With the digital age upon us, more and more people are capable of creating their own feature length films. That doesn’t mean they should and I can attest that many of the people in this category have crossed my path. Every one of them thinks their film is a masterpiece. They dream of a studio executive forking over millions of dollars to buy it, right after its big premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Director Paul Osborne’s Official Rejection sheds light on the reality of the situation, revealing the dream to be a menagerie of ideals and corruption.
As a film festival programmer, I suppose that Official Rejection is geared toward me. Maybe aimed at is a better way to put it. After spending much of his time and money throwing his hat into the feature length film market, Paul Osborne and friend Scott Storm created there own independent film titled Ten ‘til Noon. After the dust settled on the production, Paul realizes that the real battle has yet to begin—convincing film festivals to grant it a premiere.
Depending on your level of knowledge, this documentary may be tremendous eye opener. I say this because many aspiring filmmakers seem oblivious to the nature of festivals. They wonder why their perfect film isn’t admitted, while a lesser film that happens to feature a star gets a world premiere. At its most essential, Official Rejection calls out Sundance. Long herald as the festival for the little guy looking to strike it big, Sundance has become consumed with economics. Gone are the days where an up and comer such as Kevin Smith can gain prestige let alone entry. Now the major studios are masquerading behind fronts designed to look like independent films. They premiere films at the festival even though they are locked for a theatrical run. The result has made it near impossible for guys like Paul to catch a break, but have also provided other opportunities in the form of festivals rising to meet the challenge of connecting independent filmmakers with an audience. After his rejection from Sundance, Paul travels the country in search of these gems.
The trials and tribulations of Paul are interesting, but the documentary comes to a fever pitch at the expense of a fellow film circuit adventurer. When a mismanaged film festival suffers technical problems, a movie screening is delayed for hours while its director tries to coerce the annoyed audience into waiting it out. With zero help from the festival staff, he becomes rightfully frustrated. It’s a moment that for the sake of a documentary is as a good as gold, but at the same time you grasp the weight of his ordeal. Here’s a man who has put his heart and soul into a project and just when he thought things were going to look up for him, he is derailed by the incompetence of others.
Though there are lows, don’t jump to the conclusion that Official Rejection is a showcase of flaws. During his festival circuit journey, Paul is met with many pleasant surprises. One fellow found on the street, who appeared to have blown him off, comes back to see the film twice. Some of the festivals he hadn’t heard of before treat the traveling filmmakers like royalty providing them with swag, assistants, and lodging.
I bet when Paul finished writing Ten ‘til Noon that he didn’t realize he would soon become a crafty documentary film director. From start to finish there are a slew of interviews with people of various stature in the industry. Some of them are famous, but the struggling provide the bulk of laughs. Many of the rejected filmmakers have come to accept reality with humor, reciting anecdotes that must had originally brought pain but now are lessons learned. Aesthetically, the nature of the film doesn’t put it in the same category as the Planet Earth series. The footage is a collection of varying quality, as it should be since this is a low budget guy on the go capturing panic with what he has available. The big name interviews are contrastingly shot with his upscale setup, but sound is for the most part audible and where it isn’t there are subtitles.
Official Rejection should be watched by anyone with an interest in the movie industry. It doesn’t matter if you want to direct films, act, or even program a festival; Official Rejection brings insight into the process of film distribution that entertains and enlightens. ***