Saturday, July 24, 2010

Waiting for releases

Today I got to thinking about the process of waiting for a film to come out. Not the anticipation, or marketing (viral or otherwise). But the simple process of trying to keep a film in your head or on your "to watch" list for months or even years.

There are plenty of major releases that are easy enough to follow. The project, director and cast are announced, the first day of filming is announced, the release date is announced, there is widespread omnipresent marketing saturation. You go see Iron Man 2. Simple.

But there are so many other films that get a one line trade announcement. A foreign trailer shows up online. An indie gets included in a film fest line up. These projects might peak your interest, but then how are you supposed to remember them months later when they get a tiny release, if they are ever released at all?

Today I saw a trailer for Wir sind die Nacht (We are the Night). It looks like it could be a fun, stylish vampire flick and it caught my eye for having Karoline Herfurth of Perfume: the Story of a Murderer in it.


It's foreign. IMDB doesn't list a US distribution date. Netflix doesn't have a record of the film, so I can't place it in my Saved queue. (This is often how I remember movies to see later that I have missed. A Town Called Panic, Terribly Happy and the Secret of Kells have all ended up in this memory bank. The first two are available to watch now, and I know that whenever the latter becomes available, it will be added to my list of things to watch.)

But what to do about Wir sind die Nacht? How will I remember to look for it on Netflix in 6 months or a year, to see whether a region 1 DVD was ever released?

Also today, indieWire released a list of 40 upcoming titles they hope to see at TIFF or Venice. This comes from the announcement that Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan will be opening Venice. It's a fabulous list, reminding me of a lot of upcoming projects I'm excited for, including some which have been wildly delayed (more on that in a moment). Several of these films already have release dates planned. Several more are clear Oscar bait, and I'm probably going to be able to catch them at some point. However, not all of them are set for release.

And what about those projects you hear snippets about - being shelved, quietly shunted to DVD release, or lingering in development limbo for years? For example, All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, may finally be released this year (fingers crossed) although it was filmed way back in the spring of '08. Margaret, starring Anna Paquin, was filmed in 2006 and might get a release in 2011. If you had heard a snippet about filming back in 2006 and got excited about the premise, would you still remember to check it out 5 years later?

One film I've been excited about since I first heard about it, way back in 2008, is Julie Taymor's Tempest, which is included on the indieWire list. It was going to be put out by Miramax in 2009, but then the studio went under. The fates of The Tempest, along with Last Night (aka Tell Me) (Kiera Knightley), the Switch (aka the Baster) (Jennifer Aniston), Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Guy Pierce), and The Debt (Helen Mirren & Tom Wilkinson) were all left up in the air. The Tempest is finally due to be released this December, the Switch in August, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark in January (it's currently being hyped at Comic Con), and the Debt in December.

Last Night still does not have a release date.

I heard a bit about The Chameleon when it premiered at Tribeca. Last month we got a trailer, but it's a french subtitled version, because it only has a release date in France. As far as I know, it has not been picked up for domestic distribution. And who knows if and when it will get a DVD release? (Luckily, Netflix does have this one, so it will stick around my saved page for however long.)

There are films like Passchendaele, which won best film in Canada, which has never been released in any format in the US. I'd like to see that someday. I have no idea if I ever will get a chance to.

Then there's this intriguing list on Wikipedia of unscheduled releases for 2010. Like the indieWire list, many of these films may see a release date at some point in the future. But will I catch wind of a one week limited distribution? A Netflix or On Demand premiere?

See also Leaves of Grass (Edward Norton) and Unthinkable (Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Sheen) for two more examples of films with distribution woes. How many people would have enjoyed Unthinkable had it been marketed as a big studio thriller? How much buzz will have carried through the months by the time Leaves of Grass finally debuts?

Given the huge number of projects that are being worked on at any one time, the difficulty of getting a film through production (take, for instance, Bubba Nosferatu, which Paul Giamatti claims has fallen apart 15 times), and the astounding crap that seems to make it through the whole process without hassle (the Smurfs, Marmaduke, Transformers.... take your pick), I find it worrisome that it can be so difficult to track down something that interested you. It's fantastic that there are so many ways to try to catch a film these days, be it in your local art house (or even a big multiplex like AMC which keeps a screen or two reserved for AMC Select screenings), on On Demand, or via Netflix. But when there are so many small films out there, with such uncertain development to release times, how am I supposed to keep track?

There are films like Amigo, starring Chris Cooper and Garrett Dillahunt, which hardly get reported on at all. It makes me wonder how many good, interesting smaller films get lost in the shuffle of the studio production rigmarole.

Much as IMDB became a clearinghouse for cast and crew data, I'd love to see some sort of centralized clearinghouse sprout up for the development track of a film. What studio is producing it, which fests it is playing at, which studio picks up distribution, and various platform release dates. Even better, if site visitors could register their interest in seeing a film, perhaps it would spur distribution of exciting and interesting titles.

Apparently, Against the Current got a one week release in parts of the US earlier this year. Lovely - never heard about it. Apparently it was an IFC On Demand release. Okay - I hardly know that schedule. At some unknown point in the future, it might be available to rent. Let's see if I remember to watch it when that day comes.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Speaking of long release delays...