Official Rejection

One of the funniest and best movies of 2009 is likely one that will not be seen by many people, because of its subject matter. No, it’s not about people who do disgusting things to animals, although you never know what these people might do when the cameras aren’t on.

In 2004, first-time filmmakers Scott Storm (director) and Paul Osborne (writer) raised $750,000 and put together a crime drama entitled “Ten ’til Noon,” which follows the same ten minute time-span for a group of people involved in a home invasion. Upon completion of the film, Storm and Osborne submitted “Noon” to every major American film festival, only to be rejected out of hand by each of them. In and of itself, that doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of hilarity. But that’s exactly what makes “Rejection” so winning and entertaining. These guys didn’t wallowing in misery. Okay, so maybe they did. They don’t really show us. What Storm and Osborne do give us is a concerted effort to make the best of a bad situation. If they didn’t get into the San Francisco Film Festival, they went to the San Francisco International Film Festival. A “no” from the Los Angeles FIlm Festival was turned into a “yes” for the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Riverside International Film Festival. If then-Sundance director Geoffrey Gilmore wouldn’t talk to them, why not talk to Lloyd Kaufman, indie film veteran and founder of Tromadance, held in Park City concurrent with the more widely known Dance festivals?

And this is the invaluable lesson that the tens of thousands of would-be filmmakers need to hear, those who want to be the next Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino, who think all they have to do is finish a movie, take it to Sundance and their lives will be made. Even Kevin Smith, whose name was made at Sundance in 1994 with “Clerks,” admits he really doesn’t think a film like that made and submitted today would be accepted, and by the end of “Rejection,” you will probably wonder how any truly indie feature gets into any A-level festival.

I love going to film festivals and programs like “New Directors, New Films” or “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema,” both put on annually by New York City’s Lincoln Center . I love discovering something new and exciting and being able to tell others about them. And many of the people interviewed in “Rejection,” the people who operate these smaller film festivals, the critics who attend these festivals and those whose films play them, all love what they do. Even when the stress of trying to promote their films around the country is putting a strain on their finances and personal relationships, audiences will admire the dedication Storm and Osborne and the filmmakers they come to know over their year on the circuit.

Cinema is a business. We all know this. Many of the films that are acquired for theatrical release are done so because someone thinks they can make a buck out of it, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. So the question is, can a little documentary about the less popular film festivals find a patron to give it the chance to find an audience? To play even one week at a Laemmle theatre in Los Angeles and maybe the Quad or the Cinema Village in New York City? It would be a real shame if “Rejection” was relegated to the same fate as “Noon,” because if there is one movie budding filmmakers need to see, this is that film.

And a PS to Scott, since I know he’ll be reading this… think about using this film as a reel for acting jobs. You have a damn good sense of comic timing and improvisation. You can pick up the jobs Zack Galifiankis passes up.

Rating: A