The End of the Beginning

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.


20 Responses to “The End of the Beginning”

  1. J. says:

    I’m doing my bit to promote “Beer Wars,” which sounds awesome. And thanks for answering the Ben Stein question. In a nutshell, PHEW! (Though I found him amusing in “Ferris Bueller.”)

  2. Bob Mack says:

    I think it’s important for people to recognize, as you already have, that the craft beer movement is a reflection of some fundamental changes in our daily culture. People are starting to pay attention to what they’re spending they’re money on and to how they live!

    Anat – the event is a success already having come this far. Thanks for bringing knowledge of this movement to millions of people!

  3. Rich says:

    You couldn’t pay me to sit through any amount of time listening to that intellectually dishonest, whining, self-promoting asshole, Ben Stein. Yes, this is America where everyone has their opinions and leanings. I’m expressing mine with my pocketbook and staying the hell away from this event because of his involvement.

  4. Jake says:

    Rich, it’s people like you that the craft beer community as a whole can do without. Get over yourself and your grade school boo-hooing over something so trivial.

    I look forward to the event, and appreciate all the work that went into it!

  5. Chris says:

    Seriously Rich? I agree with Jake. What’s thee ol’ saying, “Ignorance is Bliss?”

  6. Patrick says:

    Honestly, why do you even need to apologize for having Ben Stien be the moderator, at that point you might as well apologize for every person in the film too, including insignificant passers by simply because that person might have an “offensive” or “different” opinion, good grief.

  7. Mike says:

    Political correctness makes me want to puke. This is still the United States and we can say anything we desire about any subject. Anyone who disagrees with this can kiss my red, white and blue ass, but they can’t have any of my beer.

  8. Linda says:

    Coming from a state (Mississippi) that has a 6% cap on beer, I am EXCITED to see an event such as this being shown here! Alabama also has a cap (we are two of the few remaining) and rumors are that the Mobile, AL event is sold out! I personally have not verified that, but considering Free the Hops in AL has a bill in the Senate and the House that would ‘pop the cap’, I could certainly believe it. Everyone in MS who goes to LA or FL or anywhere else to buy craft beer is encouraging attendance to the movie.

    My only wish is that the MS Legislators could see the film. We have a group in Mississippi trying to get our laws changed (Raise Your Pints). The law makers here think that better tasting beer only means more 21 year olds getting drunker faster. Nevermind the fact the same 21 year old could buy EverClear at 190 proof in our liquor stores! And that most of the craft beer is going to be more expensive per six pack than a case of the ‘big 3’.

    Thank you, Anat, for bringing this event to everyone, and especially to us in MS and AL!!!! I don’t care who is the moderator….and if you were limited to 6% beer in your state, I doubt that would matter to you either!

  9. Todd says:

    @Mike – being driven off by Ben Stein’s smarmy, willful ignorancehas nothing to do with political correctness. Why would anyone pay $15 to be forced to sit through his know-nothing nonsense and smug condescension? I highly doubt Stein knows or cares much at all about beer, particularly craft beer. He’s simply whoring himself out to whoever will pay him, nothing more. You don’t charge extra money and justify it by adding a feature that will cause a lot of people to walk out in disgust. Seems obvious to me.

    You can kiss my commie red ass if you don’t agree, but you could still have some of my beer (the imperial stout would probably go best with ass).

  10. The very best to you and your efforts. How exciting. I should be able to make the show in Dubuque Iowa. Can’t wait to hear results.

  11. Gile says:

    Nice job on answering the questions! Its your movie and you put who you want where and charge what you want to charge. This event will be well worth it! Congrats on the launch! This will be great!

  12. Jason says:

    Don’t sweat the complaining, nagging and critical people out there. $15 is nothing! How often do we get to watch a movie about beer? There is always something that can make a film better but I have faith that as obvious beer lovers, you’ve done well and we’ll all enjoy this film. Only a few more hours!!!!!!

  13. Luis E. says:

    Hey how can we see the movie here in Puerto Rico…….. ????
    Luis E.

  14. Ass A Holic says:

    Todd Alstrom looked like a total ass ripping on a woman sitting next to him who just had cancer treatments promoting her flailing concept… way to go douchebag!

  15. GB says:

    This was not an event; it was another documentary. Definitely worth putting in a Netflix queue. Definitely not worth $15. Ironic that the “event” trashing mainstream marketing was staged at the mall multiscreen.

  16. Adam says:

    I saw Beer Wars tonight and I VERY glad I did! Yeah, we had problems at our theater and lost about 10 min of video towards the beginning (we had audio at least–I guess that made up for a few minutes of no sound in the beginning), but it was still a great event. I would have paid $30 if I knew exactly the content I was going to receive. Ben Stein ended up being an OK moderator for the end there. Whether you like him or not, he really was a small part of the entire showing.

