Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You’d think I have this down by now…

You’d think I’d have this down by now….this pre-screening emotional preparation thing. Now I know you are thinking…why would he need to be emotionally prepared? Well the festival might suck and I might interpret that as a sign that I really am not a director but have been impersonating one all along…and I am about to be exposed (I wonder if there will be TV coverage?) Or, the festival could suck (a festival suck? No way!)…or I could get exposed as a make-believe director at a festival that sucks…and bump into a chick that I dicked-over who has decided to let the whole world know how much of an asshole I am (And Tamara if you’re contemplating doing this…you really don’t need to…there appears to be an ever growing consensus so you might want to wait a little longer and publish a book so we can all get a little cheddah – ya mine?) Not to mention that we are screening under somewhat strange circumstances. Ok, that was a little vague…we are screening in a place called “The Cineforum”. The Cineforum is the living of this guy’s house. The man that I am referring to is Reg Hartt who is, without a doubt, the genuine article. He’s been screening underground and alternative cinema in his house since the 60’s…and “The Cineforum” has had a permanent location since the early 90’s. Needless to say, I was honored to play this venue…aside from the fact that this was the inaugural Slackers film Festival… which is being held over 4/20 (yeah… I’m a little behind.. get over it… I’ll explain later). Anyway, so this place holds maybe 20 people so we really aren’t going to promote heavily….and there will be no Z Girls at this screening. I just wanna see what’s going on in Canada and how cool the other films are.

I almost walked past the guy’s house…but then I saw the little neon sign. I know this description seems upsetting, seems depressing when you take into account that we have screened at some rather “prestigious” venues like The Fine Arts theater in LA, The ArcLight, The AMC 4plex on the Santa Monica Promenade, Shriver Hall in the John Hopkins Campus (Largest screen in the state), Innis College @ University of Toronto….but this one meant a lot more to me. Sex-Love is a cult film by design. It’s something that you can’t talk about or even attempt to insinuate because it will appear that you’re just an arrogant egomaniacal bastard who lost touch with reality (which is completely true…but I don’t need to advertise it)….but how myself and Det. Budd see the film. To be included in the rich history of this venue at an inaugural film festival in another country, was hella phat!

So we really are in this guy’s house. The screening room is partially divided since the projector is in the front room facing away from the windows and projects onto the wall into the second room which is separated by a threshold on the wall and ceiling. There are about 15 executive chairs on wheels in this room. The floor is wooden. We are flanked by old bookshelves filled with Lit., Art History, Biographies and lots of what appear to be original cartoon sketches that are signed and an amalgamation of film posters (original) taped to the wall. Reg Hartt compliments the place well. Everything seems to have its own special place and story. He periodically waxes prophetic on various topics. He is like a mix between a librarian who looks down on you because you live in somewhat utter and complete ignorance of the artistic and literary treasures that are with your reach …yet you are too distracted to notice; and a union projectionist that has assembled reels for legendary and controversial films his whole life and could care less about your cinematic “opinion”. If filmmaking was the army this guy would be the tuff as nails general that was a POW for like 200 years and then freed all his men and led a revolt that turned the tide on the war (ok…I watch to much history channel)…but I think you get my drift.

He is contrasted by the Butler brothers. Two hard drinking, loud mouthed Canadian filmmakers who are throwin’ this party. And this is a party…don’t get it twisted. For the next three days all that is going to happen is that a bunch of filmmakers are going to sit in this guy’s living room, drink beer and smoke weed and talk shit about film…I am not a religious man…but this is definitely going to be a religious experience.

So when I get to the door and introduce myself it’s a rather “hey, hi ya doin” and I was expecting “hey man… nice to see you!”… but then I remembered, all these people are filmmakers and the don’t give a fuck “…so put your shit down and get fuckin’ beer-aye!”. And just like that, I was in the club…drinking a beer I’ve never seen before watching a trippy film projected on the wall of some guys house.

For the next two hours all I do is drink beer, smoke weed and talk about film….man, this is fucking heaven! And then the brothers let me in on a little secret… “hey, we really your film, we’re going to show it twice”.

Never have a had that said to me. Never has there been such a blatant disregard for other filmmakers feelings where I was involved; only no one is upset. This small crowd of assembled filmmakers is here to watch films, they don’t care if there will be encore presentations of certain films…as long as it is warranted.

What I didn’t know was they were talking about playing my film next. I literally went outside to smoke a bowl with some dude I just met and get another beer and then they are like “hey man, we’re about to play Sex-Love next so…” I was floored. And sure I normally want to have a full house of topless women and money men in the audience to really make me totally happy (I’m joking, no really)… but this is pretty damn close.

