As we all know by now, announced earlier this week, Spike Lee’s hotly-debated independently-produced and financed Red Hook Summer will be released this summer, August 10th, courtesy of privately held, full service theatrical distribution and consulting company, Variance Films.
After that announcement was made just 2 days ago, I had the opportunity to ask Variance Films’ founder and head Dylan Marchetti questions about the news; obviously, given all the chatter that followed the film’s Sundance 2012 premiere, this was an announcement that, whenever it was made, would be of definite interest to us here at SA, and further discussion of it would be embraced, or even required!
So, thanks to Dylan for taking the time to answer all my questions – answers you’ll find below, verbatim; I think you’ll find it all very informative.
Without further ado…
- How early did Variance’s interest in RED HOOK SUMMER start? Did you see it at Sundance and immediately considered it, or did the conversation begin some time later?
The attraction was the film itself. I walked out of the theater feeling like I’d had the wind knocked out of me, and in a good way. I’m watching 6-12 films a week (and at Sundance, 4-6 a DAY), so a hazard of my job is that it’s easy to become a bit numb. At this point it takes a really, really powerful film to get that kind of reaction out of me, and RED HOOK SUMMER gave me that rush. It made me laugh, it made me think, and it made some nuanced, layered points that I haven’t seen made on screen before. Spike was clearly saying something, and it stuck with me.
- You obviously weren’t at all deterred by all the negative press post-Sundance? Any ambivalence?
As for Sundance, a lot of the negative press was over the top, and I think some of it was a little bit knee-jerk. Part of it comes from the fact that when you walk into a theater at a festival, you have no point of reference- no marketing, no trailer, nothing to tell you anything about the film except a single still image and a three sentence synopsis. And when it’s a filmmaker like Spike, who has such a range and such a legendary filmography of classics, several of them arguably decade-defining, you walk in with expectations. Those expectations are going to be very specific to you, through the roof, and probably unattainable no matter what comes up on the screen. Nobody will cop to it but I really do think an awful lot of people at Sundance would’ve been disappointed with anything except DO THE RIGHT THING 2.
On top of that, film festivals are always tricky because it’s such a hothouse atmosphere. You don’t have time to let a film sink in, you have to get to the next movie or party or meeting. Now, with social media culture, it moves even faster. You’re now seeing tweets from critics being sent as the credits are rolling. But no matter how you slice it, 140 characters sent 15 seconds after the lights come up isn’t really a legitimate critical response to a film, it’s a way to get across your immediate reaction. That’s fine, but with such a hot-button film, a lot of those reactions are going to be love it or hate it reactions, and I honestly do think a few of those in a row can set the tone early. Don’t forget that there were plenty of great reviews out of Sundance- LA Times, Variety, indieWire loved it… and having seen the film four times now, I think it will open up for a lot of people if they give it another shake, particularly now that’s it’s so much tighter.
- The one question I keep getting consistently is whether the version of the film that screened at Sundance will be the same version that will be released in August; I’ve been told that Spike definitely recut the film (although I’m not sure if that’s public info yet); can you share any details on what this new version might look, sound, feel like? Was anything else done to the film other than recutting it – like any additional shooting or reshooting?
- Have you zoomed in on a target audience for the film? Who do you plan to market it to? Anything you can share on your planned marketing strategy? Any expectations for how you think the film will do in theaters?
And that’s it folks! He’s right; it certainly doesn’t get any better than getting the info straight from the person or people who are directly involved. So, once again, thanks to Dylan for taking the time, and for his lenghty, thoughtful replies.
I certainly am looking forward to seeing this newer version of the film. This is going to be an interesting summer, and I’m looking forward to all the debate/discussion that follows when the film is finally released!