Film Festival Flashbacks – Telluride Style

The Telluride Film Festival is great — it’s good to check out for a long weekend and watch a bunch of films; I inevitably get ideas.

I’ve attended numerous festivals from many points of view; as volunteer, pass holder, filmmaker — have seen with my own eyes pretty much every festival angle there is. However, the 2018 Telluride Film Festival was much different. Two years prior, Amazon made its first festival appearance with “Manchester By the Sea.” In 2017 they came with several films, but in 2018 I noticed a big influence from Netflix as well. I saw a change happening in studios and distributors. As a marketing industry and pass holder I saw how both Amazon and Netflix managed to nose into studio’s hidden promotional secrets, film festivals — that’s how you collect Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or!

But, as a filmmaker, what really turned it up a notch, was a new documentary that the Netflix folks came with: They’ll Love Me When I Am Dead, a docu about one of America’s craziest, most intense, amazing filmmakers — Orson Welles. The docu was produced via a connection NetFlix made with Morgan Neville, director of Won’t You Be My Neighbor fame. So, there I was, a filmmaker watching a docu about a filmmaker making a film about a film about a filmmaker (dizzy yet?). I started to feel like I was heading into Hunter S. Thompson land, and since Orson did kind of go that way, it made sense. The docu showed that, although crazy talented, apparently Orson’s ego could not share the room with money people or studio heads. I know, what’s not to hate about creative constraints? So, back to filmmaker mode. After watching They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, I thought to myself, this was Netflix announcing to the world—a commercial of sorts—that Netflix WANTS to hire crazy filmmakers and make amazing movies.

Then, to top it off, NetFlix was also part of bringing Orsen’s last film back to life: The Other Side of the Wind, which, after witnessing the docu, I really wanted to see but didn’t because I heard from way too many that it was an impossible watch — practically DADA. So, although I’ve always felt Orson was a filmmakers’ version of Hemingway, I’ve yet to see the final cut.

Since 2014 we’ve been observing where the tech streaming industries of Amazon and Netflix are going, and it’s impressive. Hope I’m not reading more into this particular Telluride Film Festival experience than is there, but it sure did feel like they were making a statement about their willingness to embrace the weirdly good—only time, and the Oscars will tell.