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SUPER and the Toronto International Film Festival

Whew.

Holy shit.

Well, I’m back in Los Angeles after a tsunami of a few days in Toronto where SUPER premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Rainn Wilson as the Crimson Bolt.

DAY ONE: THE PREMIERE

Before the screening Friday night we had a delicious, elegant dinner hosted by Soy Joy and Nyood.  About 75 people were in attendance, including stars Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Stephen Blackehart, Sean Gunn, Don Mac and John Lawson, as well as producers Miranda Bailey and Ted Hope. My Dad flew out from St. Louis to join us, my girlfriend Mia’s brother Kai came in from New York, and my agent, manager, and lawyer were all in attendance as well.  It was a great time to see everybody and catch up, but admit I was anxious. I’m normally nervous before screening one of my films, but this was a little different.  This is the first time I just couldn’t wait for people to see the film. I’d been working on it for a long time, and I wanted to share SUPER with the rest of the world.

Rainn and I at the SoyJoy party before the premiere.

Eventually we made our way to the Ryerson theater in downtown Toronto for the midnight screening.  Mia, Ted Hope, and my Dad shared my car.  Ted started talking about the various possibilities for being able to see the film to a distributor.  Sales had been terrible so far at the festival, nothing major had sold at all.  I changed the conversation: my nervousness about showing the film to an audience was about all I could take.  To even start to think about whether we were going to get a distributor or not – the real reason we were at the fest – was going to make me hyperventilate.

I forgot everything as we drove up to the theater, however.  A thick line which went down and around the block – it was so long we couldn’t even see the end of it.

Mia Matsumiya and I on the red carpet. Mia's Maria Moya outfit was awesome! I bought a new suit especially for the occasion, but ended up changing into this older one instead at the last minute (I'm a girl).

I stepped out of the car and into the old time movie premiere you see in movies, but which I rarely see in person: fans gathered behind velvet ropes, screaming their heads off, arms outstretched with autograph books and pens, hundreds of photographers flashing photos.  It seemed the Toronto Midnight Madness crowds were as enthusiastic as I had heard.

After doing interviews and posing for photos and signing autographs, we headed into the Ryerson theater, which was packed with 1,600 people. I was truly touched by all the people who had followed this movie in my blogs and tweets and had come from so far, and stood in line for many hours to see it.  Wow.

And the crowd was awesome. They screamed and laughed and clapped at all the appropriate spots.  But for me, who I really cared about were Mia, my Dad, my brother Sean, and Stevie – the closest people to me in the world.  I could tell they were enjoying it too (especially my Dad, who kept saying, “Oh my God, Jimmy!” every time something surprising happened on screen), and that meant everything to me.

Producer Miranda Bailey, me, Ellen Page, producer Ted Hope, Liv Tyler, and Rainn Wilson.

As the film ended and the credits ran, we knew the film had played well. But in truth, I had heard that’s fairly usual at these Midnight Madness shows. But I was standing next to Colin Geddes (again, the festival director) as the cast and I prepared to go on stage for the Q and A.  Colin looked at the crowd and said, “Whoa. That’s a good sign.”  80% or so of the audience had stayed for the Q and A.  That’s extremely unusual for any Q & A, much less one at two o’ clock in the morning.

Liv Tyler, looking beautiful as always.

The cast and I answered questions from the stage, and then I went back to my room at the Four Seasons with Mia, my agent Charlie, and Stevie, and smoked cigars on the balcony in celebration.  I checked my Twitter to find a couple of hundred tweets to me saying how much they loved the movie, and the first review up on Ain’t It Cool, a rave.  I was in bed by 6 am, but the excitement of the evening kept me awake for a little while longer.

My brother Sean, who plays Toby in the movie, and his rad girlfriend Gina.

DAY TWO: THE BIDDING BEGINS

I woke up at 10 am the next day, and checked my email to discover that we already had one real bid from a distributor on the film, and a handful of others circling the film and showing interest.  But I had a full day of interviews ahead, so had to concentrate on that.

As evening approached, I started meeting with distributors.

By about five I was pretty certain who we were going with. It was a company I liked a lot.

At 6:15 I went out to a nice dinner with Mia, my Dad, Sean and his girlfriend Gina, Rainn and his wife Holiday, and Stevie Blackehart.  I had to keep getting up from dinner to take phone calls from Ted Hope and my agent Charlie.  We had three extremely real offers on the table, and others who were still figuring out how to go about it.

By 8:30 I came back to the dinner table (yeah, it was a long dinner), and told everyone I was pretty sure we knew who we were going with.  The deal was essentially done.

Afterward, we went out to a local pub with no festival folks, just to get away from it all for a little while.  My phone went dead from using it all day.

