Friday, October 26, 2007

The Big Red

Over the course of the past year, Blood Car has vacationed us in some fine areas of the continental United States, from red states to blue states and back again. Our most recent trip was to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, a highly selective liberal arts school of about 2400 students and nestled in what was once called 'the frontier of America.' The spirit of generosity and grit that once cradled these uncharted lands still rules, as does the danger of being attacked by vengeful Native Americans whose lands we usurped.* Adam and I were flown up courtesy of student Brian Crush and the Denison Film Society. We met him during our Burroughsian trip to the Jacksonville Film Festival this past May and he contacted Alex shortly afterward wanting to program Blood Car for one of their weekly film screenings. Since Alex was indisposed, we traveled in his stead. I had such great fun, both annoying Adam with bad joke/good joke ratio of 4 to 1 and visiting with our gracious hosts, who you'll meet shortly.

In the Atlanta airport's main atrium on our way to security, we were confronted by some janusian portraits by a photographer whose name I cannot remember. If you can tell me who the photographer is, I'll buy you lunch. These were displayed all across the atrium and were incredibly compelling. You cannot really see it here, but the split between the two faces is purposefully jagged and most of the photos were incredibly dramatic, funereal, beautiful and sorrowful. I chose to shoot one of the few of that had a smiling subject. I was in a good mood. This might make a good Xmas present for someone, but it also might make one sob uncontrollably. If you can't tell, one half of the face is just an older version of the younger half.

Chautauqua Airlines ferried us to St. Louis and then on to Columbus, OH in two very tiny, embracing planes that I could not stand up straight in. We were greeted by our benefactor Brian C. and a fellow film student named Taylor, who was working on a variation of the popular acronym WTF -- WTFuck. Go ahead. Say it...funny, right? I think it has potential. A scenic, thirty minute drive to the university allowed us to interrogate Brian C. and Taylor about their film program at Denison. Surprisingly, students are still mandated to shoot projects on 16mm. It's refreshing to hear that since our alma mater phased out 'film' just after we graduated and is now exclusively digital, at least for the undergrads. I also believe it imparts to students an understanding and appreciation of celluloid that is disappearing, much like the arctic glaciers. Yes, you heard me right, digital is the global warming of movies. HAHA.

On arrival, we assembled with our other gracious hosts, Cassie, Denison Film Society President, and Charlie, another film student, and dined at a bar that only served beer. I had some trouble finding a drink here since I do not drink beer or anything that tastes like beer. So I asked our waitress, "Are there any beers that do not taste like beer?" She either rolled her eyes or humored me and brought back two tasters' glasses, one that tasted like beer and one that tasted like a green apple jolly rancher cider. I had two glasses of the latter. It is a Belgian, unmanly, fruit flavored beer. During dinner, this cinematic quartet regaled us with the storied history of the DFS projection room, where several films have met with untimely fates, including Grindhouse and The Passenger. Taylor showed us one terrifying picture on his cell phone that encapsulated The Passenger debacle. Somehow, the reels became tangled up so intricately in the projector that they had to make over a dozen surgical cuts to free it from the jaws of the machine. The picture was of a student who looked like he dipped his hands in a bin of 35mm and the spools dripped off of him like water. His hands were held up proudly like a surgeon who had just emerged from a patient's chest cavity, bloodied up to his elbows. I covered my eyes. They assured us that they have dozens more stories of films that made it to the final reel, but those aren't very interesting. Ah, the essence of narrative and drama. Only when bad things happen is it worth committing to paper or celluloid or binary code. Can't argue with that.

