Saturday, April 16, 2016

What's Goin' On...

The last few months have been a whirlwind of MAD screenings and press.  Since Slamdance, we've screened at a slew of festivals, some old favorites (Florida, Boston Underground, Calgary Underground), and a few new, but equally lovable ones (Victoria TX Independent, Sarasota, Sun Valley), and FINALLY, a hometown screening at the Cleveland International Film Fest, which feels now like the monkey on my back got bored, picked up, and left.  Actually, between the three screenings at CIFF, we probably had a total of close to 900 people see the film, which in a way, feels like both a coming out party and closure for me.  Festival dates are still trickling in, but as of now, we have dates lined up in Chicago (early May), Mammoth Lakes (late May), Perth (July), and LA (early August), on top of some more that already announced in the Hill Country and Sunscreen Film Fests.

I've rounded up some of my favorite press pull-quotes from our journey here, because I need this stuff to feel good about myself, because it should be obvious by now that I'm constantly at war with my perceived (lack of?) abilities:
In my rowdiest fantasies of how this year would play out, the reality is that it's been pretty close.  I've hit almost every festival I wanted to, and the pull-quotes are a dream... the audience response has been pretty good as well!  I never thought or intended the film would be one of those "conversation stater" films on the state of mental illness, and it still really isn't, but some people have gravitated to it because they see something in it that is important, which is great.  The more I've thought about it, the more I've seen a damning slant in it, particularly toward the way the psychiatric community handles treatment, which from my experience is "not very well."  Or, rather, as well as they can, but psychiatric treatment in America, probably the world over, is not in a very good place.  OK, I'm stepping off my soapbox.  Sorry.

During Slamdance, we were kind of isolated up at the Treasure Mountain Inn, so it's hard to get a feel for the pulse and buzz around town, but I guess MAD had left a footprint, as small as it may have been.  I'm learning now that people are aware of the film in a way that had eluded me.  At the moment, momentum seems to ebb and flow with surging builds, and then frustrating plateaus. 

Of course, we're netting a gain in the long run, but when you're in the moment, the plateaus feel deflating as all hell.  All this is good in marching toward my next film, which has really upped the pace.  I've attached a couple of producers and we've set a budget.  Now, we're hitting the pavement again and plan to shoot next winter/spring.  It's a thrilling development, and one that even just a year ago I would have been terrified about, but with the people I have in place flanking me (they're bulldogs in the best way - they have no fear stepping in the ring), I feel calm... maybe too calm.  One thing I'm greatly aware of and trying to avoid is this idea of the "second system effect" otherwise known as the sophomore slump.  I kind of experienced it to a less important degree with my shorts WHERE DOES IT GO FROM HERE following on the heels and impossible expectations (my own) set up by MOUTHFUL.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Slamdance For Beginners


The last 8 to 10 days (I've lost track) have been wonderful.  I'm now back home, essentially living MAD, and am in an emotional scramble due to the high of being at Slamdance juxtaposed with my banal Cleveland existence where I'm just another ant on the hill.

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.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Screening Times

Park City people! If you were curious about trekking up the mountain to see MAD, you can check out our two screening times (as well as buy tix) here, and see some kind words written about the film... I don't want to spoil it, but hopefully this paints a nice picture: "The fact that it is straight up hilarious at times, and sharply snarky throughout, is evidence that director Robert Putka has a deft hand with complexity..." (I think it's really awesome that Slamdance makes a little programming note about the film. It's a sweet, personal touch, and I'm horribly sentimental).