Being home has been destruction on my emotional state, as the toxicity of being in such close proximity to my mother, mixed with this feeling of rediscovered purposelessness, is a dangerous combination. At Slamdance, like with most other festivals (but maybe even more so with Slamdance), I feel as though I've found my tribe, and to be ripped away from these types in such a matter-of-fact manner, makes me feel very sad and isolated. These are good people, and I hope to be able to see every one of them in the near future, and even work with a few of them on my next film.
More than a few people told me they'd love to help me get the next one off the ground, which is exactly what I had hoped for. Nothing life changing though... I mean, Harvey Weinstein isn't banging down my door... but these are the kind of people that really seem to get me, and are supportive of what I'm trying to do with the movies I'm making. The path to getting the next one up and running is making itself more evident, and while it won't be easy by any stretch, I feel right at home hustling when I've got hustlers by my side. I always feel like I'm fighting, and while it's daunting to look down the road and see that the fight isn't over yet, I also know I can handle it. I'm finishing up a quick revision set on that script, and I hope to send it out within the week. I don't think I've ever been this motivated to make a movie in my life. Luckily, I think it's the best script I've ever written. We'll see.
I think I feel so motivated because MAD went over so, so well. Not just with audiences, which I was really hoping for, but also the critical response has been mostly overwhelming. Along with audiences laughing and crying in theater at many points throughout the film, the critics have been very gracious in backing it up. I felt that the reviews would be lukewarm at best, noting tonal problems and a very loose story structure, so this has been a shock. Below are a few pull quotes:
“...as charming as it is abrasive, somber as it is hostile...Putka and his three fantastic leads concoct an often feverish fury to the snark that both propels and masks their sadness. The vitriol and verve of the banter between family and supporting characters alike (with Mark Reeb's Jerry being the standout thanks to his stellar monologues) often gets to Veep levels of genius, resulting in equal amounts of guffaws and cringes...I feel these kind of toxic if equally vulnerable spaces are rarely found in American indie fare these days, so I'm happy to see it mined here so intelligently...Blunt and blistering with a manic if also elegant sincerity, Putka's brand of folly consistently contradicts itself like this merely because it is so human, so sad, and so true.”
-Ben Umstead, TwitchFilm
“Within the opening minutes, it’s clear that these characters don’t fit into our newfound progressive sensitivity toward the subject. Mad is a slow motion car wreck, exploding the effects of the illness across a mother and her two dysfunctional children...it doesn’t make excuses for its characters or their flaws. This isn’t a feel-good movie about the way family makes everything better. It’s sharp-edged in its humor, and emotional in its understanding of personal histories. And it’s all the better for it, showing that the best movies about the subject of mental illness don’t wave away the consequences, they run headfirst into them... A-”
-Michael Snydel, The Film Stage
“...a farcical dramedy that manages to be both biting and poignant...Robert G. Putka’s script, however, propels MAD with excellent, relentless and 100-percent believable dialogue, which is more wry comedy than tense drama, veering from overblown rants to cutting, underhanded side comments. Noteworthy performances by Plunkett, Cahill and Lafleur lend a solidly character-driven candor to each haranguing exchange...MAD brings to mind David O. Russell’s penchant for affirming dysfunctional family members and the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes brutal ways that they treat each other. The care with which each character is written evokes Alexander Payne and his ability to humanize what would otherwise be unpleasant and objectionable individuals...it crafts a true-to-life glimpse into the subtle ways by which we change, grow and navigate our relationships and lives.”
-Kathy Zhou, SLUG Magazine
We're still waiting on a few more, from places like Variety and THR, but I couldn't be more thrilled about this first crop. The other shoe will drop eventually, but it probably won't be as bad as I initially expected.
I'm so happy that Eilis, Maryann, Jen, and Mark have all been receiving notices as well. It's always super important for me to ensure the my talky little movies are driven by honest, and emotionally potent performances, so it's nice to know we did our job. It's my dream for them to be able to ascend even further in the independent film world because of our movie. They deserve it.
Slamdance as a festival is intimate in the best way. The people, from the the programmers (I'd love to give lipservice to specific names, but really, there are too many great people to list) to the office staff (again, same thing), are all wonderful, passionate people. You really feel as though you are a part of something special, and no one is a dick, which is great, because I tend to repel from dicks into my shell. I will however, give a special mention to a good friend of mine, Clementine Leger, as festival manager she really put on a great operation. You can feel her sensibility in the people she has surrounded herself with. She's the best in the business.
As an extension of the staff and programmers, they really brought in an amazing group of films and filmmakers. This feels like Slamdance's year, and I think you'll see quite a few films from this year's class dominating the circuit in the coming months. And a far as filmmakers, what a kind, warmhearted bunch. Sometimes at festivals there is a latent, if quiet, sense of competition (I'll even cop to that at times). Everyone I met was very supportive, and it's easy to root for people like that. I genuinely want to see the lot of them succeed. Good on you, Slamdance.