Friday, March 8, 2024

SLIDE screenings - January + February


I used to go to the Sundance Festival every couple of years - but it's become much tougher to get any film into that festival, plus they only accept Premieres, and we'd already screened "Slide" at a few festivals as a work-in-progress.  So we entered the film into Slamdance, which usually only accepts feature films from first-time filmmakers, except they have a "Breakouts" section for non-first timers, and I happen to be an alumni of Slamdance, having screened my feature "Hair High" there in 2004, and other films over the years. So when I heard it got in I just HAD to go to Park City, and my super-producer Daniel Neiden joined me there. 

Big problem, all of the local hotels were overbooked, even though they were charging overpriced rates - so Daniel wisely got a room in Salt Lake City (about an hour away) and I decided to sleep at the airport in order to catch an early flight home.

But first Daniel and I hit the festival running - we had all the needed publicity items: postcards, posters and even clever guitar picks with a QR code on the back, because it's a musical western, get it?  We were fortunate to run into many old friends, like two of the original organizers of Slamdance, Dan Mirvish and Paul Rachman, and they helped us get organized and figure out how to find everything we needed in the large Yarrow hotel.  

At Slamdance with Paul Rachman, Karin Hayes & Daniel Neiden

At Slamdance with Richard Lorber

I was dressed up as a cowboy to get people into a Western state of mind.  I sat through the screening, which was an almost-capacity crowd, and of course I loved hearing the laughs of the crowd, and hated that there were a couple non-laughs.  After we did a Q&A session and I signed cards for fans and sold artwork.  One lady came up to me and told me how her husband used to watch my cartoon on MTV and study my work - it turns out she was married to Mike Judge!  

But the best part was there were a number of distributors in the audience, and we actually had buyers lined up to inquire about rights to the film - and that's never happened with my feature films before!  Plus we won a big award at Slamdance, Honorable Mention in the Breakouts section, and that's with a version of "Slide" that was only about 90% done!  


Over the years I've heard a lot about the Rotterdam festival, that it was basically like the Berlin Festival, but in Holland - that it was a great place to meet dealers and make sales.  So Daniel and I decided to attend the screening of "Slide" there too.  Also, my terrific French distributors, E.D. Distribution, wanted to meet us there.  The festival put me up in a wonderful Marriott hotel just around the corner, and my screenings were hugely successful, lots of applause and laughter.  The people at the festival were so helpful and friendly so I could have a successful signing afterwards and sell some artwork.  A lot of people wanted to take photos with me. 

For some reason, my films are more popular in Europe than in the USA.  So the high point of the trip for me was visiting a local Rotterdam animation studio.  Aneta from the Kaboom Animation Festival was kind enough to guide me to the party, where I ran into the greatest animator in Holland, Hisko Hulsing (please check out his work, he's fantastic!)

At the IFF Rotterdam with Hisko Hulsing!

Early the next morning, I discovered that my image of Rotterdam being a market festival proved to be somewhat false, as we were unable to meet with any prospective buyers.  It's too bad, because our screenings were packed to the gills, and the film received loud applause and laughter. 


Deep into the North Shore of Long Island, there's this "Brigadoon"-like cinema, it seems like a magical place where they show a lot of gems that aren't just big Hollywood pictures.  And they're all total film nuts there.  It feels like I end up there every three or four years, and then it's like I never really left. 

So again, I found myself at the legendary Cinema Arts Centre to show my newest feature "Slide".  Again, I wore my cowboy regalia and I brought Daniel, my magical producer and Sasha Odesa, one of the great actresses who did voices for "Slide".  Plus, of course, the woman who wrote and sang the wonderful cowboy music for "Slide", the genius Maureen McElheron, and she kicked off the show by singing a song from the film. 

The full crowd went crazy with love for her!  Then came the film, and the crowd laughed their asses off.  We had sustained applause at the end (which I've never encountered before) and I had to tell them, "Stop! Enough!"  And then we held the usual "meet and greet" (or "sign and sell") with a line that lasted an hour!  I was in heaven, so many photos and autographs - and after they took me out for a beautiful seafood dinner.  What a day!  

Let's hope I can return to this "Brigadoon" of movies soon!  

Maureen McElheron warming up

At the Cinema Arts Centre with Bunny Hoest


Just so you know - when I complete a feature film, one of the great joys is the opportunity to travel the world, showing the new film in many far-flung places.  I remember Quentin Tarantino telling me how he traveled around the world for a year, presenting "Reservoir Dogs" and never spent a dime of his own money.  

So here I am with a new film, and my daily calendar is filling up with festivals - about three times a month somebody wants me to present my new cowboy musical.  And my office manager is working hard, looking for new festivals to enter, trying to pick the best ones that "Slide" is qualified for, and trying to find ones that don't conflict with each other, it isn't easy!  

We had a screening of "Slide" at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, which was held at the Roxie Theater, February 8-18 (we kind of missed their deadline, but they e-mailed me and said it wouldn't be a festival without a new Bill Plympton film) and unfortunately they didn't have a travel budget for me to attend.  

But instead, just a week later,  I was able to attend another festival in beautiful Alameda, on the San Francisco Bay, next to Oakland.  It's a prosperous little community with one of the most gorgeous, 1930's-style ornate cinemas.  The festival had a lot of great programming and super volunteers and was organized very well.  All of my shows were sold out (happily) and my Master Class was packed!

I was also able to take part in a few social events there - the best was a function at the local tycoon's cool Victorian home.  Alameda is apparently chock full of beautifully restored Victorian buildings.  Another wonderful side trip was organized by an old friend of mine who moved to San Francisco.  She took my on a drive up the side of a local mountain called "El Diablo" - she's a great driver but I must say that the very narrow road was unencumbered by fencing, which would have protected the vehicle from falling off a very steep cliff.  But there was a beautiful view of the bay and the nearby neighborhoods.  

By the way, "Slide" ended up winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Alameda Film Festival!

holding the Grand Jury award for "Slide"

At the Alameda Film Festival with Webster Colcord and Steve Segal


Back in New York now, and Joanna Quinn is visiting.  She's one of the all-time greatest animators alive today, and I see her very rarely because she doesn't travel that much.  But she's here this week to be feted by the city of Philadelphia for her great work and she decided to make a side-trip to NYC.

Candy Kugel put together a wonderful evening for ASIFA-East to introduce Joanna to her many animation friends in NYC, and also meet some new ones.  It was a great crowd - all the animation "hoi polloi" were there, like George Griffin, Signe Baumane, Sturgis Warner, Debbie Solomon, Biljana Labovic, Lisa Labracio and Frank Morris.  What fun!  I believe that with COVID finally fading away, we'll be able to have more social events like this one!

With Joanna Quinn and Les

with Sandrine, Lucas and Biljana Labovic

We'll post a schedule shortly with more festivals coming up that are planning to screen "SLIDE", so please check back soon and then come out and join me at a festival!

-Bill P.