Mia and I arrived back at the hotel by 1:30 in the morning.  When I plugged in my phone, there were dozens of panicked texts, voice mails, and emails from my team telling me that there had been some urgent last minute twists – they wanted me to get my ass over to the Hyatt Regency as quickly as I could to meet with IFC. Earlier, they were not considered a real contender.

So I made my way to the Hyatt and met with the IFC team, who had come in at the 11th hour with a much bigger offer and thoughtful distribution plan.  Seven of us sat around a little table in the corner of the lobby of the Hyatt.  I liked them.  They were comfortable to be with, had a good reputation as being straight shooters, and were willing to sell SUPER as the movie SUPER is – a D.I.Y., low-fi, punk rock, fucked-up, funny film about violence and faith and God and morality.  My fear all along is that someone would try and sell this as Blankman.

As I drove back to my hotel at 3 am with my producer, Peter Safran, I told him that I saw myself calling him up furious about what idiots IFC are less often than I might with the other distributors offering deals.

“Yeah,” Peter said. “But you’ll still do it.  You always do.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I do.” He’s been my manager for eleven years and he knows me well.

We still weren’t certain who we were going with.


DAY THREE: A DEAL IS DONE!

Although I got a little sleep, my reps stayed up all night bargaining with IFC and had struck a deal by the time I woke up.  It was big news.  We were the first big deal of the Toronto Fest, a festival with hundreds of films looking for distribution (as I’m writing this I just got an email from Rainn saying that only three or four films have been picked up at Toronto – we are are extraordinarily lucky.)

On this day, we celebrated.

Okay – so many of you have been writing asking questions.  Here are the answers:

a) Will SUPER have a theatrical release?

Yes. SUPER will be released in at least 15 of the top 25 markets in the U.S. But we are going to meet the market’s demands.  We are not going to make the mistakes many other R-rated superhero movies made, and try to appeal to everyone.  As I say in the interview above, this is not a movie for everyone. It is for those of us who are a little off-center. Its violence and humor and tonal shifts are all purposefully jarring, so it’s for people with more extreme tastes.  Right now we have a film made on a very limited budget, which can easily make its money back.  So, although there will be a theatrical release, it will not be released into two thousand theaters across the country unless somehow the market demands it.

b) When will SUPER be released into theaters?

We don’t know yet.  At the earliest I would imagine it would be early 2011.  Sorry!  I know you want to see it.  We might be playing in a few more film festivals or other venues before then, we’ll have to see.

c) When will we have a trailer?

Not until we have a release date, most likely. So not in the very immediate future. It will probably be a couple months at the very least.

d) What can I do to help SUPER or help bring SUPER to my town?

Lots!!!  Although we have distribution, we are still a grass roots film.  So that we can actually recoup costs on SUPER, and consider ourselves a success, we are going to keep advertising costs fairly low.  That means we need YOU to help us by tweeting about the film, posting links on Facebook, writing positive things about it on message boards, and just generally keeping it a part of internet conversation.  I deeply appreciate everything all of you have done for this movie so far – the fan art and retweeting and so on and so on.  The more you can do the better it is for us!  So keep it up, or join the rest of us and START!!

Thanks!

James

Ellen Page on the red carpet at the SUPER premiere.

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  • Sungah Kim

    Hi James,

    Please read your facebook message from Sungah Kim.

    Thank You :-)

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  • http://www.myspace.com/josephbrunetta Joseph

    Thanks for sharing! I didn’t know how close you came to settling with one distributor before IFC was even in play. Wow. That’s quite a rollercoaster of a weekend. I’m so happy that for everyone involved that it all worked out. It was quite fun to follow during the weekend, too. I came home around midnight Friday from moving my mom and just sat down with my laptop and a glass of wine and read/watched the initial reactions, which was quite fun. We’re proud of you!

    Thanks for sharing, Oleifr! Sounds like you had a blast!

  • http://www.jamesgunn.com James Gunn

    Oleifr – Thanks. It was great meeting you at the premiere.
    BPD – Yes. My life certainly isn’t any one genre. One minute it’s a comedy, the next a romance, and it’s mostly a tragedy or absurdist play.

  • Bill Pardys Doppelganger

    Congratulations on everything, I hope I get to see on the big screen.

    I honestly love jarring tonal shifts in movies, because really that’s how life is. One jarring tonal shift after another.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=602890821 Philip Davetas

    I skimmed most of this because the girlfriend person is making her popcorn and I have to watch Masterchef Australia in a minute here, but I’ll have to check out those videos in detail. I hope everything works out for the best, man, and congrats on getting the flick made in general.

  • http://twitter.com/oleifr Oleifr

    I don’t know what more I can say at the moment that I haven’t already said on Twitter and Facebook, but to everyone reading this: You MUST see this film. Super is easily the funnest film I have had the pleasure of seeing in a long time. It was great to see a film that pushes the limits and even made me stop and think “Holy shit, they actually just did that.”



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