I send Det. Budd a text message to tell him that it’s about to go down…but he’s still at least 2 hrs away. So it was just me and my new Canadian friends and lots of beer. As I see the start page for my film (DVD) projected on the wall I am starting to feel a little nervous…not that it won’t be received well…but that it might not be projected well, technically speaking. Well I will say this much…Reg Hartt is the man. I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to have my film projected by someone who so attentive. He adjusted and refocused very quickly when the film began….the speed with which he did it indicated to me that he prescreened my film to be familiar with how best to show it….that made me feel so good that I wanted to marry him (Cooprdog, will you take this projectionist to be your lawfully wedded…).

Sex-Love has a strange quality when it begins to play in the Cineforum. I felt that my film was a perfect compliment to all the cinematic memorabilia and lit. books on the shelves. I felt like this was more of a religious journey than a film screening. I know that seems strange since we’re drinking beer, smoking weed and talking about how we really like doggie style fucking…..but it’s really sincere. There are no publicists, no “producers” looking for material, no internet snake-oil salesman trying to broadcast your film…just filmmakers talking about the industry.

About 1hr after the section finished screening Det. Budd shows up. The first thing he wants to know is if we can roast a bowl and I of course said yes. But here is the funny thing, Canadians appear to like to drink more than the like to smoke…because we had everybody totally faded in about 30 min’s. I hadn’t seen that before…but then I remembered.. I’m from Cali…so… I probably am used to more aggressive smoking.

Then we had our first problem…we were running out of beer. Now in the states running out of beer is like when the power goes out. No one panics, if something isn’t done about it in about 20-30 min’s then you start making calls and seeing what the deal is. In Canada, running out of beer is like a national emergency, they really get on top of it.

Luckily for us there was a Beer Store right across the street.

Now when I say Beer Store I’m not just talking about a store that sells beer…no, that would be normal. I’m talking about a store that sells just beer, they’ve got windows and cash registers and aisles…but the only thing they sell is beer….a lot of beer.

Me and Det. Budd walk in this place and there’s a huge menu on the wall (20ft X 30ft) of brands of beer I have never heard of. They sell 12 packs, cases and kegs – no sixes, no singles…and they recycle, which might not seem pertinent except there is always drama when returning the empties. Apparently it’s pretty good business (since the entire country is a bunch of lushes) and the homeless population fights over empties. I mention this because I always had to wait for some 80 yr old Canadian guy to get his empties counted and then argue about the raw price of aluminum and shit….I mean he dug it out of the trash and says that he’s gettin’ ripped off….and then we find out that he doesn’t even drink at all….he thinks drinking is stupid.

So here we are…staring at this wall of beer. Amazed that this exists so close to my mothers house. I mean I am a beer drinker. I don’t drink it like I used to but I was a big micro-brew guy in the early 90’s. I hate ales and pilsners and ambers….I like porters and stouts…you know, dark and rich. Well I was really in over my head. We wound up getting this hemp beer (yeah, put a weed leaf on a beer bottle and me & Det. Budd are total suckers) and a 12-pack of some other shit in a blue bottle…and lots of ice. Which I’d like to point out that they sell in only 5lb bags so I had to buy like 50 of them…but whatever.

We get back to the Cineforum and Reg Hartt is making his presence known. We are in the guy’s house and he takes time to let you know that from time to time (non-verbally of course)… but there is this cloud of fear and apprehension from most of the people assembled. This guy is kind of crazy (in a good way…like a university professor that refuse to update his wardrobe….it’s kind of weird… but you get it). I wasn’t really to fond of the way we all seem to walk and talk around him…afraid that we might say the wrong thing…so I asked him a direct question… “So, how did you start doing this?” He gave me very clear and concise answer about how he was screening films in a bar and people started to show up and then he got into with the management and decided to just move it to his house. It was during moments like these that you say how much Reg Hartt truly loves the cinema. His heart beat quickens when he talks about film…and he loves to argue. Not because he’s a dick, but because he doesn’t seem to believe that you can have a calm rational discussion about the cinema. He says that if you aren’t loud and animated that you don’t really love it. This seemed to scare a few of the filmmakers because this guy is easily capable of going psycho and eating all our bodies….but his vibe was different. After more prodding he really began to open up and philosophize.

He told us that Hollywood film is all grown up, and that indie film is a teenager, and that teenagers make lots of mistakes and have a tendency to say inappropriate things…but what makes them fun to be around is that the believe that they can change the world and that they take chances and make film cause they love film and they don’t care what you think. As he said it you could see his life reviewed in his eyes… He often gets lost in himself when he speaks like this. He talked about Warhol, The New American cinema, and distribution. He’s old and bitter and feels that the cinema has been ruined by contemporary tastes and financial concerns. To him filmmaking is defined by its risky-ness… “that’s what makes it so exciting….that you never know what’s going to happen. Especially when you were trying to make a small film for a selected audience and mainstream audience catch on….then you have a movement”. He speaks with great clarity being extremely animated with his hands and making several dramatic pauses. It was like being in a masters class at school.

