Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tina Mabry - Center for Documentary Studies @ Duke - Durham, NC

After dodging the NASCAR traffic in Charlotte, I finally arrive in Durham. I've been anticipating this screening since I learned it was on the schedule. I've got family in the Raleigh/Durham area so this was practically like coming home. One of the producers of the film, Lee V. Stiff, lives in Raleigh so I knew a nice number of people would be at the screening.

I arrived at the screening location and attended the reception prior to the showing. Nervous as always, I walked around the reception anonymously and talked with several of the guests. Even though my picture was located on the poster advertising the event, most people don't really look at it so they have no idea I'm the writer/director. I actually like this because I get a chance to listen to people describe what they expect the film to be like. Some discuss the intensity of the trailer and how that hooked them to come see the film while others have been long time viewers of films on the South Arts tour. My anonymity was short-lived because several of the guests were invited by the producer, so the other viewers quickly discovered I was with the film.

The screening took place in a small intimate location inside of the Center; the screening was virtually packed. I had intentions to sit in this screening but I skirted out immediately to attend to a small technical hiccup that was resolved in less than a minute. Now that I was out of the theater and other viewers were still arriving, I decided to stay out of the screening because I didn't want to occupy a seat.

With two hours to kill, I spent a great deal of time looking at the photography exhibited on the walls. It was a series of photos of an old theater in India. I looked at the old projectors and had a bittersweet feeling about where we currently stand technologically in theaters. While digital projections are fantastic, showing a 35mm print is a beauty to behold.

Now that I'd finished viewing the exhibition, I still had an hour until the film ended. Thankfully, one of the staff members allowed me to enter the computer library. I went through my usual pattern of browsing (email, facebook, cnn...), but stopped when one of the audience members sat down at the computer next to me. Naturally, showing a fiction film at the Center for Documentary Studies isn't the norm, so a few thought the film would be a doc. This lady was one of these people. She had no idea I was with the film and she candidly told me that while the film was good, she thought it was going to be a doc and she just can't watch fiction films anymore. Yeah, I have to admit having an audience member walk out of your film is a mini blow to the gut, but a filmmaker has to be able to withstand this because it's the norm for indie films and blockbuster films (some people just cannot stay for an entire film). Because she came with someone else (who decided to watch the film), she said she would duck back in at the end. I started to tell her I was the director, but I decided to let her find out at the Q&A.

The film ends and the Q&A starts, the woman turns a tad red in the face but I give her an assuring smile to let her know there were no hard feelings. The Q&A runs smoothly and I got a few questions I'd never gotten before. When you hear the same questions repeatedly, you're sort of on auto-pilot with the answers, but when a new question emerges it's nice to be able to truly process a question and manually fly the plane so to speak.

After the Q&A, the producer and I stood outside of our cars and talked. Suddenly, a car stops in the middle of the street and a woman climbs out. She said she just had to stop to tell us how much of an impact the film had on her. We thanked her for her kind words while constantly looking both ways down the street to make sure she wasn't going to be hit by a car. We didn't want her to turn into a literal die-hard fan :)

I've got to say the screening was a success and I can't wait to screen in Durham again. To top off the visit, I discovered another city was being added to the tour - New Orleans.