Filmmaking, Writing, Beer, Insularity, History, and Other Topics More-Or-Less Related to “Beer Wars,” Part 5

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3 — Part 4 — Part 5 — Part 6 — Part 7

Part 8 — Part 9 — Part 10 — Part 11 — Part 12 — Part 13

NOTE: When I moved to a new site, this “Beer Wars” series was mangled/destroyed during the move. I’ve reconstructed it by copying/pasting another copy of the original posts. I also lost the comments in their original form. I’ve copied/pasted the comments, but had to do so under my own name. So although it looks as though I’m the only commenter, I’m not. In each case, I’ve identified the original commenter.


Anat scheduled the panel discussion to run for 35 minutes, so with seven people on the panel (including Anat) and one person asking questions, well, the math is obvious: No one would have time to say much of anything.

Our advance instructions were clear (and I’m happy to say we all followed orders):The panel would open with each panelist responding to a film clip. We did not see the clips in advance, so we didn’t know what we would be responding to. Each person would respond in order, and none of us were to interrupt that person while he/she was speaking. 

Once we’d all spoken, Ben launched another series of questions of his choosing, directed at a panelist of his choosing. No surprise, Sam and Rhonda, as the film’s “stars,” received most of the questions, with Greg getting a chunk of them. (Again, we were not told in advance what questions would be asked.)

The half hour zoomed past at Autobahn speed. Indeed, the one thing we all agreed on as we left the stage after the event ended was that we would have loved another hour, because there was plenty to say.

Okay. So that’s what happened. (And yeah, I should have included this last bit of whys/wherefores in the previous post. What can I say?)

My response?

First the film. The film was terrific. It moved at a lively pace, nearly dizzying at moments, and it had a clear narrative structure: Anat leaves alcohol business, ponders nature of alcohol business, decides to follow two beermakers, two entrepreneurs whose stories have quite different endings. It was often hilarious and almost as often sobering. (How could anyone watch Rhonda hauling her case from bar to bar, from meeting to meeting, night after night, day after day, and not be moved by her spirit and energy?)

Was the film perfect? No. Had it been my film (and I’m definitely not cut out for film-making), I would have introduced Rhonda, Sam, and the three-tier system earlier in the proceedings. I also would have painted the conflict with more shades of grey: I don’t think the conflict is so much Big Guy v. Little Guy v. Middleman Monsters, so much as it is a conflict about broader and deeper American values. (That, by the way, is where I’m headed with all of this, so hang on a minute for that.)

More to the point, it wasn’t my film. It was Anat’s film and her perspective and she went through all this effort because she wanted to make a point of her choosing, not mine. And judged on that basis, in terms of both its technical qualities and its narrative, I thought the film was excellent: Lively, well-paced, well-directed, and thoughtful. The cinematography and editing were first-rate and as a director, Anat possesses an exquisite sense of timing. Her wit and humanity shone in equal measures. 

Someone said to me at the reception after that he didn’t even want to get up to use the john because he was afraid he’d miss something. That means the film succeeded. I was deliriously happy on Anat’s behalf. 

So I urge the beer geeks to separate the film’s topic from the film itself. Pretend it was a film about, I dunno, brain surgery or tree trimming or mountain biking.

In other words, take your off beer blinders and judge the film as a film.

Next: Oh, that panel discussion . . . 
[Please note: when I moved to a new website, this series did not survive the transfer of blog entries. I had to repost the entire thing. The only way to include the comments is to tack them on at the end of an entry.}



2 thoughts on “Filmmaking, Writing, Beer, Insularity, History, and Other Topics More-Or-Less Related to “Beer Wars,” Part 5

  1. NOTE: When I moved to a new site, the “Beer Wars” series got mangled in the move. I had to copy/paste each entry again. The only way to include the comments was for me to post them under my own name. But this comment is NOT from me. It’s from Brian Yaeger, author of “Red, White, and Brew.”Maureen, I saw some people commented on earlier parts of this topic, but I wanted to find out where your “arc” took us. To start, through egregious scheduling errors, I did not get to see Anat’s film–despite being in LA on the 16th! Kicking myself. I suspect that though I, personally, wouldn’t learn much from it simply because I have studied the matter more than Joe Q. Beergeeek, I’d still be fascinated to watch the footage and hear the quips of craft beer luminaries.It goes to your comments on finding the right characters–real people–to narrate the overall industry. I do find Rhonda a puzzling choice just because the nature of her current product doesn’t play to the “craft” segment. But I do see how her pursuit fits into the film’s sphere.So much of what you said about the process of writing a book and covering what you, the author, wanted to cover rather than some amorphous reader certainly resonates with me. When I get called out for including breweries (which is to say families) such as Yuenglings, Leinenkugels, and Widmers in my book, because they aren’t ones that beer geeks go ga-ga for, it’s easy to explain that the objective was to show a glimpse of those who populate the brewing industry, not just the guys making less than a thousand barrels of sour beer who by that virtue receive the most beer geek points. At the same time, I’ve encountered more Yuengling and Leinie lovers than I have Dogfish lovers. That speaks to Greg’s comments (from Post 3) about who the true beer celebrities are.I suspect Auggie IV at the Indy 500 would be a bigger celeb than Greg Koch at Stone’s own upcoming 13th anniversary festival.The point, if I’m even building to one, is that Beer Wars (from what I’ve read, since I haven’t yet seen it) does achieve Anat’s goal of increasing awareness of the beer industry from a producer, distributor, and retailer’s perspective–on the whole. Most people are not beer snobs. Most craft beer enthusiasts (I only use “geek” to bow to the community’s nomenclature) aren’t high’n’mighty snobs. Just the prolific Tweeters. The rest, those who appreciate craft beer not just for the taste (and the alcohol) but for the people responsible for getting it into those 12 or 22-ounce bottles, are the same ones who admire what Anat went through to make her film. Just as you are waiting for the books that others claim would’ve made yours better, I’m sure Anat can’t wait to watch the finished products of her detractor’s.Incidentally, as the world’s newest homebrewer (a hobby I began to deepen my appreciation for what brewers do), my second batch is a cream coffee stout, so maybe there is something to caffeinated beer?

  2. Oh, Brian, that’s so funny that you were there in LA and didn’t see the film. I actually scanned the crowd after the film, checking to see if you were there.The film will be out in dvd soon (maybe late summer?), so you’ll get a chance to see it then — and then I think it will be clear to you why Anat included Rhonda. Believe me, there was a reason why R. was a good choice, narratively speaking.The cream coffee stout sounds amazing, and I think that you and Half Pint oughta scoot over to my house with some right NOW!


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