I don’t usually get into serious altercations. It’s not my style. In fact, while I enjoy getting into friendly and heated arguments, I tend to avoid real confrontations as much as possible. Last night I had tickets for the Toronto premiere of the new film, The Woman in Black. It’s a film I was really looking forward to primarily because I’m very excited by the return of Hammer horror. That Daniel Radcliffe is the star just made me more interested. I happen to really like Radcliffe as an actor and his first film role post-Potter was something I really wanted to see. The icing on the cake? Radcliffe himself was set to show up. Well, I went to the premiere, and I sat down, and I saw Radcliffe for about a minute as he came out to introduce the film. And then I made a really stupid mistake.
I took a picture.
Now, I’m not sure if most people are aware of how many of these advanced screenings work, but there is something that’s quite common practice. It’s an “anti-piracy” measure which essentially involves a blanket rule banning cell phones and cameras in screenings. Not all screenings have this rule, but many do. For the ones that do, the way they work is usually to get people to leave their phone at the door with a claim ticket to pick it up after the screening. It’s a completely stupid, but I’ll get to that a bit later. Ultimately, it’s a private screening and they can make whatever rules they want.
Well, when it came time to walk into the screening I decided to keep my phone. It was pretty easy. The security seemed lax. One guard had a metal detector but wasn’t using it. The people at the table asked if I had a cell, I said “no” and then walked in. Then, sitting in the theatre for more than an hour, I proceeded to take my phone out and use it to check Twitter and text some people and do all that crap. What can I say? I don’t like the idea of giving up my phone to random people, and yeah, I kind of want to be able to use it while I wait. I probably should have just given up my phone, but whatever.
Anyway, finally, almost thirty minutes late, Daniel Radcliffe was brought out to introduce the film. He’s a super cool guy. When one young woman shouted “I love you!” he quickly jumped in and responded, “I love you too, but we should see other people.” I laughed. He laughed. The whole audience laughed. Like I said, he’s a super cool guy. While all this was going on I noticed that a whole bunch of people in the audience around me had pulled out their phones to take pictures. I wouldn’t normally have thought twice about this, but my good friend Jessica, from The Velvet Cafe, had suggested I blog about the event and the Q&A to be held later, and my mind immediately jumped to the idea of taking a photo to use for the eventual blog post.
And so I pulled out my phone and attempted to discreetly take a picture, mostly just to see if I could get one of any decent quality. Here’s that picture:
As you can see, the quality was not good and I probably wouldn’t have bothered trying to take any more.
I’m not sure if someone simply noticed I had my phone out to take a picture, or if it was the flash which I’d foolishly forgotten to turn off that had peaked interest, but a few seconds later a security guard was standing at the side of my row trying to get my attention.
My reaction was pretty easy going and resigned. “Ahhh, crap, he caught me, oh well, that was silly of me.” I went over, he asked for my phone and I handed it to him immediately. I figured that would be about the end of it and I’d grab my seat, maybe feeling a little dumb for having gotten my phone taken away. But really? No harm, no foul. I simply had one concern. Whereas the people who’d left their phones on the way in had gotten claim tickets, this security guard offered no such thing. So I asked him a question. “Okay, and I’ll just get my phone back after the show, right?”
With a completely straight face, apparently oblivious to how much he sounded like a dickish high school teacher, he replied, “Maybe. If I feel like it.”
Right, look, I’m not a complete moron. I know that I would have gotten my phone back after the show. It might be a private screening, but my phone is also private property. They can’t just keep it. The guard was just being a hard-ass. He asked me to return to my seat, but I refused. I wasn’t simply going to hand over my phone without at the very least a verbal assurance that I’d get it back. You know, to feel secure about the whole thing.
“You can’t just take my phone, I’ll get it back, right?”
“We’ll see, now please return to your seat.”
Well fuck that. I think he expected me to do go and sit down, instead I grabbed my coat and my scarf, walked right back to him, took my phone and proceeded to exit the theatre. I figured I’d try to deal with this outside and maybe he’d see reason. It’d all be cleared up, but if not, at least I had all my stuff with me.
And then things just got stupid. At this point I need to ask either Alliance Films, the distributor who set up the screening, or Cineplex Entertainment, the owners of the mulitplex where the screening was being held: who the hell contracted Intercon Security? And to Intercon Security I ask, do you guys ever let your guards know that they aren’t military police. That they don’t need to run a movie screening like it’s a prison?
