Friday, March 30, 2007

I should know better

It’s 3:30 AM, and I am pacing in my apartment. There is a stack of nearly 6 boxes by the front door not including the two bags of clothes that I am bringing. Det. Budd will be here in 2.5 hrs and I have so much shit to do. Man, do I fuckin’ hate festivals.

We’re headed to Phoenix, and this appears to have the ability to possibly become a decent screening (I mean, that’s what I heard). It’s my first screening of 2007 after park city in January told me to fuck off (yeah, we’ll see you your programees fan out over the next decade). This needs to be a big impressive screening with lots of press and under aged women looking for a place to crash (I can wish can’t I).

I still have to sticker postcards, and posters not to mention making the CD-giveaway packets…so much shit to do.

Det. Budd shows up 25 min’s late and I’m still not ready. It takes 4 trips down to his F-150 before all the shit is loaded. With a chirp of the rear wheels we were on the road.

Det. Budd is really a man mad on the highway. I mean how often do you see someone pass on the shoulder while smokin’ a bowl and looking for tunes on his Ipod (that’s not an exaggeration). I’ve been smoking weed on a continual basis since we left LA so I’m really not that phased by this (plus he always drives like this).

We get to Phoenix around 12PM on Thursday and they won’t let us check in early, that’s not a good sign…but, whatever! We find the nearest Denny’s and fill our guts with grease and soda as we prepare to festival.

FESTIVALING: (verb) – to maintain a nomadic existence while intoxicated as you continually watch and promote films. A minimum level of intoxication is required so as not to violently react to the lack of promotion by the festival and the general poor technical quality of the screenings. To use self-medication as an attempt to deal with the hypocrisy of festival attendance.

We have to go to the airport to pickup my former roommate and partner in crime “The Professor”….then I was informed that he doesn’t land till Friday...which isn’t really that bad…because I had to go to the airport and finish booking his return ticket (8 billion frequent flyer miles and I still have to purchase the tickets in person….fuckin’ assholes).

It is at the airport that the rain begins. I’m talking biblical proportions, fuckin’ hail and flooding, lots and lots of flooding. I’m completely in denial that it’s raining in Phoenix. It’s a fuckin’ desert! Did I really need to check the weather forecast…this is fucking amazing. After about a 45 minute conversation with a woman who seemed unfamiliar with the layout of the QWERTY keyboard…I get the ticket…now I’ve got to get the rain to stop…and fuck.. I think we are supposed to be somewhere. I’m getting text after text asking me if I am going to cancel my screening tomm night. Like this is some type of fuckin’ baseball game. We screen indoors here in America so no need to worry. Well, that’s what I said., but I’m fucking terrified that I will have no turn-out. Well at least I have my Z-girl models…speaking of which I’m supposed to meet all of them in a few hours..so how bad can today really be?

We buy a few six packs and return to the room. We unload all the shit in about 25 seconds and start drinking. We’re 30 min’s late for the opening reception and we’re not going sober (that’s not happenin’). I know this doesn’t seem like a good plan, but trust me…it’s not as much a question of “if it will suck”.. as “how bad it will suck”. Det. Budd packs and enormous bowl and we roast that motherfucker before trying to figure out why the fuck there is so much fucking construction in a town where in doesn’t get cold and rarely rains.

We get to the venue about 10 min’s before the event ends. We have our all access credentials but no lanyards, so we use our own. We’re not in the spot for 2 min’s before the festival staff rolls up on us and give us the correct lanyards. That was a little crazy. I mean, they are that serious about keeping the lanyard color consistent…that seemed odd.

We try to mingle but we’re like the only people not dressed professionally. Everyone is staring at us like we are riff-raff. That’s fuckin’ comedy! This is not a “professional” discipline. Filmmakers are entitled to “come as you are” to any function…at anytime. And to be brutally honest, black festivals have kind of adopted this stance to make their festival more “professional”. That’s a really funny situation. Here we have ethnic minorities who are by and large excluded by the industry creating and relying false dress codes to make them seem more….official. And when you have nothing but wanna-be’s and those who really don’t work in the industry playing along…it becomes a dress up party for poseurs (oh man, really). Now to be brutally honest, I was at the Very Short Movies festival last month and they went as far as to ban sneakers in the dress code for the after party…so this is not just a “black thing”. But it needs to be mentioned that this is not the right decisions to be making. Nowhere is there a concern that as a festival they need to stop programming shitty movies, nowhere is there a feeling that they need to focus on festival promotion to increase the numbers of people at each individual screening. Nowhere is there a general feeling that as a festival they should pay a great deal of attention to the technical aspects of film exhibition….no, none of this is important. But, get those filmmakers to dress up, that’s what will improve our festival.

