Thursday, May 5, 2016

I am not attending Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film Festival this year. Here's why.

I've attended Toronto's Inside Out LGBT film festival for years.  I think I know Toronto queer film audiences very well, what they've seen and what else they may wish to see on the big screen.

As many of you will know, I've spent a good part of the last year writing, producing, directing, and picture editing my first narrative short film.   The result is Tri-Curious, a short comedy about a gay male couple about to embark on their first threesome together when one of them suffers an anxiety attack and wants to cancel.

I wanted to put my personal spin on story territory I haven't seen tackled often in queer-themed film: how couples negotiate the post-equal marriage world in a subculture that still celebrates a very free spirited approach to sex, and how one person can struggle to square conservative inclinations with that free spirited culture.

As I wrote on Monday, the film has been selected to screen at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival later this month.   I do hope for more festival selections in the coming months, followed by the full movie being uploaded to YouTube so audiences everywhere can enjoy it.  So far, the YouTube trailer has received almost 45,000 views in just over two weeks.

Many of those who took a chance on me and donated some money to my recent Indiegogo campaign seem very pleased with the final product.  Here is but a sample of the feedback:

"Fabulous fun!!! It's a delightful piece!!" 

"Loved it! Well done! You need to keep making these!"  

"Great film - I truly enjoyed it! And I know the countless hours of hard work you put into it. Happy your fundraising campaign was such a huge success!"  

"Meant to message earlier to say I loved the film..."  
I was looking forward to hearing thunderous laughter that might accompany the film's final punchline at an Inside Out screening.  Toronto is my home town, after all. 

But two weeks ago, I was pretty upset to learn that Inside Out had rejected it.   The initial rejection email from programming coordinator Jenna Dufton was generic, as sent to all rejected filmmakers.  So I wrote them back an email asking why my 7.5-minute short film (a length that is typically easy to program compared to much longer shorts) which I think Inside Out audiences would love didn't make the cut?   I stated I was baffled as I had seen many films just as good, if not weaker get selected in recent years.  

Perhaps Inside Out programmers simply couldn't match my film in a program that made sense to them, I wondered. 

Yet the response from lead programmer Andrew Murphy surprised and disappointed me.  He claimed the rejection of my film wasn't personal.   Then he went on to criticize my film's rough cut (which I submitted to them last December,) even though I had provided Inside Out with the finished cut in time for its deadline of March 12.  My entire Indiegogo campaign was timed to coincide with that deadline.  Apparently, my film's final version had not been viewed at all.  

Why was the film rejected?  Murphy listed off reasons that reminded me of many other films that I've actually seen programmed at Inside Out in the recent past.  The feedback betrayed an inconsistent subjectivity, I later told him.  

My film is not a masterpiece, but I can humbly say it's a very decent and funny film that I know would be loved by Inside Out audiences.  I can't prove that now as I don't want to release the full film online to the general public while dozens of other festival submissions remain outstanding. 

I will offer to anyone interested: if you want to view my full film now to judge for yourself its quality, please message me.  I can possibly provide you with a password-protected link.  

I do congratulate those filmmakers who did make the Inside Out cut this year.  I'm sure there will be some high quality films to be seen, along with many stinkers, as per usual.  

It's true that the quality of any film is always in the eye of the beholder.  It's entirely possible that good films might be viewed as weak by some people.   Mr. Murphy had every right to reject my film for whatever reasons he wanted.   But the rejection of my film seems pretty arbitrary to me.  

Such is life as an artist, I guess. 

Whatever the reasons, all things considered, attending Inside Out this year to view other selected films would be too painful and aggravating an experience for me.  So I'm going to opt out of attending Inside Out this year.   I hope to return in future years.

*****UPDATE*****

I've been thinking a lot about this over the last week and I've had a slight change of heart.   Please expect another new post about this soon. 

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