On Sunday afternoon, I went to see The Help (highly recommended, BTW) at the Angelika in Dallas. The film was being shown in theater No. 5 – one of the big rooms at the Angelika – and there wasn’t an empty seat by the time the lights went down.
But before we could watch what we came for, we were all subjected to the same PSA most of us have seen probably dozens of times at this point. A 19th Century opera singer is about to launch into an aria, but just as she takes that first breath, an audience member’s cellphone rings. The crowd is stunned that she takes the call. The opera singer is righteously offended. Her blonde accompanist is flummoxed. And we’re all reminded to turn off our cellphones before the show starts.
Amazingly, there were scattered laughs through the house. But for the rest of us, this was 30 seconds of our lives we would not be getting back. That’s because we had all seen this short clip dozens and dozens of times over the last several years. And while we may have laughed the first few times (heck, I did), the bit’s gotten stale.
This year, the festival is holding a contest to “Silence the Opera Singer.” And it’s pretty simple – all they are asking is for budding filmmakers out there to film a short PSA to replace the one with the opera singer. The winner will be shown at the Angelika.
“It’s a public service, because everybody hates that,” is how VideoFest artistic director Bart Weiss put it to me last week.
If you’re up for the challenge, information on how to enter can be found on the VideoFest website.
For a little inspiration, here’s how the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin has handled it: