MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions Of A Film Fest Junkie: LAFF 2015

Toronto always seems to be compete with the events of the day. I can remember everything going gloomy (including the weather) when Princess Diana was killed during TIFF 1997 and it’s difficult to convey the impact of 9/11 on the Canadian metrolis all those years ago.

Los Angeles is divorced from reality in any event. One could hope for distraction of any sort during the Los Angeles Film Festival. The record-breaking business of Jurassic World during opening weekend (including at the Regal where the fest screens) was neither a topic of awe or derision. It might as well never have happened.

While the general quality of selection emerged as acceptable and sometimes better than that, it all seemed grim. The spotlight for such commendable work as Mekko, French Dirty, People Places Things and Fan Girl may be truly fleeting against the current realities of film exhibition.

It’s not simply the fact that apart from Fan Girl, these films have zero marquee appeal. Only People Places Things has theatrical distribution and whether or should any of this partial foursome emerge with an award when it wraps, their commercial prospects remain dismal. The folk who acquire movies are either not present or have sent junior personal to check things out. No one has been instructed to find “that” film.

The reality is that unless one premieres at one of a very select handful of film festivals, the likelihood is that an independent production of quality or cachet has already been scooped up by one of the first-tier specialized concern. And those distributors have all the films they can handle.

On any given weekend, at least a half dozen American independent movies open on U.S. screens. They shoehorn into the marketplace with the hope they’ll get a modicum of attention that might translate into a cable sale to pay off the filmmaker’s equivalent of the student loan.

Mekko, the name of the title character, is a Native American recently releases from jail for killing one of his brethren. His family has disowned him and the streets of Tulsa aren’t exactly rife with opportunity. On the surface it sounds like a dead end scenario, but the direction and story have a poetic tilt that makes this an unusually compelling story with a riveting central performance.

Playing as part of the LA Muse section, French Dirty is about young, aimless folk looking for meaning in their lives. Vincent and buddy Steve have girlfriends but their friendship is about to undergo a strain when love threatens to upend the existing balance.

People Places Things premiered at Sundance, but its low-key perspective and unflustered tale went largely unnoticed. Following the recently-separated Will (“Flight of the Conchords”’ Jemaine Clement) the movie manages to weave his unresolved relationship, commitment to his two young daughters, the prospect of a budding romance and work as a cartoonist and teacher into a sweet pastiche that’s cohesive and touching.

Finally, Fan Girl with “Mad Men”’s Kristen Shipka as the title 15-year old girl a bitobsessed with punkers All Time Low. Despite the come on of the title, the film is more involved with high school life today with the sort of authenticity one recalls from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (coincidently receiving a Live Read of Cameron Crowe’s original screenplay on LAFF’s closing night).

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon