Update on JeffWellsOxfordGate 2009

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Jeff Wells update! The festival provided a fantastic lunch yesterday at a local restaurant called City Grocery. It was for the filmmakers and the fest’s invited guests, including, apparently, those who had not actually done what the fest brought them here for. Wells was there, enjoying the free food and drink, and asking them to serve his lunch upstairs at the bar, instead of downstairs at the tables with everyone else.

That was all anyone saw of him yesterday. He didn’t show up at any of the evening’s screenings (at least not that we saw), or at the parties (he definitely wasn’t there). And then this morning he posts this:

The Oxford Film Festival cool kidz (Rocchi, Voynar, Yamato, etc.) are shunning me, or certainly not initiating contact. I guess yesterday’s cruddy wireless funk along with my subsequent disinterest in taking part in yesterday’s media panel was a factor. In any case this feels like high school all over again. The cool kidz didn’t hang with me back then either.

So he stays away from all public gatherings, then says everyone’s shunning him. Because he’s always the victim, you know. Everything is always everyone else’s fault but his.

But as it happens, yes, everyone in Oxford who knows what he did yesterday thinks he’s a jerk. The only person in the entire world who is informed on the details and still sides with Wells is Wells.

Today he sent an e-mail to Melanie, the festival organizer, and copied it to me, Weinberg, and other pertinent invited guests. Lacking his permission to print it in its entirety, I will paraphrase, with key phrases quoted directly:

Snider and Weinberg expressed “online anger” over my not doing the panel, and I assume the festival organizers feel the same way. So I’m leaving the hotel and going home. I won’t be at the awards ceremony tonight. “I would obviously be walking into a very rancid climate if I attended.”

Thanks for inviting me. The staff was lovely, the town beautiful, etc., etc. “I didn’t assign (and still don’t assign) a great deal of importance to showing up at a panel which 50 or 60 people attended.” I wrote lots of other stuff about the festival on my blog, so “I think I lived up to my end of the bargain,” despite the other unfortunate incidents and the “sputtering Weinstein/Snider rage” that ensued.

(Yeah, he got Weinberg’s name wrong at the end. We loved that part.)

So that’s the gist of it: What he’s sellin’ is that the festival flew him out here and put him up in a hotel in exchange for his providing overall coverage of the fest (which has amounted to a handful of blog posts, including the ones where he complained about the wifi). Attending the panel was merely a minor part of why he was here, and unimportant. That’s what he believes — or, at least, that’s what he’s saying now.

The fact is, if he really thought he was being flown out here for any reason other than to do the panel, he’s terribly mistaken, and he’s the only panelist who got it wrong. Besides, it would be unethical for a film festival to pay someone’s travel expenses solely in exchange for press coverage. If you’re DOING something for them — sitting on a panel, serving on a jury, conducting Q-and-A’s, etc. — then it makes sense they’d pay your way. If you don’t do that, then you’ve had your expenses covered just so you’d give them some press — and that’s shady.

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