Feb 122013

Anthony's answer does weird things to Sean and Jim's postures.

Heading to the west coast this Friday for the San Francisco Indie Film Fest screenings (as well as doing a reading and then a talk at UCLA). At this point we’ve attended almost a dozen screenings of Ghosts, from Seoul, Korea to Poznan, Poland, and the Q&As are — pretty fun. Really fun, actually.  I’ll tell you why I found that surprising, below.

When we started promoting Ghosts, I said we’d try different stuff than the conventional Q&As at events. I figured I wouldn’t enjoy it because it was the conventional thing to do, and the conventional thing to do with novels — doing a reading — is something I’ve always loathed. I think there’s something profoundly broken about readings:

  • They’re boring.
  • It’s a short form format for a long form work.
  • It asks introverts to be solo performers.
  • They have the good-for-you tone of church or school.

More than anything else I’ve hated that it’s obligatory, this convention that hardly anyone really enjoys.  That succeeds so rarely. I’ve struggled against this in my small way by adapting the spirit of my books to a form that suits performance better.

And I expected to have to do the same in film with the obligatory Q&A. We have tried a couple of different experiments, but in the end Q&As have worked for us because:

  • They’re fun!
  • They’re optional: people can leave while the credits roll.
  • They’re interactive: you know at least the questioner cares about what your answer.
  • The complete work has already been presented, not a tiny fragment: now we can talk about it in an informed way.
  • There’s a lot of tangible things to talk about: anecdotes, personalities, locations, craft, money, ideas.

For me in particular, I also appreciate that the power dynamic is more fluid. Being directed by the crowd puts me in a vulnerable position, but I’m more comfortable in it than in a position where I’m telling people what I think they want to hear about. We have been questioned about racial inclusion and gender politics (see our FAQ) and while being put on the spot is a challenge, it feels fair to give people who have listened to us for 90+ minutes a quasi-public space to speak too.

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