We screened on DVD in a large lecture hall outfitted as a theater with full 16mm and 35mm projection facilities. A selection of snacks and soda were served for the attendees. Adam and I introduced the film, watched the first few minutes and then walked back into town for a drink while the film played. What also hearkened back to the frontier epoch was the price of the alcohol there; brawny quantities at 1850s prices. When we returned we happily answered questions, gave out a few t-shirts and some posters. In lieu of his presence, Alex drafted a short message to the students that I read before the talkback. It went as follows:

Dear Denison University,

Thanks for coming to the screening. I hope you laughed or were at least offended enough to tell someone about it. I'll take either. Atlanta is getting colder and I am getting some kind of sickness. It sucks. (I added as a joke, "I may not make it to spring.") How's the weather there? Well enough chit chat, let's get down to business. When I was in film school some professors, and especially people working in the film industry, treated doing their own projects as some kind of a pipe dream a younger version of them had. Well I just want to tell you that those people suck and you ca do whatever you want if it is important to you. Make the kind of films that you would like to see and there will be an audience somewhere for them. If you want to be a filmmaker, learn about it by doing. There is information everywhere about all aspects of filmmaking so devour it all. Read everything, volunteer, meet people, write, watch movies,
take pictures- learn all you can. Mark Twain said it best- "Don't let schooling interfere with you education." ok, wish I could be there alex

I don't think Denison alums Michael Eisner, Jennifer Garner, Hal Holbrook or Steve Carell could have said it better. Carell might have been funnier. Holbrook would have had a few more Twain quotes up his sleeve. Garner would have been richer. Eisner would have been prettier. Actually, reverse those last two. Someday, these film students will be imparting similar wisdoms to the next generation of filmmakers and filmgoers. (Pictured from left to right; Cassie, Taylor, Charlie, and Brian C.)

For such a short trip, we produced a great deal of memories and inside jokes. From The Denisonian weekly, I learned that microwave popcorn fumes can cause "deadly, irreversible lung disease." I vanquished a couple of complete strangers in pocket billiards. We stayed at the Buxton Inn, which is supposedly haunted by former owners and a ghost cat. Some Denison students use roast beef sandwiches as bookmarks. Okay, just one of them.

*Not true.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival - Day 2

En route to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for the Athens, GA made Darius Goes West, we saw this sign and sighed. We went back to the hotel, checked out and got about as far as Anniston, AL when we realized the sign just said 'sidewalk' and not Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. We turned around and made it back in time for the movie.

The venue underestimated the attendance of the film and since it wasn't a traditional movie theater but an exhibition room of sorts, seating was limited. Alex O., Katie R. and I sat on some steps which was a surprisingly not unbearable situation, partly because the film was so heartwarming. It's about Darius, a 15 year-old with muscular dystrophy, DMD to be specific, whose friends take him on a trip across the US, his first ever, in hopes of convincing MTV to pimp his wheelchair. I cried for most of it. You probably will too if you see it. Darius and most of the cast and some crew members were in attendance, all dressed in t-shirts with Darius-isms in stark black and white. A few include "Glosabi," and "That ain't no Cuba." When I saw Darius answering questions from the audience, I forgot that DMD has a %100 fatality rate. I didn't really even think about it until late that night at the after party when I was introduced to him. Then I said to the myself, "Well, humans have a %100 fatality rate." Of course that isn't during the years of your late teens and early twenties, when DMD typically reaches the point of no return. My guess is I didn't think about it because Darius doesn't think about it. He just lives his life day-to-day like everyone else.

We walked by the Carver Theater, our venue for that night, prior to and after DGW and it is also the home of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, whose most notable inductees include Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, who played the vibraphone. Think xylophone or marimba. Later that night we would walk the same stage as Duke and sing our own brand of music, that of the Q&A. Wiki states the Carver showed pornographic films in its later, moribund years. We hoped to bring back some of that business. It also used to be the African-American theater in town whereas the Alabama was the white theater.

A Darfur documentary and Murder Party made up the second half of my movie schedule Saturday before Blood Car, but even before that Alex O. and Jeremy S. participated in a panel called The Blood and Guts of Comedy about horror-comedies on the festival circuit. Katie R. and I sat in for the first thirty minutes and by the look of it I thought they were going to do a staged reading of some Tennessee Williams. In retrospect I wish they had. Next time I festival, I'll bring a few copies of Streetcar just in case.