Anyway, so here we are, the only people in the room not wearing a suit and a fucking top hat… I’m getting’ a bad feeling. The party breaks up right at 7pm, when it’s supposed to… and everybody leaves (it was like magic). It’s 7pm and the festivities are basically over, well except for the opening night feature. Which looks promising, but anyone who goes to a lot of festivals will tell you that you really don’t want to open the festival with a feature on the first travel day….the real filmmakers won’t attend because they have been on the road all day.

Needless to say, we didn’t got to the screening. We decided to hang around and see if a group of hard-drinking filmmakers would lead a pack to the nearest bar. Yeah, never happened. I think we are at the only sober festival in the contiguous US.

Friday. This is a big day. I screen today, I have two friends flying in from out of state, not to mention six Z-girl models and a host of “friends” coming to see the screening.

We are screening at two of the worst possible times physically possible. 11:30PM on a Friday and 10:00am on the following Saturday. Not only does that indicate that the festival staff spends very little time actually attending film screenings, but that they are in their 50’s and 60’s…since they think that starting screenings at 9am on a Saturday is a good idea.

Now I should mention that there was a little bit of arguing with the festival in question because they didn’t want to sell individual tickets to my screening. I learned this 5 days prior to today and after I had invited nearly 30 people. In all fairness, this festival was really trying to create a different and alternative event, and I applaud that (yeah, with one fucking hand!). But why the fuck does it need to be so bizarre? Take the ticket situation for example; you can’t buy individual tickets but you can buy a screening pass for the weekend for $50. I guess that’s fair, if you want to spend 3 days watching shitty movies. But if you just want to spend 2hrs watch just a few shitty movies, that’s not permitted.

Needless to say, I made a scene… “My grandfather didn’t get shrapnel in his chest storming the beaches of Normandy so that I could get gouged screening my own fuckin’ film”…they said they’d get back to me (even with the bullshit WWII reference I can’t get past this thing).

I am now in denial of all this shit. I am screening in less than 12 hrs and I’ll kill a motherfucker if I have to…I have a feature to finance.

I was up early on this day…like 6AM. Affixing stickers on posters and postcards and assembling the press kits. Everyone likes to make fun of me because I do this obsessively at each festival…but whatever. Someone has to do this shit.

I call each one of the models who’s pictures I’ve been drooling over for days (not that that matters, I never get that close to the models)…to make sure that they will appear for this screenings (models will fuck you – no, not in the good way).

We scoop The Professor from the airport and head back to the fleabag hotel and guess who shows up right on time….My roommate Johnny Sabado… who’s actually in the film, so I know this is gonna get crazy.

We drop all the non-essential shit and head to the screening venue, we have some underground promoting to do. We are screening at the AMC in the Arizona Center, it’s a fuckin’ mall. Screening in a mall is about as much fun as trying to fuck on a bed of pine needles…yeah, you’ll get some pussy, but it’s gonna cost ya.

So it’s me, Det. Budd, The Professor and Sabado on a bombing run. In the span of about 15 minutes we hang 25 posters and about 50 postcards. All in conspicuous places to generate curiosity. During this bout of vandalism (that’s what it will say on the ticket) we don’t see any other film publicity. Which is typical, filmmakers are so fucking afraid of advertising is amazing. People are reading the posters and asking questions, I’m actually starting to feel good about this festival…then security showed up. (AKA The Po-Po)

I had to run away, not because I am a pussy (that’s a rumor)…but because I was holding all the materials we were “vandalizing” with (can you tell I’ve done this before?). Det. Budd sends out a mass text that we are being watched and we all take evasive maneuvers. He approaches Det. Budd and tells him that we can’t hang posters and he comments that are posters are really nice and that we can have them back if we want. Now that’s just classic. Getting a compliment at the same time your shit is about to get confiscated. He laments on tearing down such nice posters, little does he know I have another 75 posters made just for this screening.

We decide to lay low and get a beer (imagine that) while he removes our work.

Though I’m grateful that I haven’t had to kill a cop or anything to get out of this one, I’m not happy. How the fuck am I supposed to promote a film screening if I can’t hang posters……I mean what the fuck!

