I attended my first film critics screening for two films: Conviction and Welcome to the Rileys on Thursday, October 7, 2010. Getting there was not simple and I am not just talking about the travel. “Critic (or ‘press’) screenings are held for national and major market critics well in advance of print and television production-cycle deadlines, and are usually by invitation only.” Not just anyone can walk into a film critics screening for a film. If this were allowed, film studios would not make any revenue.
How I got invited to these Film Critic Screenings
I got onto the mailing list of a film pr film. I’ve spoken about film pr firms in these posts: How to Contact Film Public Relations (PR) Firms and Paying your Dues with Film (PR) Firms. When they began doing promotion for Welcome to the Rileys, I was sent screening dates in NYC and an interview notification email about them. I RSVPed them back that I would like to attend one of the screenings.
I contacted Fox Scearchlight and asked to be placed on their mailing list some time ago to promote their films and attend film screenings. I was replied to by someone from the company and soon began receiving screening emails and film information from them. When I received notification about a screening for Conviction, I asked to attend.
I chose screenings for both films on the same day to make travel to NYC worth it.
The Journey and the Screenings
I took a train from downtown New Haven, CT to Grand Central Station in New York City on Amtrak to Penn Station. I started to walk from the station to the Fox Screening Room at 1211 Ave of Americas (code for 6th Avenue). The train was late so I had about fifteen minutes to the screening began at 1pm and I’m on 38th Street. That is ten huge NYC city blocks I had to walk in fifteen minutes with tons of pedestrians walking around. I start walking in my black suit and dress shoes. When I get down to ten minutes to Conviction‘s start time with eight or so blocks left I hailed a cab. The cab ride was only $3 but I tip the cab driver a dollar and get out right in front of 1211. I walked through the glass doors of the lobby. I spoke with a female Fox Searchlight representative in the lobby, cleared up some confusion with my attending the screening, and was handed a press packet for Conviction. A press packet is basically a thick packet of paper containing every bit of information for a film and highlights of the major players involved. I went up on the wrong elevator to the third floor – a cute girl leads me to the right elevator – and I am directed by the female Fox Searchlight representative through glass double doors but not exactly to the screening room. I walked into a break room and asked for directions. An even more attractive girl led me right to the closed white door of the screening room and opened it for me. I walked in and the screening was in progress. I sat down in a seat against the wall and watched the film.
After the film ended, I asked one of the critics what he thought of the film – making conversation, a little nervous – and he said he was glad the prosecutor in the film lost her run for the senate. I laughed even though I do not pay particular attention to NYC senatorial races.
I stayed on the third floor after the screening and finished writing film reviews for The Social Network, Cell 211, Let Me In, and started a review for Conviction. I drank Whey out of a Poland Spring bottle with Fox News on in this cafeteria area banging out reviews. At 5pm I leave 1211 by the back entrance, ask for directions and walk one block to 7th Avenue. I then go in search of the address 729, looking up at all the supermodel bill boards and animated ads and product commercials along the way. The shops do not have any street numbers on them. I talk to a cop then a shop owner. I arrive at 729 more or less a half an hour before the film begins. I go up to the second floor to the Magno Screening Floor. I sat outside the screening rooms and spoke with an older female film critic who reviews films to see free films and is a published author. A screening for The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest (damn I wish could have caught that on the same day as well.) lets out then the Welcome to the Rileys’ representative shows up. I tell her who I am and my name gets checked off. I walk into Review 1, take a seat, write some more on my reviews, a tall lady sits in front of the female film critic, she moves, and the film soon begins.
Both films were shown without movie trailers.
When the film is over, I walked down 7th Avenue to 42nd street, took a left, walked three more blocks to Grand Central, bought a train ticket that was leaving in 20 minutes (lucky me), boarded, eat some more Whey, and read more of Prince of Thieves on the way back home.
It wasn’t a bad experience, I met a few people and was able to see what attending a press screening was all about. If I lived in NYC, the experience would have been much more enjoyable e.g. no long train rides back and forth or all of the walking. There was also a slight feeling of not belonging during the first screening even though I was probably one of the only people in the screenings that actually owned the online magazine they wrote for. An official press pass/I.D. might have helped with that.