The Film Business: It’s Wonderful to be Adored by Tinseltown at HIFF 2018

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dan Rattiner at HIFF 2018
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dan Rattiner at HIFF 2018, Photo: Barbara Lassen

The really neat thing about the Hamptons International Film Festival is how putting on the identification necklace makes you feel you are an important part of the film industry.

Your picture and name are on the necklace. Your designation is in large print. It says FOUNDER or BOARD or PATRON or JURY or FILMMAKER or INDUSTRY or PRESS or STAFF, VOLUNTEER or SECURITY. All these designations are among the activities that make filmmaking hum. And now YOU are a part of it.

My designation is Founder. FOUNDER means I was one of the original founders of the film festival in 1993 (which I was) or, alternatively, that I paid over $1,000 to get one that says Founder through an unbelievable journey in time travel that only happens in Hollywood, plus a whole lot of money. Founders are masters of the film festival universe. They go to any film they want, any lecture, any party during the entire four days of the festival. Ha.

The other designations restrict you from going to certain things—films, lectures, parties, etc.—to an increasing degree as you go down the ladder. For example, someone who is a film distributor with an INDUSTRY necklace can’t get everywhere. But whether General, Colonel, Lieutenant or Private, you will still, from the moment you put on your necklace, experience a life change.

You are in the film business. And HIFF wants you. Everyone votes. You watch a film and rate it one to five on a little slip of paper you get going in to see the film. From this, Audience Favorite awards are selected.

And so I slipped on my necklace, pulled my shoulders back and puffed my chest out and entered the fray.

After watching The Kindergarten Teacher, which opened the festival Thursday night, the people in my group, all wearing our necklaces, strolled over to the Rowdy Hall restaurant nearby for a little nibble. We sat down, our necklaces bouncing on our chests. A waitress came over. We ordered drinks.

And then we held forth about the film.

“I thought it was a little slow during the first half,” one of us said.

“The cinematography was wonderful. The cuts. The angles of the scenes.”

“And Maggie Gyllenhaal was wonderful. Such a great job with a complicated character.”

Maggie, out of respect, made an appearance on stage to thank us judges before the movie was screened. She wore a sparkly, tight-fitting dress.

“I didn’t think she quite pulled it off.”

“I was afraid she was going to hurt the little boy.”

“That’s what you were supposed to think.”

“Well, I didn’t like it.”

On Friday morning, we went to see Divide and Conquer, a documentary about Roger Ailes, the Chairman of Fox News who resigned when confronted by women who went public alleging he engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior. A year later he got sick and died.

I spoke up as we walked out of the theater.

“They kept praising Ailes’ life work getting politicians to create fear as a way of getting votes,” I said. “Like it was an accomplishment.”

“I thought it was a fair presentation of him,” someone said.

Outside, our group went separate ways. Some, including my wife, went off to watch another film. I went off to write a story for Dan’s Papers, which might take an hour. It was a beautiful day. I drove down to the beach, sat in a folding chair on the sand and enjoyed the sunshine. Then I drove over to the library to edit the piece. Finishing, and walking back to my car, I suddenly realized I was no longer wearing my necklace.

I looked in the front and back seats. I looked inside my shirt and jacket pockets. I went back into the library to look where I was sitting. How could this be? It wasn’t there. Had I set it down and somebody stole it? It would do them no good. They’d get arrested for wearing it with my picture. Maybe I left it on the beach? Without my necklace, I was nothing. I would be shunned at the festival. My filmmaking connection was over.

Hopping into the driver’s seat to drive back to the beach, I reached for the gearshift and saw the black ribbon of the necklace sticking out from between the drivers’ seat and the central console.

I spoke to myself sternly as I put the necklace back on. There, there, Dan. Your identity is restored.

“Never take this off, Mr. Filmmaker. Never. Wear it to bed. In the shower. This can’t happen again. You can take it off after the awards ceremony party on Monday night.

You bet, I said to myself.

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