We roll into this bar and start lining them up. The Phoenicians seem to not recognize hard-core drinkers (which is amazing if you’ve ever been to Tempe)..or maybe it’s just the Arizona Center...who knows. Two pints later I’m ready to mix it up. We adjourn from the bar and employ our new strategy… stick close to the theater…theater staff is inherently lazy (overweight 16 yr olds and free time…do the math).

This strategy will make all of our promotional effort fully visible to the festival staff who is manning the registration table. It’s generally a good idea to prevent such a thing, since pussy-ass festival employees tend to crack under interrogation…but I’m not concerned about that now. I have to get some posters hung.

My friend who is known as “The Five-footer” and his GF show up. Now I have an entire promotional staff to run game with. We are a good crew, two musicians, one former professional flyposter and me and Det. Budd…who really doesn’t give a shit.

We move like a team of vandals with one person pre-taping posters, one scouting places to affix them and two people covertly hanging posters. We litter the front of the theater with our shit right in front of the festival staff. The seemed concerned but not concerned enough to actually speak to us. I guess this is their first real encounter with a filmmaker who is hell bent on promotion (Earthlings, heed my warning!).

It’s 8:00pm.. and the photographer just showed up. I now have an entourage of 5 plus our own photographer….tell me I don’t look famous. The Z-Girls appear one by one and to be truthful it’s the hottest group we’ve ever had (I know I’m gonna get an angry email about that)…but is that a good thing or a bad thing?

They are all dressed appropriately with black boots, black mini skirts and white cotton panties ( I have a panty fetish, what can I say)…I toss each one an SLZ T-shirt and secretly hope that at least one of them offers me her panties because I am so cool (hey it’s my blog, I can dream).

So now it’s me, my posse of 5, my photographer and six hot models. You would think that this alone would cause a scene and it probably would have, if there were more than 2.5 motherfuckers at the Arizona center (“I don’t know how you stay in business”). It’s 8 o’clock on a Friday night and it’s not fucking raining, and it’s not fucking hot…so where the fuck are all the people? (this is why I moved) Can I start a festival and show these people how it’s done? I mean I know why there is a low turnout, because I haven’t seen a single poster advertising this festival with a 2 mile radius of the theater. Not a single poster in the light boxes. This is like the secret film festival….we could screen kiddie porn and no one would even know…I fucking hate festivals!

I am choosing to ignore the lack of foot traffic, I have 2 hrs before I screen and I know that I’ll have a crazy draw by then (lying to yourself is one of the best ways to deal with this shit). Det. Budd is organizing the photo shoot with the models and I opt not to watch (It just increases the chances that you will say something stupid when your standing next to one of them).

I’m pacing and I’m on my Bluetooth. I don’t normally wear it in public because I don’t like to advertise that I’m a huge fan of the Sci-Fi channel, but this is serious. I’m expecting three reporters, they have yet to show up…..the foot traffic has entirely ceased….and here comes security.

SECURITY

“Hey, you guys can’t have models walk around and hand out things without written permission”

DET. BUDD

“Dude, what are you talkin’ about, they’re hot! Is it that tough to look at them”

SECURITY

“You’re just not supposed to do it”

He had a real ethical dilemma. Apparently this has never happened before (which just goes to show this festival is kind of bullshit, but whatever). He’s excited by the models since he has an inability to make eye contact with us when one passes by. He shakes his head and tells us to “just go ahead..I didn’t see anything”…that was awesome. We won him over with beer breath and hot models…who says I can’t promote!

Not that that mattered, I mean there isn’t even a homeless population around here. This is not good. I go inside and inquire about how the previous screenings are going….I am met with a barrage of confusion from the theater and festival staff as the try to figure out what to say to me. I mean I was totally fuckin’ kidding and I think they are going to get the general manager. Before I can even explain that I’m drunk, high and anxious …here comes the manager. He hands me a screening schedule and tells me that we can bring our people in as soon as the previous screening lets out.

That wasn’t even my question….Christ… I need to get fucked up.

I leave the theater to find Det. Budd….and he’s missing.. and so are my models. If he’s getting’ drunk and getting’ to verify the white cotton status without me… I’m goona be pissed. I text him like a million times before I catch up with him. The models don’t look happy and the photographer looks a little to excited…this is not good. This is like the only thing I have going for me.. so I need to defend it.