We did very little promotion for Blood Car at this festival because we didn't feel like working putting up posters and harassing people to see our film. Our efforts would have been limited anyway having only brought buttons, a few t-shirts, some posters and one signed poster! Our turnout was around 220 I believe. Heartburn, an 8 min. short from a FSU film student screened before our film and the director, Jesse Barksdale, was in attendance and participated in a Q&A. Alongside him were his DP and someone he kept wryly referring to as his 'business manager', who was dressed in all black. Their short was funny, but Jesse B. was even funnier during the talkback. It was their first film festival and their wide-eyed rookie swagger charmed the pants off just about everyone. It was a great precursor for BC. Many of the other filmmakers we had met the day before extended us the kind gesture of conducting themselves to our screening as well.

If I was forced to guess which talkback was better, Alex O.'s or Jesse B.'s, I'd have to think aboutit . I refuse to pick one over the other, and this reluctance you should interpret as an indication of how close the race was, if it was a race. Since most questions reappear at every Q&A, it's a bit like a broken record or a song I play so many times I wear it out. However, Alex O. managed to work in a couple new bits that rolled some heads. Since we had t-shirts and posters to give away, we asked a trivia question to the audience about where the 'oven mitts in bed joke' came from. An audience member actually asked directly about this so we turned it into a trivia opportunity. Sadly, no one could correctly reference the film, Love and Death. We were swarmed for the swag and then left.

I wish we could have stayed for the last day of the festival, but Katie R. had to return to Atlanta for a rehearsal. It was a wonderful festival and I regret I cannot attend more. I know Alex is traveling to Austin for the film festival there and he is blogging now, so we'll be able to walk in his e-shoes while Texas brands him forever. There was moderate concern about our blogs overlapping since this is the first festival we've attended together as bloggers. My knee jerk reaction was that no one would want to read about the same thing twice. Rationality won out because multiple perspectives is the best way to gather an objective impression of the events of any historical occurrence. Alex had been wanting to start a blog for a while, but he wasn't sure he was qualified to to do. I told him it's hard work, but rewarding. He asked me to give him some lessons a few times a week and we've been training pretty hard since Atlanta's last snow melted. He launched a little earlier than I would have in his shoes. I look forward to reading his version of the events of Sidewalk.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival - Day 1

I don't know what we would have done if we had left Atlanta any later and missed the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival's interactive iron pour at Sloss Furnaces. It was a casual itinerary we set for ourselves, but this kind of antique entertainment is rare for a film festival. Imagine if Cinequest had had us build a computer or Sarasota a beach umbrella.

Just a quick drive from downtown, we arrived just after the shuttle buses crammed with filmmakers, festival staffers, jurors, and media personnel. Perfect timing. Our guide was Kyle McKinnon, one of two programmers of Sidewalk. Now a historical landmark, Sloss was once a towering inferno of pig iron, or raw iron production, which is used to make steel. In addition to giving us visitors a glimpse into this once thriving industry, it also gave us a window into the once thriving fears of humanity; by that I mean vampires, spiderwebs, graveyards and the grim reaper. Someone saw this landmark and said, "This would make a great haunted furnace," and so each Halloween it mutates into the Sloss Fright rates available. A few minutes of marveling led Alex to compare this facility to Axis Chemicals, where Jack Napier undergoes his infamous transformation.

Soon we were redirected to the actual location of the pour, just a short walk from this casket and graveyard. About a dozen iron workers wandered around as we were gathered around a small table like a class on a field trip to hear instructions. Each one of us was given a 4"x 4" block of sand and resin in which to carve a mold for the iron. Our paintbrush was a rusty nail. You'll notice that the designs come out backwards post-pour. They told us that going in so that's why Alex wrote blood car in reverse.

Below is a before/after series of our iron creations.

A bunny dreaming of having wings.

The blood car strikes again.

