Perri Nemiroff writes for Movies.com, but she also produced a short film screening at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival. Here she writes about her expectations before the screening, and will return later to tell us what happened after.
Our short film Child Eater plays to an adoring crowd, we get up and charm the audience further during our Q&A, someone from Blumhouse Productions approaches us post screening with interest in the feature version and BOOM! – Child Eater the feature gets a green light.
Hey, a girl can dream, right?
Just over a month ago I was shocked and overjoyed to find out my Columbia University non-thesis short Child Eater was accepted into SXSW and was set to play in the Midnight Shorts program. We’d already gotten a great reaction at the Columbia University Film Festival, were named an honorable mention at the Reykjavík International Film Festival and had the privilege of screening before Scream and a Wes Craven Q&A at the New York City Horror Film Festival, but SXSW was something else. Not only has the festival become one of the biggest in the country, but it’s a place where something really could happen, whether it be finding that magical person eager to propel the feature version into production, meet future collaborators, or even just simply get our names out there. Whatever fate is upon us, we’re going to do whatever it takes to ensure we get the most out of this experience.
We’re very fortunate that SXSW is an incredibly organized operation with a staff that’s truly dedicated towards helping us make the most of our time in Austin. From the moment we found out we were accepted, the e-mails started pouring in and it was as simple as following their instructions. Booking hotels, transportation ideas, press and industry contacts, the opportunity to have our poster featured in the Austin Convention Center digital displays – everything was neatly placed within our grasp, so it was up to us to make the most out of it. Now that team Child Eater has hit Austin, we’re as prepared as possible and ready to make some strides.
We’ve got a well-rounded representation of our film on the ground – myself, the producer, writer-director Erlingur Thoroddsen, and lead actress Cait Bliss. Pockets full of business cards and Child Eater postcards with SXSW screening information (a necessity for anyone promoting a film at a film festival), we’re eager to roam the streets of Austin passing our promotional material every which way to draw a crowd to our big premiere at the Rollins Theatre on Saturday, March 9 at 9:00 p.m. If anything’s going to happen, that’s going to be the time and place, so while we wait it’s all about spreading the word – and enjoying good food and Evil Dead, of course.
While I most certainly don’t want to get ahead of myself, it’s necessary to be prepared for everything – the highs and who knows. Maybe those lofty dreams, too. Until our premiere comes and goes, I’m banking on this equation – promotion + proficient/worthy film + supportive audience = a step forward. Will it be a career-changing step forward? I certainly hope so, but it’s hard to deny that making it in this industry can be a shot in the dark, so it comes down to balancing the two. We’re ready to receive inquiries whether they’re about screening the film at another festival, digital distribution, interest in the feature, or perhaps someone simply looking to talk horror. Whatever it may be, we want it, we’re ready for it and are excited about it. We’ve done all we can do up until this point and now it’s all about being flexible and rolling with whatever actually does come our way.
What’s that going to be? You can find out when the “after” portion of this article goes live after SXSW. In the meantime, feel free to check out the Child Eater trailer below, as well as stills and more on our website, www.ChildEater.com.
(And yes, we really own that domain.)
We may not have walked away with a green light for Child Eater
the feature, but in all honesty I don’t have a single complaint about our SXSW experience – save for it having to come to an end.
The magic of a place like SXSW comes from the sense of community and the lack of red tape. Yes, there are red carpets where stars are stars and long lines to catch the bigger films on the lineup, but it still offers the opportunity to interact with all sorts of people in the industry like never before, as everyone really is interested to hear what you’re all about.
The easiest way to keep postcards and business cards handy is by tucking them in the little plastic pouch that displays your credential, also turning you into a walking billboard. Thanks to my more uncommon status of attending as both a filmmaker and press, each and every time I sat down for an interview, I had the opportunity to show off Robert Bowery. Of course the filmmakers are in Austin to promote and support their own work, but there’s also a notably strong interest to check out what others have to offer. Someone spots the business cards around my neck and, before I knew it, I’m handing Child Eater screening information over to well-established talent I deeply admire.
Of the bunch, the highlight was easily my interview with Cheap Thrills director E.L. Katz and producer Travis Stevens. Not only was Cheap Thrills my favorite of the festival – I even committed the ultimate festival crime and saw it twice – but I got to sit down for that interview with my own team right by my side. Looking back, perhaps I should have gotten a photo of team Cheap Thrills and Child Eater all around the same table together, but then again it’s also something I’ll never forget.
The folks behind SXSW and the various companies supporting the festival also deserve a great deal of credit for taking good care of filmmakers – and by that I mean making sure we’re well fed and have more than enough to drink. Thanks to a number of filmmaker-specific events, the festival creates an environment prime for networking. Every single day from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., we had access to a filmmaker happy hour. At first we looked at the event merely as a great opportunity to recharge and snag some free drinks, but it quickly turned into a filmmaker home base. On day one, the bar was just a place for introductions, but as the festival progressed, it became the spot we knew we could find familiar faces.
On top of building relationships, some of which could possibly result in collaborations, SXSW also fosters the one-off meet and greet. There were often times when Cait, Erlingur and I split up to catch movies on our own, but at this festival no one is ever alone. Unless you’re deliberately making an effort to be antisocial, odds are if you’re by your lonesome waiting to get into a film, someone’s going to strike up a conversation with you, and it could be just about anyone. I crossed paths with distributors, other short film filmmakers, old friends I hadn’t seen in ages, members of the press who I’ve known for years but never met face to face and more.
While I’m grateful to have struck up so many new connections, one of the most gratifying experiences of SXSW is strengthening the ones I already had. Columbia University’s MFA Film Program was well represented at the festival and with absolutely wonderful people. Narrowing things down one step further, my success at SXSW is very much directly related to the people I went to Austin with – Erlingur and Cait. We knew we worked well together, and after a trip to Iceland
I knew Erlingur was a prime travel buddy, but more so than ever SXSW proved that our working relationship and friendship are exceptional.
Apologies for heading into mushy territory, but it’s inevitable because SXSW fosters this sleepaway camp-like mentality. You legitimately can feel the love and enthusiasm from the entire community, form a family with the people you spend the most time with and even more so with the people you’re living with. Our sights are still very much set on continuing the Child Eater festival run and getting the feature off the ground, but as far as SXSW goes, deal or no deal, tangible professional strides or not, it’s a deeply affecting experience that makes you proud to be part of this industry.