We tell the models that they are taking 5…to go and get a drink with us. They think I am a great guy and an awesome boss (I’m really trying to get a few of them drunk). We are rowdy in the bar and the round sets me back a good $120 ..but hey, it’s a festival.

Then my celli rings, it’s the festival staff informing that my section started 20 min’s early. I had a fit, are you fucking kidding me????? So let me get this straight, you guys did little promotion, you are opposed to individual ticket sales, you have the worst screening times in the history of filmed entertainment, your parties last exactly 1hr, there is a dress code, you are holding a festival in a mall, you’ve made no attempt whatsoever to divert the legitimate movie-going audience into your festival screenings….and to top it all of… you are starting my section, the last screening section, early on Friday night, when there is absolutely no foot traffic, because…..you think it’s a good idea Yeah right, you want to get home early you fuckin’ fogies! I fuckin’ hate festivals.

Once again my art and my career have to be wedged in between Denny’s 4PM senior dinner entrees and the 10’ oclock news….now you see why I am an asshole!

I leave the bar with the entourage in tow. Everyone is starting to get fucked up but me… I’m entirely too stressed to be affected by alcohol. I approach the registration table and there is apprehension to talk to me. She’s on the phone…doing the pretend conversation thing….what, you think this is my first festival? I invented the fake phone-call bit you hooker! She hangs up and tells me that it was a false alarm..and that we are still starting @ 11:30.

We enter the theater at 11:15 and they’re halfway through the section already. The bitch lied to me! I guess I have really nothing to be angry about because the only people in this screening are the 12 that I brought (see, it’s good to buy your friends). There is a general feeling of “I wonder if it’s any good”.. which is understandable…but whatever.

I sit far in the back, because I’m near sighted and I like to see the crowds reactions. Less than 10 min’s later SLZ begins….

From jump I know that something is wrong. The sound is a bit muted…and the colors look bad. We are projecting off of DVD which is only slightly less painful than having your balls removed with a butter knife, but something is really wrong. The colors have shifted and the contrast seems odds. As per usual I decide not to complain. I know this seems strange to say but here is the honest to God truth: Not only are the people who run festivals woefully ignorant about the actual process of screening a film…but the theater staff is not trying to hear any complaints. As soon as the projectionist saw that we were projecting DVD’s he started packing his crack pipe…he knew it was going to suck.

It doesn’t strike us till after the screening that they placed all the films in the section on one DVD. Essentially making bad digital copies of your movie and screening it with the incorrect aspect ratio (I just love it when the subtitles are on the lower curtain). It never ceases to amaze me, the utter and complete disdain for the actual film that festival have.

I know that there is no way for me to indicate to this festival how shitty this is. To them it’s just a movie, and a short one at that. I had defended the festival for the most part up to this point, but this was inexcusable. We spent more than $10K finishing this film and it looks and sounds horrible….fuck festivals…

So my film ends, which ends the section and the lights don’t come on. There’s no projectionist, no moderator, no Q&A. So I’m standing in the dark, attempting to solicit questions and responses…it’s beyond sad. Then some guy comes up to me, tells me he loves the film and he’s going to moderate a great Q&A at tomm’s screening…. Or should I say today’s screening, since we are running it back in 9 hrs.

The Z-girls jetted (and they took their panties)… I refused to let the night just die…so we went drinking.

I’m belligerent, obnoxious as we enter Seamus Mccaffrey’s for like the 5th time in 12 hrs and I am on a mission. I’m pounding Guinness and flirting with anyone who has female genitalia. I go take a piss and I come out and some dude wants to talk about filmmaking…he’s a filmmaker. He hasn’t seen my film, nor has he attended the festival…but he has a ton of insight about what needs to change. I humor him as I get another pint. He’s a nice guy, but he’s way past his depth. It’s probably not worth the trouble to point out that friendlier screening times and breaks in the screening schedule would do a lot to improve things.

He really wants to talk shop, though he can’t even talk tool (it’s a pun…go with it)….so here I am ….looking at models I won’t hit on, listening to an uninformed person tell me how to do my job, as I try to figure out if it’s worth seducing a 70 yr old waitress (I hear that shit is mad tight) in an attempt to have something to show for this festival.

3 pints later we decide to bounce. I gave Mr. “I know film” a screener and told him that narratives don’t actually exist…that you make up your own every time you watch a film…and I leave as he attempts to understand what the fuck I am talking about.

Maybe tomm will be better (yeah right)

COOPRDOG

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