I had to ask him more questions, like what he thought about what was going on now. He looked me right in my eye and told me that it was over. That digital killed it, that corporations killed it…that it could only get worse. Now as a proud opponent of digital I even took offense to his statement. Sure the methodologies are a little misdirected, sure the cheap budgets aren’t exactly in all of our bests interests…but the larger of us would survive. I felt the need to defend all filmmakers. I could tell that I was making people nervous because I was pressing him. He’s not the type of man you argue with. But he was very polite to me. He told me that it was the technical advances of digital that killed the cinema…it was the ability to manifest whatever you wanted. He said that we collectively had lost the ability to dream. He said that people think of “amazing sequences and stunts”…and not amazing ideas and moral dilemmas. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that the canvas had become the focal point and not the paints used to express on it. He seemed to be waiting to die…since guys like me had let him down.

I had really wanted to protest, and prove him wrong. I had wanted to show him all the things that I was up to. How I kept the rich tradition of the cinema alive and still broke new ground. But you can’t do that with a man like Reg Hartt. You have to show him.

I should probably take the time here to say that Reg is most known in Toronto for screening silent works and adding a soundtrack. Metropolis is the best example. In a moment of candor he zoned out and told us about how film societies around Canada always want to use his copy of “Metropolis” and he tells them that he will let them use it only if they play his soundtrack. He has because very animated at this point….yelling at critics who weren’t there. He lectured on how the real power of film like “Metropolis” are lost in a talkies world…and that he was updating it. As always a debate about if he has the “artistic right” to do such a thing is never far off. But I understood his approach.

The Butler brothers ordered some Pizza’s and we kicked it for the rest of the night…that was until I got a text from a chick I had met earlier (well I actually had drinks with her the night before…and now, I’m not a Mack… I had been chatting with her online).

This woman had actually answered a Z-Girls ad back when I thought I was going to have models….but she wasn’t really interested in modeling…she just wanted to meet the man who wrote the ad……and then I was all about her.

I mean if you don’t know me…I have a thing for Canadian women. So much so that I actually had a girlfriend from Canada who I called “Canada” (and yeah… I fucked that one up too, that’s for bringing it up)….I have a “Canadian girls kick ass” T-shirt (which has never gotten me laid) and I watch hockey just so I know what to talk about if I meet a Canadian woman (why-the-fuck-else would you watch hockey?) Anyway I met this woman the first night I was here and proceed to try to get her naked…which kind of didn’t go my way…but whatever.

Anyway she sends me this naughty text message…one that I need to reply to. Now I should point out that Det. Budd and myself have pissed off a lot of Canadian filmmakers with our cell phones because apparently having your phone vibrate in a screening or sending a text message during a screening was really strange to them. I tried to explain that it wasn’t an “LA”- thing as much as it was “we have a lot of shit up in the air and we have to keep tabs on it” – thing; not to mention that 6-10 hours of screening a day with your phone off is not happenin’. But that’s a hard sell when you have a $400 smartphone and you are wearing a funny hat.

I’ve watched my own film probably 600 times and it’s never really felt like this. I personally feel that this is an amazing way to experience SLZ. We are all members of Generation X, weed smokers, beer drinkers and fairly political. I am sure that I am going to make this trek almost every year….I hope this festival gets huge.

I forgot to mention that I was asked to introduce my film, and that kind of caught me by surprise. Not because I didn’t know what to say…but because it reminded me of how infrequently this happens. It was at this point that I really began to understand why this festival mattered so much to me. It is sincere.

After the screening it was back to the usual “who can kill the most braincells in a single motion” – game. I was in the mists of chugging a beer when Det. Budd show up.

DET. BUDD
I mean what the fuck!...can I get a beer?

Since no one knows who he is except me, he scares the shit out of the assembled filmmakers. There’s some finger pointing and “who the fuck is this guy” as I wave to him and then one of the Butler brothers gives him the ok…and everyone is fine.

DET. BUDD
So when do we screen?

COOPRDOG
We just did.

DET. BUDD
What the fuck are you talking about, we screen tomm!

COOPRDOG
Yeah I know, and they like us so much that they had a special screening today.

DET. BUDD
So it’s like that?

COOPRDOG
It’s like that.

And before we know it, we’re at the bar…chillin’ with the Butler Brothers…and let me tell you what I noticed, Canadians can really drink. Almost too much, cause the men in Canada seem to pay more attention to beer labels than women’s bodies. Now I’m all for not objectifying women…but c’mon guys they don’t look good and smell nice for nothin’…we need to make a move.

