When we first arrived (already well into the festival), for the first two days all of my screenings had at least the director/s in attendance and sometimes others such as writers, stars, etc. available for Q&As after each screening. For me, this was something I'd heard about in festival screenings, but was unprepared for in its reality. Others have done great posts on this already so I will keep this short, but while I had attended screening Q&As before I'd certainly never had the chance to see so many, for so many disparate kinds of films, in such a short timeframe before and the experience was utterly fascinating. Not only to see what these filmmakers had to say about their films (such as Barry Levinson's intriguing introduction to The Bay where he only told us material in the film was 85% true, and Ben Wheatley's unsettling claim that Sightseers is his 'light and fluffy' film) but also the types of questions people asked--getting an immediate sense of people's impressions.
What I wanted to write about here, though, had to do with the last few days we were there, the last 3 days of the festival, where all of these people had suddenly vanished. It started by programmers stating that so-and-so unfortunately had to leave early and then quickly progressed to it being commonplace for a programmer's assisstant to announce that so-and-so unfortunately had to leave early. As suggested by the last sentence, the filmmakers were not the only ones who began to bow out, but I increasingly saw less of the lead programmers who had until that point very enthusiastically, effortlessly and enjoyably given introductions to both films and filmmakers. As to the programmers, I can hardly fault their dissapearance as at this point they were all probably running on something close to 2 weeks without sleep. In the case of the filmmakers, however, I did begin to question why it was they went away and, perhaps more to the point, what this suggests about why they were here in the first place.
Perhaps I didn't want to be too cynical by assuming that they were all here solely for the purposes of promotion, but even so why does the importance of this promotion end before the end of the festival? It would be interesting to see the attendance numbers and how much they drop after the first week, though once we got to that last Sat I can say that all the screenings I went to were sold out and filled with large rush lines waiting. Obviously it becomes widely felt that some job or opportunity has been completed, though I'm not sure I'm ready to wiegh in on what that is. Just to say one was at the festival? To stick around long enough for the industry/critic screenings? All of these are distinct possibilites, but I suppose this post is primarily about my own experience and how I felt like what had quickly become an integral part of the festival experience for me had just as quickly died. I began wondering, as a festival-goer, how much of this Q&A experience did I feel I was owed? How integral is it now that it's been so quickly taken away?