    I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of the beer industry, but this filled me in completely. It certainly got me in a mood to be a better consumer some more. I loved it and will be buying a DVD as soon as it comes out. Thanks for all the hard work!

    ~Better beer for all~

  17. Erin M says:

    I agree with Ass A Holic’s comment:

    “Todd Alstrom looked like a total ass ripping on a woman sitting next to him who just had cancer treatments promoting her flailing concept… way to go douchebag!”

    I thought that was a particularly low blow, which was entirely uncalled for. Kudos to Rhonda for persevering despite a slew of setbacks. I commend her for her courage and steadfastness. Although I tend to agree that her product is not necessarily true “craft beer,” she is still much like the others featured in the film — one small person trying to stand out among the powerful corporate giants. I have lost 110% of my respect for Todd Alstrom.

    Overall, fantastic film. Despite being a wife of a homebrewer / craft beer fanatic, my knowledge of the beer industry is somewhat limited. This film truly opened my eyes to what is really involved. I thought it was a fascinating expose. Wonderful work, Anat!


  18. THANK YOU, Anat, for making this film. As someone who has many years of experience in the beverage industry, from both the producer and retailer side, I have witnessed first-hand much of the ‘back-door’ dealings with the three tier system. Thank you for your expert visual portrayal of the system, AS IT IS! I am currently co-writing a course to pilot at Johnson and Wales University next year that will grapple with the convoluted alcohol laws in this country and the structure of the beverage alcohol industry in the US. To be honest, I was SHOCKED at just how viscious it truly is. The days fo Al Capone’s underworld have only evolved into today’s money-power grab. Hopefully consumers will ‘vote with their wallets’ and make the change.
    Looking forward to a sequel!!!!!

  19. Pete says:

    I’m a bit curious as to why the only bit of footage of “Beer Wars” is the trailer. No I get it, this is a production of some proportion and like most others, require an economic return for it’s services rendered to the viewer. Please forgive me if this following assertion of mine that may prove to be undignified in the future; but as an avid follower and one who is entertained and informed by viewing the many diverse documentary productions, I find it rather bizarre that such a premium is placed upon admission to this “event”. One must pay person, 15$ when most documentaries of the same scale, including the varying political/social persuasions, ranging from extreme biases to comparatively neutral documentaries, are shown free (in almost every case) in just as many number of viewings if not more? This is just a question not a criticism. I have been “informed” myself by viewing “Beer Wars”, and thought it made a lot of sense. I just find it interesting that documentaries that try to inform their audience of a sincere truth, for the good in and of itself, are free of charge or at only the cost of reproducing a copy and it’s distribution, while those that seek to reward the services rendered tend to be, while true, tainted with other aspirations besides the good in the truth of what they present. BUT I guess I’ll just say it here: That “Beer Wars” while very informative and a glorified testimonial to the art of craft brewing there is an undertone the permeates it as, what we understand, the entrepreneurial spirit. GOOD SHOW THOUGH!!! IT SURE MADE ME PROUD TO DRINK A SEASONED BATCH OF AN IPA I’M RATHER PROUD TO HAVE CONCOCTED. CHEERS!!!!

  20. Ellen says:

    Excellent analysis and detailed rating on the movie Beer Wars.
    As co-owner of The Salmon River Brewery in McCall, Idaho, I found the documentary presented truths about how the Big 3 Macro-breweries impact politics. If you want to support the American dream of entrepreneurship & choice, vote with your dollars and buy local.

Oenophiles have SIDEWAYS and BOTTLE SHOCK; now their beer-loving counterparts can claim a film as their own.
- Rotten Tomatoes
A David and Goliath story pitting the country's smallest brewers against the largest.
Beer Wars: Brewed in America, is an eye-opening, funny and righteously infuriating documentary by first-time filmmaker Anat Baron. Her film (think of it as Suds: A Love Story) is also a pretty damning indictment of not just the beer industry but contemporary unfettered unregulated capitalism's disturbing excesses.
- Box Office Magazine
In Beer Wars, entrepreneurialism and opportunity go awry when tainted by greed and a thirst for power.
- Los Angeles Times
Beer Wars certainly raises some interesting questions, the most potent of which is, is this what capitalism is meant to be?
- New Times
For those who are keeping the American dream alive, this spirited documentary raises a toast.
- St Louis Post-Dispatch
A trenchant analysis unapologetic in its rebuke of Big Beer, Beer Wars is heartily recommended for patrons already inclined to opt for the local brew at every tap. It will also appeal to patrons interested in craft foods as well as homebrewed beer and wine and others particular about quality.
- Library Journal