SILVERFISH Wins Grand Prize at SAFF 2017

Though it was not intended to be, the San Antonio Film Festival was a highly volatile experience for those of us who attended on behalf of Silverfish. In the vein of keeping this blog honest, my goal is to make available the real-world experience I had during the making and sharing of this experimental feature. As a recap, we made the entire thing for “peanuts” (about 4500.00) and we are now shopping it to festivals and potential distributors.

Our acceptance at SAFF came at a great time and certainly in a great place. For starters, I want to thank Adam Rocha and all the great folks at SAFF for their having given us an opportunity to screen in the great city of San Antonio. Several of our main actors live there, so it was a perfect venue for our World Premiere.

The week in San Antonio began on somewhat of a low note before ending on the highest of highs. In short, we had the most ideal experience possible, but prior to the festival, we found ourselves in a bit of a hole. About a week or so before I traveled down to SA, a reporter (the self-proclaimed “Cinesnob”, whose name needs no mention) contacted me from The Current (a local SA newspaper). He told me he was set to review ten films that were to appear at SAFF and that it would be helpful if I could pass him a link for him to include our movie in his review. I assumed this would be helpful for us as well, even if the review were to come out “mixed”, as they say. To our misfortune, my good faith was not reciprocated. The review hit The Current just before the opening of the festival and couldn’t have been worse for us. To be fair, he clearly watched the entire movie as his coverage included his own personal synopsis, which I found to be accurate. His opinion of the film itself, however, was nothing shy of hate. I don’t mean he hated us as artists or filmmakers, but rather, he simply hated the movie – the characters, the story, etc.

It was my first experience with bad press being directed at me. Being that it is my first feature, I was definitely rattled. I did, however, recognize pretty quickly that, “if you can’t take a bad review, you shouldn’t be making movies”. So, I bounced back, secretly hoping this critic would turn up at the screening. I knew there were going to be a lot of folks there who would openly defy his logic (but that was just the vengeance boiling).

Flash Forward: Friday, August 4th

The sun was high in the sky, and I was wearing off a lingering hangover. Andre (DeLeon; co-writer and actor) met Erik (Mauck; cinematographer) and me for coffee and Bloody-Mary’s, and there on the coffee table sat a copy of The Current. Andre cracked it open and began casually reading. As Erik and I were talking, Dre bursts into laughter and begins quoting the review: “Writer/Director/Actor Matt Thornton has a whole lot more pointless dialogue to offer post title card!” (No kidding. I can’t make this sh*t up.) The best part about Andre (for those who don’t know him) is that, in spite of his work on the film as a writer and actor, none of this bothered him. In fact, he thought it was funny. So, there we sat at the coffee shop, and as soon as his outburst began, it started a laughing fit among us. I’m not sure what it was, but I was suddenly completely care-free about what the night was going to be. I was nervous about the screening, sure, but that was always going to be the case. The laughing, however, made me remember that no review in the world really mattered much for us in this circumstance. We were going to pack the house whether or not this guy doled out two thumbs-up or two thumbs-down. He had no control over any part of our destiny at SAFF (and we soon were made clear about that by everyone involved with the festival itself). In fact, if anything, he needed us; we never needed him. After that, the feeling of being worth zero that he introduced dissolved and the needle began moving in the other direction.

That night, a hundred-twenty people (about 80 of them family and friends) filed into the Tobin Center Rotunda Room to watch Silverfish. No joke. The energy was palpable and the room was overflowing. I was shaking in my shoes, nervous. The sheer mass of people was intimidating. They had to bring in chairs because there weren’t enough in the room to accommodate such a crowd. And like anything else, you always want more. In the beginning, I just wanted people to show up. But once they were in the room, then I really wanted them to like it – a natural scaffold of feelings and thoughts I suppose.

At any rate, we watched the film, and afterward, people seemed to be pleasantly surprised by what they saw. Moreover, there were a whole host of people in the crowd who didn’t know anyone involved with the movie. They just showed up because they wondered what all the hype was about when our crew of eighty came rolling in. (Note to self: sometimes you need a crowd to attract a crowd). The response was so good that the Q&A carried on for about 30 minutes and we still had people congratulating us and asking questions all the way over to the bar for the after party. Jackie Earle Haley (a personal friend of one of our leading actors, Scott Bate) showed up. After the film, he asked my wife for his own copy of the Bluray to watch at his house. If you had told me an Academy Award Nominee was going to show up and like the movie so much that he wanted a copy of his own to take home, I would have shared a hearty laugh with you.

The next day came the award ceremony. I didn’t need anything more than what we experienced the night before at the screening, but when they announced SILVERFISH as the GRAND PRIZE winner of the festival, I was simply speechless (and then I delivered a speech). I couldn’t have told you what I said or what happened after that because I was in pure shock. To put the experience in perspective, I had to give my speech with Lou Diamond Phillips sitting directly in front of me in the first row. He gave a speech right before me (or was it right after?) for having won best actor with a film of his own that premiered at the festival. Needless to say, he was much more comfortable with talking onstage than I was.

Zero to 100: The needle had moved 180 degrees in the opposite direction from The Current review.

The best I can say at this point is that I am pleased with the film and with the responses we have received. Through SAFF, I met some wonderful people who had great movies to share, and we have since connected and intend to stay in touch along the way. In short, SAFF was a perfect experience for us – from the hospitality to the ability to meet and interact with cool people who possess a common interest in film.

As for the movie, we have had a number of distributors reach out since SAFF, though no decisions will be made about distribution until the festival run is complete. As I type this, we have a few more submissions coming and we are waiting on responses from several other festivals. Right now, it appears a distribution release (on Amazon Prime and potentially several others) will come sometime in the beginning of 2018.

Feel free to contact me if you are following our journey with Silverfish. I am always happy to talk to anyone who is interested in what we have made or simply interested in talking movies in general.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us along the way. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

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