A Conversation with Director Marion Kerr aka Golden Earrings

Published On February 8, 2011 | By admin | Blog Post, Director, Film Festival, Filmmaker, Independent Film

Over the past two or three years, I’ve gone to a lot of film festivals. As an actor, I’ve attended many as a performer. As an employee of the New Beverly Cinema in L.A., I’ve moderated many for other directors and actors and finally as a director of my first feature film, “Golden Earrings”, I had the privilege of being at the center of many Q&As during my film’s festival run in 2010. Throughout my festival travels, one thing that caught my eye constantly was the huge variance in how well filmmakers conducted their Q&As. I use the word conducted deliberately because I really feel that whether or not a filmmaker feels he/she has control of their Q&A is a large measure of how successful their entire screening is.

Marion Kerr

Here’s the scenario I would see fairly frequently: A film is screened. The audience loves it. They have energy, enthusiasm, excited whispers during the credits. Or they are moved, crying, wiping tears away. Either way the filmmaker has them. He/she has the audience. Then the lights come up and the filmmakers are introduced and down they come. Very rapidly, the filmmakers manage to slowly suck all the goodwill and connection the audience has with their film out of the theatre. Obviously, this is not intentional. What filmmaker would do that deliberately? But it seemed to me that the filmmaker was not prepared for the Q&A like it was an essential part of his/her screening. They would just stand there and wait for the audience to ask them something or they would make disappointed/nervous faces if there were no immediate questions and when they did answer, it was in short, one sentence answers that ended a dialogue rather than started one. Or (and here’s one I saw several times as well), the filmmaker would come up and you could almost hear the dragging sound of their massive ego being hauled up on stage with them. All answers refer to how “easily it all came together” and how “amazing” every aspect of the film is. Or you could see a filmmaker trying to overtake the room with his/her personality. They would spend their 20 minutes trying over-earnestly to win the room by talking non-stop like they’re doing stand-up. Though they already had the audience, their lack of realizing it turned what would have been “Man that was great! So moving/funny/touching/beautiful” into “Well, the film was alright, but the Q&A took forever. That guy was ridiculous.”

Here’s another scenario I saw frequently. A film is screened. The audience loves it. Well, maybe not even loved, but reasonably enjoyed. No booing anyway. The lights come up, the filmmakers are introduced and what begins is a dialogue. A connection. Between an artist and his/her work and the viewing public that have their own thoughts, ideas, criticisms and questions about what they just saw. And perhaps, they don’t know what these questions are yet. Perhaps when the lights come up and the moderator asks, “Any questions for the filmmakers?” their idea is not quite formulated yet. Perhaps they have more feelings than articulated questions. Perhaps they just hate going first. But what happens in this admittedly uncomfortable scenario is the filmmaker starts the conversation, not the moderator. They explain the background of the film, the process of working on it, something they’re proud of, something that was very hard. And in telling these stories, they toss out elements and themes that the audience is already gestating. By becoming approachable and accessible, I would see the Q&A become more like a conversation. In fact, I wish sometimes they would call them “conversations” because I think the best ones really are that. Simply, really good conversations. Through that, the audience would develop a deeper connection with the film and like it way more after the Q&A than they did after the film itself. Especially in regional festivals, filmmakers are showing their films in places with audiences that may not see a lot of indie films. In fact, your film may be one of a very small handful that these people see all year. So for them to have access to a filmmaker whose made something they have just seen is a very unique opportunity. The more accessible you can make that opportunity for them, the better feedback and yes, conversation I believe you will get in return.

So even if you did not get the crowd you wanted or the screening was in the wrong aspect ratio, the connection with your audience needs to be actively extended after your movie is over. I believe a filmmaker’s screening is not truly over till the Q&A is over. It is not an afterthought or an add-on. It’s a chance for you and your audience to connect further with your work. Audiences will be open to being critical if they see that you can be a little critical of yourself. They will be more inclined to share their honest thoughts on your work if you share your honest thoughts with them first. I think this conversation is perhaps the most valuable thing that a filmmaker can get out of their screening. But it can only happen if you really want to hear that conversation and you actively create the right mood for it. Really, it’s kind of like filmmaking. You might not be able to pick all the players but you can set the mood, craft the dialogue and make people think about the story you wanted to tell. You are, after all, a director.

Find out what comes next for Marion on Twitter @GoldenEarrings or on her website at www.goldenearringsmovie.com.

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2 Responses to A Conversation with Director Marion Kerr aka Golden Earrings

  1. J. Randall says:

    As a filmmaker, and an audience member, I really enjoyed Marion Kerr’s take on the goings on when the lights come up.
    To me, there is nothing worse than a filmmaker that sucks the air out of the room… you do not need to be Charismatic Jones, but remember, none of the people in the audience had to be there either. So, like Marion says (and I think it’s a great way of looking at it…) ‘Have a conversation. Open a dialogue.’
    Well done, great article.

  2. admin says:

    Glad you enjoyed Marion’s article. I think her take can benefit many filmmakers, expecially the ones who are new to the film festival circuit. We’d like to encourage more filmmakers to share their experiences on Filmmakers Notebook, so if there’s an aspect of filmmaking you’d like to write about please do.

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