March 4, 2013
Editor's note: We know many of you are off to your first, second, third, or thirtieth festival this season, and there is an oft-overlooked part of audience outreach we've wanted to address for some time: the Q&A. Nothing will make your festival audience advocate for you more than if they love your film and then they feel like they got a chance to connect with you. We recently attended the BAM Family Festival and saw Morgan Faust give an absolutely pitch-perfect talk back about her film Tick Tock Time Emporium to a room of 200 Park Slope parents and their 300 children. It was exceptional. So we asked Morgan to give us her secrets!
Morgan Faust being awesome at BAM Family Fest
Your audience wants to hear from you!
So you’re film played, everyone loved it, you know this because they are still sitting there waiting eagerly to get A’s to their Q’s. Awesome. Ok, so now what?
We all have our own style up there (you know, cause we’re special unique artists!) and you should roll with that, but here are a few things to keep in mind to help make your talk backs not only fun for you, but genuinely satisfying for your audience.
1. Bring. It. On.
Even before you open your mouth, I want you to think about something - would you rather engage with someone who is excited to meet you, or someone who is defensive and oblique? Hey we’ve all seen great filmmakers give talk backs where the core message seems to be “Screw you. My movie speaks for itself. Stop pestering me with your stupid questions.” (Paging Michael Haneke....) The whole process is uncomfortable, and trying. Let them see how excited you are to be there. Remember they are all there because they are interested in what you have to say - and that is a rare, and amazing gift. Respect and enjoy it!
2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Start off with your thank you’s - thank the festival, thank the audience, and if you have cast and crew there, thank them. It’s the right thing to do, and if you need a little warming up before you’re ready for prime time, this is good material.
3. So....who’s got a question?
The first question, often the toughest moment. Maybe there’s that guy who is full of questions about the RED, and FCP versus Avid, and how many days did you shoot, but some times the room needs an assist. A good festival presenter will be ready with a question or two, but in case they aren’t, have something in you pocket ready for that awkward pause, ideally something that neatly connects the film to the screening. For example “Well, while you guys are thinking of something, I just wanted to say how excited we are here tonight, this is actually exactly a year since the day we started shooting....”. I think you catch my drift here. Something that starts the conversation, gives them a little “insider intel” and doesn’t let the room fall into the dread uncomfortable silence. Side note, if you have other members of the cast or crew up there with you, USE THEM. “So (lead actress name here) what was it like seeing yourself up on the screen?” or “So (producer name here) when you’re watching the movie, what is going through your mind?” This is the perfect way to get the conversation going, and it includes your team from the get go.
Once the questions do start a rollin’ in, compliment the audience.
Audience: “What inspired you to make the film?”
You: “Great question! I was actually bitten by a bear....”
It’s like you’re on date, you’re trying to build an atmosphere of comfort and conversation!
See? So charming!
4. Know the audience better than they know themselves.
I went to a show the other night where the people hosting the Q&A kept actively shooting down the audiences questions, just saying I don’t know, or straight out calling the questions dumb. While those answers may have been 100% accurate, they did not a great Q&A session make. Sometimes you need to read the tea leaves. Some one asks “Where did you film?”, tell them, then open it up a little; give an anecdote about finding the place, that crazy local guy who became a background extra. This is why they come to film festivals, for movie magic, pulling back the curtain and getting to see Oz tie his sneakers. They want to be in on it, so be generous and share some good stories.
5. The gang's all here!
If any of your cast and crew are able to join you up there, make sure you include them, give them a chance to talk. Love breeds love, let the audience see you all enjoying each other’s company...up to a point. Inside jokes leave the audience on the outside.
That’s right, it’s gonna happen, often; people are going to ask you how much it cost. I have no right answer for this, in fact, I’ve been a part of films where the distributor told us we could not reveal for marketing purposes, but no matter what you’re situation, find a way to address this that does not make you look like a smarmy jerk who resents being asked.
While you are the raison d’etre for the event, don’t forget the Qs also have a place alongside your inspiring and insightful A’s. Make your answers full, revelatory and funny, but also succinct. Rambling is rambling, even when it’s your rambling.
Alright, you’re ready, now go out there and illuminate the masses with your brilliance and wit. If you get nervous just think of the audience as a large group of your friends...naked.