Tony Bennett says you should see for yourself (sort of)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 4, 2009

The other night, I was watching Elvis Costello’s Spectacle show and he was interviewing Tony Bennett. At a certain point, Bennett said that when he began singing with big bands like Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Duke Ellington, etc. that the public decided for themselves if they liked a band or a singer versus having a corporation “convince” them that they liked it. In his opinion, the audiences were more savvy, paying attention more to what they were hearing and experiencing and then making the call for themselves as to who they wanted to see and hear more of.

And fifty years later I analyze and re-analyze my part or role in that process when it comes to my stuff. I am, after all, the publicist. So, I am supposed to try and sell the artist, the film, the event, the organization, whatever – to the public, to people, to “you”. But here’s the thing that I feel justifies my efforts (because the thought that I would be considered a flack grosses the hell out of me): I truly and genuinely believe in the need and the worth of each of these film festivals and the filmmakers and their films. And I have very high annual goals and my own “vision” for The Vision Awards show that I produce and a sincere belief in the good and greater potential for positive change that Retinitis Pigmentosa International (the organization it supports) can achieve. I even put some time in on behalf of the comedian Doug Stanhope for awhile last summer because he is smart, and relentless about delivering the unvarnished funny (and I so loathe so much of what is accepted as stand up comedy by people who have been fed a never ending calvacade of witless and canned Comedy Central crap).

So I’m not just selling for selling’s sake. I want everyone to be aware of what’s going on, to hear our side of it, to listen for a moment about why I think it’s worth the time or their attention. No single film is for everyone but there is a film for everyone. After 20 years in this town and 15 years in entertainment PR and television/film production, I’m as cynical as the next person, but there is stuff out there that should be celebrated or at the least be attended. Because, if it goes away it just may NOT come back. That goes for each of the film festivals, it goes for the filmmakers, it even goes to the specific programs within the American Film Institute that benefit film artists and future film artists and film lovers to come.

So, while it wouldn’t seem that I should be, considering my job – I’m with Tony Bennett on this one. Because, while I know I have a tough time just sitting through the trailers for movies like THE SPIRIT, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and BEDTIME STORIES, I know that anyone who experiences a typical film fest screening with a smart Q&A afterwards by the filmmaker will always come back for more.

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