CINEQUEST 2017: A First Timer’s Inside View
If you’re a filmmaker wondering about Cinequest and what it is like to attend with a film – I want to give my team’s enthusiastic two cents – RUN DON’T WALK. This is one worth the entry fee. We first fell in love with Cinequest when they fell in love with us. They were our first festival entry for our first feature, Quality Problems, and it was a perfect marriage of film and festival. Quality Problems is story of a family dealing with life, parenting, Alzheimers, bar fights, kid Birthday parties and Breast Cancer. Oh, and it’s a comedy. This family looks and acts a lot like our actual family… Twisted. I wrote the script, my husband, Doug Purdy and I co-directed and we starred in it along with our two kids, Max and Scout and our two dogs, Watts and Boo. It co-stars our favorite friends, and is produced by our most talented friends. It was ENTIRELY SELF FUNDED and crowd sourced. Independent in the extreme. You get the idea. It was a love fest and has set the bar for wonderful independent filmmaking so high that I dare not even think about it. Cinequest was our first, heartfelt invite and we were over the moon to accept.
If we could marry Cinequest, we all would.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and high-tailed it to the hospitality “suite” at The Continental. I just want to take a moment to talk about this spot- because it was one of my FAVORITES. And not just because I’m a fan of an endless coffee bar- the food and drinks were excellent. The vendors were all helpful and pretended not to notice when I went back 17 times… in an hour. And yes, it is in fact possible to fit three egg burritos into one’s jacket pocket. The atmosphere was welcoming and friendly. The volunteers and staff were amazing, especially our Cinequest “Spirit Animal” programming director Michael Rabehl- whom I finally got to give a REALLY HUGE hug. (We’re huggers, be warned.) As newbies- we didn’t know what to expect from a “festival crowd”. Would everyone know each other? Would we be those kids sitting on the wall, not picked? Would everyone point and laugh at my egg-burrito pockets?
It was WONDERFUL. Everyone was warm, helpful and funny. Needless to say- this became our “home base” for the next three days. Everywhere we needed to be in San Jose was close and accessible, although my Fitbit nearly stroked out with the walking over the three days. I would have been done for if not for my AMAZING Wiivv Insoles- (Shameless plug, so what?!) which were offered to filmmakers and Cinequest participants for free. I would trade them over a Gucci Bag any day. They were custom fitted and I may never stop wearing them.
BEST. SWAG. EVER.
Max, my twelve year old had been OBSESSED with all things VR since we were accepted and he was not disappointed. The rest of the family was quickly converted as well. Our favorite were the installations at Anno Domini because they gave everyone their own space in which to look like weirdly moving aliens with huge glasses. They let us try multiple programs, helped us choose options and kept us from wandering blindly into the street.
Max had found his mecca.
Friday night was our first Red Carpet affair at the GORGEOUS California Theatre, where we did the “walk and talk” with six different papers, blogs and shows. It was a blast and I neither fell nor had my dress tucked up into my underwear. Win-Win. We would have been lost without the gentle guidance of Jessica Gelico, the publicity manager. She took one look at our glassy-eyed stares and walked us through it all like a true Mama Bear. It was amazing and hilarious all because of her.
Saturday Night was our world premiere. We had a special celebration dinner before at the Loft Bistro where they accommodated our party of 15 for food then 20 + for after drinks with grace and deliciousness. We crossed the street to the amazing Hammer Theatre for our WORLD PREMIERE. The crowd was AWESOME and we were on our way. I held off from bursting into tears until, as the lights went down in the PACKED HOUSE, my son, Max leaned over to me and said; “Mom, in a few minutes, we are going to share our FILM with a theatre full of strangers. They get to see all our hard work.”
Annnndddd cue waterworks.
The audience was remarkable. They laughed and cried in all the right places. The Q&A was also a dream come true. Just to stand there – as a family and look out at people clapping and smiling… seriously, a “Moment” if ever there was one. We were all floating out of the theatre. We celebrated at Mosaic where they were accommodating to our huge, ecstatic crowd who took over their lobby well into the wee hours.
Sunday- Yes, we made a brief stop at the hospitality suite but we then met at the adorable & delicious “Social Policy” eatery. We walked around a bit more, ripped Max from his VR goggles and packed up. Doug and our producer Jen Prince stayed Sunday evening for our screening at the Redwood City Theatre. (I had to drive back to get the kids to school the next day.) Doug and Jen tell me Redwood City was adorable. So groovy and friendly. They ate a great dinner at Quinto Sol and screened our film at the Century 20 Redwood City. They RAVED about the staff and moderator there. Kind, excited and so professional. Another amazing screening and crowd. I was doing laundry by that point… and dreaming of egg burritos.
We are back this weekend for more screenings, fun, meeting inspiring filmmakers and seeing some of the other great films at the festival. SO. MANY. FILMS TO SEE. Cinequest- THANK YOU. We are only half way through and this has already been one of the greatest experiences of my lifetime.