Pacman in trouble.

The pouring...

and then...

One of my favorite things about attending films festivals is how everything from the mundane to the grandiose wears some cinematic significance. First and foremost was Sloss, which resembled the ironworks from Days of Heaven, Cobra and T2 and countless others. Just an hour earlier after dropping our bags at the Redmont hotel, we stopped at Chick-fil-a and I heard a little girl say the word 'mayonnaise' like Louis Gossett, Jr. in An Officer and a Gentlemen. There must be a switch in my brain that turns on this total recall of cinematic information and applies it to each minuscule phrase or act. I don't know if this happens to everyone. I forgot to ask Alex and Katie. As if I weren't submerged enough already in the cinema at a film festival, I have to ascribe cinematic meaning to non-cinematic events. You could compare it to getting into the spirit of Christmas, I suppose.

A couple dear festival friends and phenoms were present at this ironclad Sidewalk tradition, including Gabe and Dan from the Atlanta Film Festival, Joe Swanberg of Hannah Takes the Stairs and Jeremy Saulnier (Son yea; pictured in Black Cat t-shirt) of Murder Party. The latter film could be deemed Blood Car's sister film on the festival circuit, playing similar festivals and taking BC's spot at a few festivals or the other way around. Alex and Jeremy joke about it. I'm not quite sure if it is a myth or not, but I've heard multiple ruminations about it. Certain festivals not dedicated to a specific genre of film might only program, say for example, two horror of sci-fi films when in fact more would certainly be worthy. Balancing a program and creating an identity for a festival obviously factor in to these decisions so I see why such a theory is given merit.

Leaving Sloss, I warmed up to the Axis Chemical's comparison Alex made. I've been holding back a little here out of journalistic objectivity, but this iron pour was rather awesome! I felt like I left with a permanently deformed smile on my face.

That night we dined with filmmakers from Kamp Katrina, The Paper, Jeremy and a few jurors and festival staffers, all delightful people who we corrupted with a game where we re-imagine songs in a scatological manner. I'll get into more detail on this later...or maybe not.

That night, I watched The Ten, directed by David Wain. From the creators/actors/comedians behind The State, it was on the whole a very funny series of sketches united by the theme of the Ten Commandments. The animated story in the film was the biggest miss in my eye and there was an audibly louder applause and hooting for Michael Ian Black's brief appearance as a prison guard. As it was the opening night film, it was held at Birmingham's majestic theater palace, The Alabama. Unfortunately for movie lovers, this theater's bread and butter is everything but movies, suffering the same fate our beloved Fox. You take it where you can get it, they say. That notwithstanding, I was so giddy to be back in the festival milieu taking in films and being around filmmakers and film lovers. So many were in attendance because Sidewalk is nearly top-dog in the hospitality department, flying down filmmakers and lodging them on the festival dime. It's fantastic. We live a quick two hours away and they offered to fly us over.

We ended the evening with a nice little loft party at Rachel Morgan's, the other lead programmer. She had a tiny little projector showing Short Circuit and The Class of 1984, which was released in 1982 for some reason. I guess they were aiming for dystopia. Michael J. Fox looks very young in the film...and tubby. Blood Car screens tomorrow at 945pm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Goodbye Myrtle Street

I saw Superbad recently at Atlanta's Atlantic Station, a place that if you look at it, you might say, "This place should be haunted." I stayed for the end credits, which I used to do unilaterally, but I regret to say that tradition buckled under the weight of PJ's Rings' Trilogy of endurance-testing credit scrolls. As I was watching the montage of penis drawings, I felt a sense of pride come over me. That sentence probably hasn't been uttered too often, but there was something special about seeing crude drawings getting laughs in the cinema. The first thought that jumped into my head was, "Hey, we've done that." I don't mean to suggest that Apatow+CO aped anything related to BC, as I'm sure nasty little drawings as comic relief go back to the silent era. No, I saw some dots and I connected them. No revelations, no epiphanies this night - just a couple different movies with nasty, funny drawings.

