Tales From the NY FIlm Festival

1. Closing Night On the RC with Clint and Matt

Sunday was closing night of the 2010 New York Film Festival. That is where have I been for the last month - quietly (and obsessively) shooting photographs of directors and actors at press conferences and in green rooms.  That's what I do every fall. As the unofficial official photographer for the Festival, I  photograph the action behind the screens, and at the same time get to see about 25 amazingly beautiful and sometimes agonizingly artistic new films from all over the planet. Over the next few days on this blog, I'll try to give you the rundown on what I saw, what you should go out of your way to see, and what you shouldn't waste your time on (but need to know enough about to hold up your end of the  conversation). Oh right, and my photographs as well.

Matt Damon arrives with his wife
Luciana Bozan Borroso

T.S.Eliot said "In the end is my begining".  So I'll start at the end. Closing night is a big event, and at 6:30pm Sunday night, I found myself in the middle of the Red Carpet madness, waiting for Clint Eastwood to show up and "walk the carpet" to promote his new film  "Hereafter", starring Matt Damon.  A little background info. This is not my usual beat -  hordes of photographers and entertainment television crews are lined up under a long horizontal party tent waiting to spend several minutes time with tonight's focus of attention. An event carefully organized and played out several times every evening around this city, these same players - photographers and video crews -  move about this town in search of the big money photo, and tomorrow night's entertainment sound bites and blog exclusives, following the carefully laid out rules of the stars and their publicists. They all know the game and are familiar with the pecking order at these events. 

Clint Eastwood talks to the press

The first group Clint Eastwood will walk by are the photographers. Separated into "pens" of about 20 photographers each, behind barriers with some in the front row and others standing behind them on their traveling step stools, they will have about 45 seconds to shoot off a barrage of flashes and call out "this way Clint...to your right, to your left", before he passes on to the next group.  Maybe Clint will do something more interesting for "pen 2", causing those in "pen 1" to grumble for a few more good minutes with him, before he eventually moves on to the hallowed video crews - the place where Mr. Eastwood will spend most of his time on the Red Carpet this evening. On the carpet, video is king. The photographers are the serfs.

Bryce Dallas Howard

But on this night I was given the equivalent of a photographer's "get out of jail free" card - a "Roaming Pass" that allows me to walk and shoot anywhere on the "carpet".  There are three of us "roamers"  tonight, and I  am given this pass because I shoot for the Film Festival.  The other two "roamers" are heavy duty pros who do this every night, so I will keep my eyes on them to guide me through this urban safari. Meanwhile we three  get to wait at the head of the Red Carpet for Clint Eastwood to arrive. He will walk right past us before he heads into the madness. 

Clint Eastwood arrives with wife Dina Ruiz

At 6:45 there is still no sign of Clint. The film is set to screen at 7pm, where the Lincoln Center audience is anxiously awaiting a first look at the new film "Hereafter". Matt Damon has already passed us with his very pregnant wife, and is talking to the television crews. He too is awaiting Clint. Every photographer is waiting to get the money shot, which tonight is a "2 shot' of Clint and Matt. This will be the focus of tonight's madness. When Clint shows up at 6:50 the fun starts, and the flashes in Pen 1 go wild. You can not imagine what it's like to try to stand in front of 25 photographers shooting 10 flashes per second on automatic pilot. This is the crazy modern world that is about as far away from the "decisive moment" as one can get. All these photographers will talk into a microphone on their camera, and read off the name of the subjects in the photo so their editor can ID everyone in the picture. These photos will be uploaded to their agencies wirelessly from their cameras in the next half hour. Time is of the essence. You will be looking at them in your local paper on your way to work tomorrow morning.

Bryce Dallas Howard and Cecile De France
The cast of "Hereafter" with director Clint Eastwood

And speaking of time, the audience inside the theater is still waiting for the start of the film. At 7:15 Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon are separately talking to video crews. Publicists are aware that there are still shots to be taken of Matt and Clint and the whole cast. But the whole cast is upstairs in the green room, having done the red carpet long ago. I am stuck against the photo backdrop of logos, trying to stay out of the background of the television shots. We three "roamers" are patiently waiting for the money shot. The photographers in the "pen" won't get it - they are done for the night. Word comes at 7:20 that the money shot will happen upstairs in the green room. We leave the red carpet and run ahead of Matt and Clint to be able to shoot them entering. And the green room is packed! None of the cast, producers, and friends have taken their seat. They are waiting for Clint and Matt. The audience in the theater is unaware of all this. At 7:25, the cast - Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cecile de France, and director Clint Eastwood are all brought into the photo section of the green room for our big moment. It will last 5 minutes at the most. It is a very tight squeeze just to stand back and get them all in the shot. In the middle of that bubble it will be very difficult to get everyone to look in your direction. But I've got to admit it's an adrenaline rush. Not my favorite thing to do, but every photographer should experience it at least once. We finish this whole thing up at 7:30pm, Clint and Matt will go directly into the theater to introduce the film, and the show will go on. One half hour later, I will be sitting alone on a park bench  amazed that I survived the madness.

the "money shots"

Tomorrow, more Tales (and photos) from the NY Film Fest 2010.

*One more thing - tonight, the film "Carlos" (about the terrorist Carlos the Jackal from the 70's), by the great French director Olivier Assayas (if you have not seen "Summer Hours" from last year, go directly to Netflix), will be screening on Sundance Channel in three parts - part 2 tonight. I saw it at the Festival last week. Perhaps there will be repeat screenings. But in part 2, there is great use of the Dead Boys song "Sonic Reducer". I know this is late notice, but be sure you catch it somehow.

all photos © GODLIS