I thought I’d be dealing with the guy who asked for me phone, but when I got out of the auditorium I was forced to deal with someone who I assume is his superior. He’s also a superior asshole, apparently. There I was, pretty calmly trying to see if I could just leave my phone with the people who had claim tickets, but, “No. No phones were allowed, you broke the rules, you can’t go back inside.”
I’d have accepted this begrudgingly, except that not 60 seconds earlier I had the other guard asking me to sit back down for the show so long as I gave up my phone. I explained this, and simply said I wanted to make sure I’d get the phone back.
Beginning to raise his voice, “You broke the rules and you’ve been kicked out. Now you have to leave.”
Well, I wasn’t going to give up quite so easily. I pointed out that this whole thing was being blown slightly out of proportion and I was perfectly willing to give up my phone.
“You need to leave!”
“I don’t understand, the other guard said I could sit down, I just needed to give up my phone. Why can’t I just do that?”
“You have to leave!”
“Really? I don’t understand why. This is a little ridiculous.”
And with that, the guard grabbed me by the arm and began pulling me, very forcefully, toward the exit. I must reiterate at this point that I was not being belligerent, and anybody who knows me would know I’m a pretty small, lanky guy who wouldn’t even bother to get into that kind of a physically threatening argument. I was being relatively calm, and perfectly reasonable all things considered. The response was to treat me as if I had just tried to run up and punch Daniel Radcliffe or something. In reality, I wasn’t even causing a scene.
“What the fuck! Let go of me! What the fuck is wrong with you!”
So yeah, at that point I started to get heated, but come on, who wouldn’t?
He let go and a few seconds later I was being more calmly escorted by the first guard down the escalator. I actually got to talking with him, at this point knowing full well I wasn’t getting back in. I tried to explain to him that all I wanted from him was assurance that my personal belonging was in safe hands. In fact, other than his dickish abuse authority he seemed like a fairly reasonable guy. He stuck to his guns a bit, and I don’t totally blame him; he was just trying to do his job. He was reasonable about it, though. Certainly no shouting at me or grabbing me or anything like that. And later on he even expressed that he was sorry he had to kick me out, but I had broken their rules, and fair is fair. I can take that.
Very soon after, my friend Matt Brown, from Mamo!, showed up to see what was going on and that I was okay. He spoke to the guard a bit, and revealed that even he had had his phone with him inside the auditorium, and that when he went inside he had it in his hand and wasn’t told by anybody that he needed to forfeit it. Clearly this draconian response was to a rule that wasn’t even very well enforced at the outset. When Matt said that he had his phone on him, the guard said he would also not be able to go back into the screening with it. And so, Matt, in a move I consider extremely gentlemanly and which I greatly appreciated, decided to go back, grab his coat and walk out with me.
* * *
Now, I know that you might say this whole thing could have been avoided had I just left my phone with them when they first asked if I had one. I concede this. Furthermore, had I been a little less of an idiot I wouldn’t have taken that picture and I would have ended up watching the movie I was looking forward to, and maybe seeing Radcliffe charm the audience in the Q&A afterward. Yeah, I fucked up. That’s all on me.
But there are two things that really bother me about this whole kerfluffle. The first is that the Intercon guards, particularly that second one, responded in an extremely rude and over-the-top manner. To the point where I can very plainly say that the second guard was entirely out of line and his behaviour should be cause for firing or at least some re-training. (I wish I’d have gotten his name.) Had they not been so confrontational about the whole thing then there wouldn’t have been any confrontation at all and everyone would have gone home happy in about two hours with the guard knowing he did his job, and me having just seen a possibly enjoyable movie. That’s not how it worked out, and that’s extremely unfortunate. I’m calling on Alliance and/or Cineplex (whoever it was that hired Intercon) to make sure in the future that their guards are actually decent to the people that have come to see and enjoy one of their films and who they hope will spread the good publicity later on.
Which brings me to the second thing that bothers me. Why the hell are cell phones an issue to begin with? Cameras, specifically video cameras, are obviously something you don’t want at your preview screening. I get that. It would take a real moron to try and pirate the movie that way, but it could happen and it’s something you’d want to avoid. But cell phones? I mean, yeah, my iPhone has a semi-decent camera and it can shoot halfway-reasonable 720p video, but really, you’re worried about that as a means of piracy?
Look, anybody cheap and stupid to watch a movie bootlegged using a cell phone camera is probably never going to pay to see your movie anyway. And the fact that the bootlegger’s phone would be on for the whole show would probably be hugely distracting for the people around him and he’d have been called out immediately. There’s just no way they could get away with it, and if they did they’d still look damn foolish.