Ralph Goings drew one of the early sketches for the Lorraine character by the way.

I attended the Atlanta Underground Film Festival a while back for the midnight screening of Blood Car. We lazily promoted a 'Dress As Your Favorite Character' contest in connection with the screening, but I didn't notice anyone dressed up for the film. Our screening coincided with Professor Morte's Silver Scream Spook Show at the Plaza, so many people were dressed up as sexy ghouls and creatures of the night. 1960s B-movie Jason and the Argonauts was on the silver scream downstairs. Unfortunately, BC does not feature any members of the undead community nor any centaurs, three-headed dogs, or skeletons. Had we brought any signed posters or unsigned t-shirts, we would have given them away to those folks who at least dressed up as something. The disappointment continued when I think one person suggested to me that the only thing that was missing was a t-shirt cannon, also known as a bleacher reacher. Our marketing team must be on vacation.

With fall gaining on us, we have a number of premieres forthcoming, including Texas, Canada, New York, South America and Rome, GA, which just happened. Having halted our submission process, it's safe to call this the beginning of the end of our film festival run, but the beginning of the beginning of our theatrical run. It begins in the evergreen state in the city of Olympia of all places on Oct. 6 at 9pm and where it will end we may never know. According the Olympia, WA Visitor's Bureau website, the ghost of a janitor killed in an explosion at the Capitol Theater may still haunt the aisles. It also states that the Capitol Theater denies this.

So, let's take one last look at our festival batting average. We may hear from another festival or two in which case I'll adjust, but until then, as Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal would insist, "Let's do the numbers." 64 submission. 36 rejections. 28 acceptances*. No, the asterisk does not allege that Alex may have juiced while using It refers to the Denver Film Festival, which we were accepted to, but because our DVD release precedes our screening date there, it violates a policy they have against showing films that have been released on DVD. Since we were accepted, I've kept it in that column. We've ended the season with an astonishing .438. Ted Williams eat your heart out. Wow!

Even bigger news, I suppose, is that BC will soon become a palindromic acronym. It's an ending so many films meet and so many do not, something so commonplace but so coveted at the same time. TLA, our distributor, is the home for films such as Meatball Machine (great title!), The Girls of Tattoo U, and Naked Boys Singing! The Movie. They've been generous enough to give us great freedom in designing the cover for the DVD and with the extra features, which are special endowments for film lovers like ourselves. I eagerly anticipate seeing the 60 minute behind the scenes video Alex has been editing together. eDVD retailers have begun to post adverts for the film on their websites and we hope good reviews proceed the actual street date, which is November 6th. On that day we will also celebrate Mike Nichols' birthday and the anniversary of the Sex Pistols' first concert.

You can do a few things to help us promote the DVD release of Blood Car. They may seem insignificant, but I assure you they are not. ONE: RATE THE FILM ON IMDB.COM. 76 people have done so thusfar. On myspace, we have over 12,000 friends. Such a 'rich get richer-poor get poorer' brand of disparity probably shocks you, so register with and rate our film. TWO: RATE THE FILM'S TRAILER ON YOUTUBE AND MYSPACE. THREE: MAKE BLOOD CAR ONE OF YOUR TOP FRIENDS. FOUR: RATE OUR FILM ON FLIXSTER.

If you're short on BC press related infotainment, please scroll down to the comments section of the BC myspace page and watch the Rule Hollywood episode covering BC. It features Adam P. looking like he's the Che Guevara of Agnes Scott College talking about the making of the film.

