Seems like the internet is exploding over something everyday. NSA secrets leaked. Baby pandas being born. Most recently, it exploded when a critic attending TIFF dialed 911 to report someone using their cellphone in a P&I screening.
Yes, he really did that.
It’s worth clicking through to read the full story, particularly his tweets about the whole ordeal. “I’m just tryin’a fix a broken system, friends. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” That’s basically his defense for, you know, utlizing emergency services for what is clearly NOT an emergency.
I would say of the 1,200 people, brands and organizations I follow on Twitter, a healthy 20-30% are somehow associated with the film industry. As I helped the 1,000+ accredited press navigate Sundance back in January, I’d glance at their credentials and say more than once, “Oh, I totally follow you on Twitter.” So watching a firestorm like this unfold online is particularly hilarious, because more than a fair share of my stream is going to chime in at some point, from some angle.
And because this is my blog and I have more than 140 characters worth of an opinion, I’m gonna go ahead and hijack a post to keep it real on this one.
Because, really? Really?! REALLY??!
I am as much a purist as the next guy who says phones shouldn’t be touched for the 90 minutes you’re in the theater. I don’t even like the idea of Tweeting sections in the movie theater.
But what this gentleman seems to know but isn’t quite registering is the environment in which he’s watching the film. A P&I screening. That, my friends, stands for Press & Industry. And at a top tier, market festival like TIFF (or Sundance or Cannes or any other big player), these are unique screenings set aside for, well, the press and the industry. They’re specifically reserved for this audience so that they can do the work they’ve attended the festival to do. And that often means being 100% reachable for things like negotiations, last-minute meetings and interview opportunities. When what you do is buy and sell and evaluate films as your job, and when you’re at an event that’s essentially the Olympics of filmmaking, watching half a dozen films per day and comparing notes with the dozen other films your colleagues have seen that day, you might need to check your email or respond to a text at a moment’s notice or risk losing a business opportunity.
Could the perpetrators of this apparently unforgivable act have been more discreet or considerate about their phone usage? Abso-freakin’-lutely. I completely agree with the rabble-rouser that a guy (or gal) on their phone – be it to respond to urgent matters or to tweet – from the front row of the house for the majority of the film is not only inconsiderate to your fellow audience members, but the filmmaker, too. If you need to do it, get up and stand in the hallway for the 30 seconds it takes you to respond. Or at least stand in the back of the theater if you absolutely don’t want to leave. If, however, the film is just that uninteresting that you’d rather be catching up on emails, then please – leave before more people resort to calling emergency services. And talk to the programmers about ramping up their selections to keep your attention.
So while the jerks on their phones could’ve behaved differently, I think it’s safe to say that our dear protagonist lost his shit in a most unprofessional way. My heart goes out to the Press and Industry offices today – their job is to make their constituents’ jobs easier, and part of that actually is the acceptable use of cell phones in these screenings. It’s true. It’s 100% not ok in any other circumstance – at a festival or otherwise – but it’s part of the deal for 10 days in Toronto or Park City or wherever.
This guy had options before he jumped to calling the same hotline used for bank robberies and deadly assaults. I feel like he could’ve just asked the dude to stop. Or asked the film team for a screener to view at his own convenience. Or, if TIFF is like Sundance, visited the Press Office to view the film privately there. Or, as the team suggested, attended a public screening where the audience actually is there more for the joy of film than the business of it and, hopefully, the no cellphones rule is not only in effect but enforced.
(And if you’re going to argue that as press, you need to watch the film in the best environment possible in order to provide a legit review so therefore phones should absolutely be banned at these screenings, I ask: when was the last time you reviewed an online screener you watched on your laptop?)
(Also, about this image. I’m willing to bet my next paycheck that the pre-roll on every film is the same, regardless of which screening you’re at. And I’m also willing to bet that somewhere in TIFF’s press credential materials, it references the acceptable use of cellphones at these screenings. And if it doesn’t now, it will next year.)
(And if you’re STILL reading, check out this conversation about the whole thing. @Gedwards is my new favorite person, basically. And I quote…”It’s 100% industry standard for *industry* screenings to have industry people being industrious in them.”)