with Sports Talk, our first regularly-scheduled sports-related column, but we say goodbye to a legendary cult-video store, the Tampa-based Unique Video. Reaper Sirki just can't get enough death, so comes to claim Charleton Heston. The Presidential race gets weirder and weirder as Clinton and Obama remain in a dead heat for Dems. ED Tucker interviews goremeister H.G. Lewis, about the same time as PCR's own Mike Smith gets hitched to his bride, Juanita (congrats!). I continue to marvel at Barack Obama's controversial but resilient candidacy. The Ybor Festival of the Moving Image gets a visit from Lisa Ciurro. Matt Drinnenberg reflects on Mike Smith's wedding day. May sees the release of Iron Man and I immediately pronounce it among the greatest comic-to-movie adaptations ever made and one of the summer's best films. I still stand by that. Paul Guzzo takes a look back on Tampa mayor Dick Greco. Senator Ted Kennedy is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fails to light many fan fires around the PCR headquarters. Hazel Court, Dick Martin, Sydney Pollack, Earle Hagen, and Harvey Korman follow The Reaper to the Great Beyond where so many others have gone this year. June sees Barack Obama become the Democratic Nominee despite the cacophony of controversy. One man's alien encounter caught on video becomes the next hoax-in-the-making for one enterprising man, another will follow when two yahoos allegedly find a dead Bigfoot on the side of the road later in the year! I find The Incredible Hulk to be heads-and-shoulders above Ang Lee's quirky earlier version, but still struggles to compete with Iron Man. President Bush announces regrets for the first time as gas climbs to a nat'l average of $4 a gallon for the first time. Yours truly deletes his MySpace account after dealing with spyware and malware infestations regularly brought on by the site. My computer's failed power supply got fixed quickly (yay), and after a brief absence, yours truly is back in action. According to a published study, Americans turned out to be more religious than previously thought. Sadly, the Dark-Robed One arrived for his appointment with George Carlin, who left us at age 71.
NEXT WEEK: THE YEAR THAT WAS, PART 2, JULY -- DECEMBER. Also, Special Thanks. The Year's Final PO BOX Column. The Graveyard of Fallen Columns. Any Final Words.