In kicking me out of the movie, Alliance loses out, though. Before Radcliffe was introduced we got this whole spiel from some guy from KISS 92.5FM about how we should all tweet about the movie and how great it is and we should tell our friends about it and basically go out and shill for the movie. And this is BEFORE the movie has even begun. Alliance, I know how this works. You put on this event and let all these people, myself included, see your movie early and for free, and your hope is that we’ll all like your movie enough to be a part of your publicity arm, selling the movie to people we know through word-of-mouth.
If that’s the case—which it undeniably is—why in the name of God would you not want fans to take pictures of the star of your movie when he’s introducing it? What is to be gained from kicking me out? What are you preventing by making sure that I am not inside that auditorium with a phone, even if I’m taking pictures. Was I taking pictures during the movie? Was I videotaping the movie? No. I was taking a picture of the star of the movie so I could show people the cool experience I got to take part in. In fact, the whole purpose of the picture was to act as a supplement to a blog post about how cool the whole thing was sure to be. Quality grassroots advertising!
Instead, all that’s happened is I didn’t get to see the film so I can’t tell anybody to go see it. In fact, at this point I’m less inclined to see it at all. And on top of that, you miss out on what was sure to be a very positive blog post, no matter the quality of the film, with a crappy picture of Daniel Radcliffe to go along with it. Even worse, what you’ve gotten is a very negative blog post about a terrible experience involving one of your movies, and with a crappy picture of Daniel Radcliffe to help tell that story.
* * *
I wasn’t the only person kicked out either, and for the others who were, I think it’s even more sad. See, I was just taking a picture for a blog post. Really, I was mostly there to actually watch the movie. The other people who got kicked out—mostly girls—were just really excited to see one of their favourite stars. All they wanted was to take a picture of him since they had the chance. Apparently that’s a rare opportunity, as Radcliffe actually said this was his first time ever in Toronto. Those girls, instead of getting to revel in your publicity plan and enjoy seeing Daniel Radcliffe were escorted out of the building, some of them crying. That’s right. Alliance, your idiotic anti-cell phone/anti-photography/”anti-piracy” policy made girls cry.
Not long after I was kicked out, one of my Twitter friends, Brad Brisco, linked me to this video of Radcliffe’s introduction. Brad actually spotted me walking out! I’m the guy in the red hoodie on the left-hand side of the frame at around the 2:07 mark. Obviously this video was taken on a cell phone, and it was uploaded before the movie had started. You can also see at least one other person with a cell phone taking pictures in that video. I say with complete sincerity, I hope these people were not caught, and I hope they enjoyed seeing both Radcliffe and the movie.
The irony of this is quite amazing though. I was kicked out for taking a single photo and in doing so was caught on camera by someone taking a full on video. And you know what? Had this all worked out, maybe I’d have found that clip and included it in my post in a positive context. But nope. Between a draconian policy toward recording devices, and overzealous Intercon Security guards, this sad story is all I’ve got left over.
Thanks Intercon. Thanks Alliance. You did good.
* * *
In case you’re worried that my night was ruined, it actually wasn’t at all. I had been meaning to book it from the Woman in Black premiere to a screening of the two-part Russian sci-fi film Moscow-Cassiopeia/Adolescents in the Universe. Since The Woman in Black was starting late, chances are I’d have ended up skipping the film at the Lightbox. Getting kicked out of the movie worked out really well for me as it turns out. I grabbed some Tim Hortons with Matt Brown, and then a bit later Matt Price (the other Matt from Mamo) showed up. I had a good time and then I walked across the street to the Lightbox and sat down for some Soviet science fiction goodness. And goodness it was!
As I said, had I not been kicked out of the earlier film, I probably would have skipped the sci-fi movie. This would have been a mistake. Moscow-Cassiopeia/Adolescents in the Universe has to be one of the best times I’ve had in a theatre in quite a while. The film is goofy and silly and crazy and cool and all around awesome and I can’t recommend it enough. Unfortunately, it only got the one screening at the Lightbox. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. So I guess there is some legitimate, though still ironic, thanks to be given to Intercon and Alliance. Thank you, for kicking me out of your movie that might have been decent so that I could go see another movie that was truly something special.
* * *
Finally, in all seriousness, I cannot thank Matt Brown enough for walking out of the movie with me. Had I just been left alone, with my friends all still inside watching the movie, I’d probably have just gone home depressed about the whole thing. Instead, I got some good company and then went to a really kick-ass and on-of-a-kind movie.
So, Matt Brown, thank you so much for basically saving what might have otherwise been a very sad night.
(Oh, and one more thing. Daniel Radcliffe, this experience changes nothing. You are still totally cool in my books.)