Well, the only move that was made was to the bar. We had drinks on top of drinks on top of drinks. Looks are flying around and I’m dying to hook-up with a Canadian chick so I can buy a T-shirt and get her scent on it…so I can wear it on the plane home (ok…I’m kinda single…can you tell?) So I’m on a mission, shootin’ looks at chicks, crackin’ jokes, doin’ stand-up…and nada. Do the jokes not translate? I mean what the fuck?

Suddenly there is a ruckus at a table near us. It’s chock full of college kids who are drinking their faces off. I remark to Det. Budd that we should probably go over there and sell the film…cause it looks like these cats are our kind of people (potheads). And just like that some “other” filmmaker walks up and starts handing out the ugliest postcards I have ever seen (one-sided, monochrome, mostly text). It infuriates me how lazy filmmakers are. I mean c’mon dude, postcards are cheap (3000 for $500)… maybe you work in a sweatshop and have to save all year to buy them…but they are as essential as your posters and your film. I must have been talking to myself out loud because next thing I knew, Det. Budd was on his feet.

That’s normally not a good sign knowing Det. Budd. He’s been known to throw things and say provocative things to tables full of women. The Butler brothers remark that my partner is on the move.

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Is he a brawler?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
It’s been a minute since we mixed it up!

Yeah…they weren’t kidding. This is why it’s cool to hang out with Canadians they like to drink and they are not opposed to fighting… “Just let me know when, I don’t wanna be at the bar when it goes down”. So I’m confident that if it gets “touchy” in here… that we’ll have a good squad of brawlers to back us up.

Det. Budd merely hands them a postcard and hangs a poster in their booth. He smiles and waves and then comes back to us.

COOPRDOG
Hey, how did it go?

DET. BUDD
Prissy motherfuckers. They ain’t comin’

BUTLER BROTHER #2
See…we should have started a fight.

Butler Bro. #2 then decided to recount a brawl that he had with a cop during a festival last year. They were in like Virginia and apparently something was said.

COOPRDOG
So what did he say?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
I don’t know but he said something.

COOPRDOG
And then what happened?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
We had a little tussle


COOPRDOG
Tussle?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Yeah kind of like slow dancing but with your hand balled up in his coat pulling the guy close and the second one taking a few swings at him.

COOPRDOG
So how did that go down?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Well it would have been fine if it wasn’t for the cop issue.

COOPRDOG
Cop issue?...the cops came?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
Well the guy was a cop.

DET. BUDD
You punched a cop?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Well, I extended my hand and it kind of hit him in the side of the head.

COOPRDOG
Get the fuck out of there!

DET. BUDD
So then what happened?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
Well I look over and he’s fightin’ with this cop.

DET. BUDD
So what did you do?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
What do you mean? He’s my bro, bro…I started swinging. I got in it!

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Mom said if we were going to get arrested, it was safer to get arrested together.

COOPRDOG
That’s outta hand. So wait, did you know he was a cop when the fight started?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Oh yeah?

DET. BUDD
Was he like undercover or something?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
No, he was wearing a uniform.

COOPRDOG
You hit a cop in uniform?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
He was asking for it! There were people way more drunk than me and he tried to grab me…I think.

DET. BUDD
So then what happened?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
Well I look up and he’s rolling around on the hood of the cop car fighting this cop.

COOPRDOG
Where was this at?

BUTLER BROTHER #2
Oh, this was right in front of the bar!

COOPRDOG
You fought a cop in front of the bar?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
Hey, there’s nothing like a beer after you whip a motherfucker’s ass so…I didn’t want to stray far.

BUTLER BROTHER #2
Besides you wanna do that kind of shit in public…cops are sneaky motherfuckers.

DET. BUDD
So how did it end? Did you go to jail?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
I wish


BUTLER BROTHER #2
That’s the shitty part. They arrested up and held us in handcuffs in front of the bar for like the rest of the night before the took us to jail.


COOPRDOG
What? Are you joking?

BUTLER BROTHER #1
I fuckin’ wish. And there were people fighting all over the place and the cop was like “I’d like to break it up, but the Canadian boys are using all our cuffs.

BUTLER BROTHER #2
I should fly back to the states and kick that guy’s ass again.

And then without so much as a word he taps his pint on the table and begins to chug it. For those of you that aren’t alcoholics or didn’t pledge a fraternity you probably don’t know that that move means “bottoms up”. We all chug and I’m like the last one to finish- so I’m buying the next round …“I thought you Philly motherfuckers could drink”…and just like that I became the low man.

We staggered out of the bar and caught a taxi back to our fleabag motel…and just my like it’s another block of Christina Aguillarra (I really can’t be bothered to spell her name correctly).

COOPRDOG

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