TORONTO FAN EXPO - SEPTEMBER 1, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night... Sort of. It was dark and it was raining a lot. Apparently a hurricane thought it might be fun to climb the east coast and head into Jersey. Due to scheduling conflicts, we didn't get on the road for the 9-10 hour drive until midnight on Friday. Thank goodness for energy drinks.

We got in to the city at around 9am and our first stop was of course: Star Bucks.


Jason and, just as strikingly, the amazingly
clean and often empty streets of Toronto.


Waterview. Corner of the building. Niceness.

We checked into the Westin Harbour Castle later in the morning where our somewhat small room sported a very nice view. I'm not sure what exactly Wei was doing here but I decided a moody silhouette snap shot was in order to capture the drama of it all.

We caught approximately 34 seconds of sleep before bounding back out the door to start promoting the screening. In the past we have been sometimes faced with less than optimal conditions for promoting our film, whether by the layout of a convention or by the lack of literature covering it. We wanted to be ready for such obstacles to try to pack the room as much as possible. Fortunately for us, the Fan Expo ran a tight ship and they had done a great job of giving us little people what we needed for a successful showing.

The convention center was a cool building, as were many of the structures we found in Toronto. I'm not sure if we went in the wrong door, but I had lost about twelve (well needed) pounds walking from the front door across numerous huge spaces and up and down a half dozen escalators before we arrived at the actual convention area.

Right away we were treated with surprising luxuries, being ushered by a guard to our own private escalator beside the general one where a long line of people were waiting to go downstairs. Guest passes are a good thing.


The Metro Convention Center


Jon ordering me around.

After observing the lay of the land for a bit, we went into promo mode. Jon and Wei are naturals at attacking a crowd and passing around fliers to hapless passerbys, so they were on that.

I, being the quiet type, hid by our table next to the screening room, which wonderfully enough had a television and DVD player to loop our trailers on. I must say, I never want to promote our film at a convention without this sort of set up again. So much easier!

Now, I don't know if it was because of the optimal positioning of our table (probably a thousand or so people walked by us and we flashed the pretty colors of our trailers at all of them), or the article in the National Post, or the 501st, or the fliers -- maybe it was just everything, but an hour and a half before the movie started, there were some people sitting on the floor nearby. "Hey, what are you guys up to?" I asked them. "We're here for Reign of the Fallen."

Okay. I was already nervous. It's one thing to show your movie to the anonymous and often bitterly harsh internet world, but at least I can read those reviews in the comfort of my pajamas with a soothing mug of cocoa in hand. But when people start lining up for your hour long, admittedly arthouse indie Star Wars-ish flick 90 minutes BEFORE it starts, you start to have anxiety. At least I did. But it was only going to get worse from there.


The original room schedule.


The line's starting to form.

Okay, so within about 45 minutes the line was already headed for the far wall, with more and more people still arriving. I was looking at Jon and making a face like I just opened my car door into the Escalade parked next to me.

As an artist this is the sort of thing you both desire and dread: a large audience for that piece you put so much of yourself into. It means more people to share your dreams and visions with, to give a glimpse into your way of seeing the world with the hope it might affect them in some positive way. It also means more people to unabashedly hate it, look bored watching it, discount two years of your life with an offhand "Well, that was disappointing," and to leave early to go eat some Gyros and stare at girls in anime costumes.

Okay, I'm being pessimistic. It could also be more people who love it, but most of the artists I've met are somewhat cynical, so maybe I'm not neurotic. Well, not hopelessly, anyway.

At this point we were getting worried. The room we were scheduled for held something like 160 people before it became a fire hazard, and there were more than that many people waiting already. So Jon went off on one of his Jon-crusades to try to get a bigger room, leaving Wei, Jason and I to do the salesman thing, accosting folks and taping their eyes open Malcom McDowell style while we looped the RotF trailer until it burned into their corneas. You think I'm kidding.


Lord Vader ready to force choke us if RotF sucks.


Master Oram's mug draws the biggest crowd.

The line was at the wall now. We were left to run everything ourselves, mostly because no one expected a turnout like this. Master Oram's un-color graded face in the original trailer beckoned to people. Jon was still negotiating and I was sort of sitting there staring at the floor, hoping these kind folks who were giving our movie a chance would have an open mind. I knew the movie was unconventional as far as Star Wars filmmaking rules go, but my experience had been that it plays much better in a more traditional movie-viewing environment than it does on a computer screen on your uncomfy chair where you're used to watching eight second Youtube clips of people getting hit in the nuts by baseballs. Maybe it would be all right.


The line started to wrap around, but....


The Fan Expo opens up a 2nd
screening room for us. Salvation!


Room 1


Room 2

Being the insecure, pessimistic artist that we've established me to be, I felt it necessary to open the film with a verbal explanation (disclaimer). I wanted people to know what they were in for. With movies it is my belief that expectation can kill the experience for someone who may have enjoyed a given film had they been ready for what they were actually shown. So I went into some hoobalah about seventies style, mood and non-narative filmmaking, yaddah yaddah. I don't know if it helped but it made me feel better.


My eyes were glowing red with defensiveness.


You can't see it but they have pitchforks
under their chairs and an eye on me.

So, as has happened with other audiences in the past, the room was very hush hush for the first 30 minutes of the film. But one sign that I've learned to look for came true: almost no one left. The only people who stepped out were people who came in late and only stayed for a minute or two. I was watching the crowd as I usually do and there was little movement, almost no one checking their watches or their cell phones, no rattling chairs. People seemed glued.

But there was really one test to see if the movie had them: Invariably, if the audience is enjoying the movie, at every screening I've been to, it is revealed in the Master Oram vs. the Sith invaders scene. If they find my morbid sense of action amusing, and if they laugh at the one quasi-joke in the film, then I'm confident they'll like the movie as a whole.

I was surprised when the entire audience broke out in laughs and verbal responses to that very scene. It felt like someone had pumped a few bricks out of my stomach. Thank whatever powers be for that.

After the screening, about 85-90% of those in attendence stayed for the Q & A. I was asked a lot of great questions and found out thankfully that my dryness got along all right with everyone's sense of humor. We were interviewed for a documentary and a local TV reporter asked a bunch of questions during the session. It was a great response and it was great to meet some people who had seen the film online and had corresponded through our website.

All in all it was a positive experience and I'm looking forward to the next one. We even had some time do some sight-seeing the day after. Thanks to the Fan Expo, the 501st, and the RotF crew for helping manage our biggest screening yet. We're going to be in Syracuse next so keep a look out.

-Dave


After the screening. Note the
uber-sexy guest pass.


A much needed drink.


Princess Leia.


Captain Kirk and Spock.


How awesome is this building.


How has no one shot a film here yet?