I calculate that I have been to over 100 film festivals since I was 12. I try to hit at least 10 new festivals a year in addition to my usual stops and I am happy that the SXSW Film Festival has become one of the annual events I can’t miss.
All festivals have their little branded opening promo films before the normal screening begins. They usually consist of 30 seconds of random images with some kind of completely innocuous or non-committal series of inoffensive, politically correct images not unlike some experimental short followed by the festival sponsor logos. Yawn. Every year Sundance delivers one that is lamer than the next. For 2002 the film consisted of a bunch of ethnically diverse mouths spread across the screen with one mouth encouraging the audience to hussssssssssh. Okay, we get it.
The 2002 SXSW Film Festival debuted a series of six one-minute shorts to open their screenings courtesy of writer/director Dan Brown and writer/actor Kent Osborne along with the talents of writer/puppeteer Mike Mitchell. I have to say, there is nothing funnier than Kent Osborne conversing matter-of-factly with a puppet. Kent and the puppet work at Burger Hut where they engage in heated debates and discussions all revolving around an obsession with movies.
One particularly brilliant episode has them debating about the best film to lose for the Best Picture Oscar. The loser takes out the garbage. Isn’t this a subjective question? Not when you know the facts. Was it “Raging Bull” which lost to “Ordinary People”? Nope. The answer is “Goodfellas.” Why, you ask? Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” lost to “Dances with Wolves.” The puppet rests his case and Kent has to take out the garbage.
Other shorts involve Kent and the puppet trying to market their fast food the way Hollywood markets its films by calling their fries a “must eat” and their shakes “this year’s ‘Three Men and a Little Lady.'” Yeah, it’s hysterical stuff if you’re obsessed with movies and what film festival patron isn’t?
In all my festival travels, these have to be the best promos ever done for any festival ever! I’d love to see other fests get just a little ambitious for a moment and actually say something with their opening promos. Set a tone or a mood. Tell a quick story. Lame random images set to music followed by corporate logos is simply cliché, tired and uninspired. There’s nothing that says you have to be like Sundance’s promos, take a risk like SXSW. I’m not saying other fests should copy SXSW, but, well, yeah they should the spirit of this idea anyway and lose the lame experimental swirling logos. And, while you’re at it, get Kent and the puppet their own damn TV show, they deserve it.