The next most important festival for us was Toronto, the biggest film festival in North America. It screens thousands of films and it is a huge market for films seeking US distribution. The encouraging fact was that, unlike Cannes, Toronto had accepted every one of my films. I was hopeful they would take Delirious simply based on what had emerged in the editing room as one of Steve Buscemi’s most amazing performances. We’d go up to Canada, pick up a US distributor and start racing down the hello highway towards a great US release.
Toronto passed. There was a new head of programming who knew none of my previous work. He didn’t “get” the film.
We abruptly shifted our focus to the Venice Film Festival, which runs a few weeks later than Toronto. Venice is as an extremely vital European festival. Due to its focus on stars it gets a large amount of US media attention and all the US distributors go there. I’d had one film already go to Venice, Box of Moonlight. Further, Renzo Lotz, the new head of Venice had been the head of the Locarno Film Festival where Johnny Suede had won Best Picture. We’d become friends. In fact, Renzo had really wanted Box of Moonlight to open the Locarno Film Festival. I told him I appreciated that but we had interest from Venice and with all due respect, it might be better for the film for us to go there. He called me and said in his clipped, Swiss-tinged english:
“If you think Wenice will take your film then you must still beleef in Santa Klowsse!”
Venice did take Box of Moonlight; and we didn’t go to Locarno with it. And even though all this happened 8 years prior it seemed Renzo was still extremely pissed off about it because he said no to Delirious for Venice. Perhaps you’ve noticed people take things very, very personally in this business. If you slight someone, even by accident, rest assured–you’re gonna get paid back. You hurt me; I hurt you back: that’s Rule #1.
But, there is a crazy karma in this business too. A day later we got accepted in the Main Competition at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain. San Sebastian is known as the “smallest of the A-List festivals.” The unofficial hierarchy goes something like this; Cannes, Venice, Berlin, San Sebastian. Although San Sebastian has a smaller US distributor presence it is very well respected and a strong showing generates real attention in the marketplace.
Also, San Sebastian is right on the Atlantic and is one of the best surf spots in Europe. I was there 3 years ago as a member of the jury and I was in the water every day. The waves come from deep Atlantic swells and curl into a mile-long beach that runs right up to the edge of the city. Everybody’s on the beach during the day and walks along the promenade just above it in the evening. At the far end of the promenade is a soaring state of the art cinema that lights up at night and reflects off the ocean like a huge Japanese lantern. San Sebastian is like Cannes without all the bullsheet. It’s like Venice without Toronto.
I guess it’s like Santa Klowsse.