‘Beer Wars’ Q&A

Only a few days until the much anticipated film “Beer Wars” shows in a theater near you. The film, about how craft brewers have carved out a solid niche in an industry dominated by huge corporate brewers, will show for just one night, this Thursday, April 16th.

Here is an excerpt from Director Anat Baron who answers some common questions about the movie; such as “why one night only?”

I’m on a plane to New York to promote the event (which is only 4 days away) on television. I’ve waited a long time for this moment and I’m trying to take it all in.

This adventure began in September 2005 and will culminate on April 16th, 2009. It’s been a long journey on so many levels. Personally, I’m celebrating completing and releasing a feature length independent film. Not a small feat in today’s crowded market. Professionally, I’m hoping that audiences show up to see it. As a filmmaker, that’s the holy grail. We make films because we have something to say, a story that must be told. And after the filming and editing and endless rough cut screenings, we want to share it with the world.

I know, be careful what you wish for. In our 2.0 world, everyone’s a critic. The naysayers are already out in full force. And they haven’t even seen the film!

So what are they taking issue with? Here’s a sampling:

How come the film doesn’t cover my local/favorite brewery?
Why should we care since the David and Goliath angle is dated?
Why is it only one night?
Why isn’t it playing at my local art house theater? Why can’t I drink beer and watch?
Why is it $15?
Why Ben Stein?
The only way I know to address criticism is head on. I have nothing to hide so here goes:

The film is less than 90 minutes long so there’s no way to show all 1400+ breweries or even the top 25. That’s not a feature film but a TV miniseries. Feature films need anchors in people whose stories will resonate because you care what happens to them on their journey. So while your favorite brewery may not be featured, the overall story is universal.

This is a documentary and not news. It takes time to film, edit and craft a story from 180 hours of footage. And I think that anyone who thinks that the overall battle is irrelevant today, needs to rethink that opinion. If anything, small brewers should be more concerned about consolidation and the big getting bigger.

It’s only one night because it’s an EVENT. It’s LIVE via satellite. A shared experience nationwide (except for the Pacific time zone where we hold it back so people can get to the theater, although it will run as is, unedited).
Art houses do not have the ability to receive the satellite feed. I’m not shutting them out but my deal is with a company that has 440 theatres that are digitally equipped to carry the event. No malice intended for the indie theaters. I’m a huge supporter. It’s just circumstantial. As to drinking beer. Trust me, you’ll be thirsty for one AFTER you watch the film. And your local bar or brewpub will be happy to serve you.

It’s $15 because it’s an event and not just a film. We are showing the live panel immediately following the world premiere of the movie. And the panelists assure me that they’ll put on a good show.

Ben Stein was hired to moderate the panel. That’s all. My partner required a celebrity host as part of the deal. We had a list and stopped once someone was available. Everyone on the list had pluses and minuses. Please be assured that this is MY movie, not Ben’s. And that this is not a forum for him to discuss any of his beliefs but rather to act as an impartial moderator to the cast of characters that make up the panel. If his involvement is what’s stopping you from attending then I hope you’ll reconsider. Trust me, there was no perfect moderator on the list. This is America where everyone has their opinions and leanings.

So now that I’ve put the negatives out there, let’s get to the positives. How about embracing the fact that the 3 largest, mainstream theater exhibitors are taking a chance on this film and this topic? Few documentaries ever hit 440 theaters, even for one night.

The success of the event and the conversation I hope it starts are now up to you.