In a few weeks, I'll be moving out of the apartment that has been my home since 2003. I have many wonderful memories of this brick and white-shuttered nest in midtown Atlanta. Hugh and Alex shared number 3 while Adam and I shared number 4. Here, we gave birth to the golden age of Fake Wood Wallpaper's Beardman series. We celebrated Xmas together. No history class will ever survey the events of this puny, cloistered building, but that will not mitigate it's gravity. It was here that I really came to know the men and women who would shape my life, tastes, and views during those formative years, unexpected as that may sound to them. Our dueling apartments came to serve as the braintrust not only for FWW, but for Blood Car. Number 3 became our production office and the set of Archie's apartment. The current residents have a large dog and a cat that resembles Alex's former feline, Lupus, whose whereabouts remain unaccounted for. To be grandiose, it was our little Factory.

I learned something from a book of film criticism about Michelangelo Antonioni years ago. It seems like I learned everything I know about the cinema from him. Anyway. The locations depicted in his films often serve as metaphors or reflections of the characters' lives or emotional states. When I walk away from here the last time, I hope that whenever I smile, one will still be able to see this drab ten unit apartment complex on my 27 year old (and counting) face. Goodbye Myrtle Street. Goodbye.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Clean Up

As I was cleaning up my bedroom a few weeks ago, I found a Blood Car souvenir underneath an unread autobiography of filmmaker Sam Fuller: the blood towel. Prior to the production of BC, this towel was created to cleanse me of the gallons of blood in which I was to be submerged. They made the mistake of giving me this towel and I thought it was so neat that I decided to keep it at my apartment. So, the towel has never been used. Thinking back, no one ever asked me for the towel. I guess no one knew about it except whoever made it (Gretchen or Stephanie) and I. Thinking it would make a great tapestry...

We recorded a commentary track last week for the Blood Car. That sounds pretty exciting, and it was, but we approached it knowing that we would record several and collect the best pieces from each for the final track. The commentators consisted of Alex O., Adam P., Katie R. and myself. We watched the film on DVD and recorded our comments with two microphones (one of which was Bob Barker style) onto the ubiquitous P2 cards of a Panasonicam. Adam and Alex did most of the talking with Katie and I contributing the occasional anecdotes and sidebars. I think it's probably better when there are fewer people, so they have to talk more. Some topics we covered included Hawmi, characters/subplots in the script but not in the film, Lorraine's and Archie's t-shirts, the classroom blackboard, who wrote what scenes and lines, the weather, cinematic influences, the screwing couple found on Craig's list, the history of Archie's bike and we hope many other answers and clarifications to all the BC curiosities. Undoubtedly, some of these topics and stories will end up on the commentary track cutting room floor. I'd like to have a go at the commentary by myself. I think we all should.

In other news, Blood Car is still on the market. Compared to some of our festival myspace peers like Great World of Sound, Silver Jew, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Monster Camp and Murder Party, we currently hold the greatest number of myspace friends, totaling 10,195 at the time of this writing. No one really comes close here. Nice job, Mr. Orr. One of these friends deserves mention here. Off and on, I surf through the comments on the BC myspace page, sifting through the shameless self-promoting adds for real comments about the film. I found one from Nicky B., a 17 year old guitar player from the island of Guernsey off the coast of Normandy in the English channel. He trekked into Paris for the European Independent Film Festival back in March and ended up at a screening of Blood Car. From what I can gather from his comment, it seems like he made the 234 mile trip for the festival intending to see the film. Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables living on the island of Guernsey. It is also home to some megalithic art, large upright stones of the Stonehenge variety thought at various times to have been used by Druids for human sacrifice, for calenders, as territorial markers or as some sort of ideological marker. If you want to get into a hot debate about European prehistory, read up and start making reckless comments and you're sure to piss some people off. Guernsey is also proud of their cows.

We have a few film festivals coming up in August that I am planning on attending, at least the one in the smallest state in the union. With the information I have, our current festival BA is .366, which is a slight increase over last time. Margin of error: +/- .20

A new credit sequence for the film is supposedly in the works. Georgia State University, our "nourishing mother", contacted us recently about doing an article about us for the alumni magazine. We happily obliged them with a photo shoot on a blue screen studio at the university. We wore suits and held bags of potato chips in the photo. Katie R. wore a wonderful pant suit that I wish I had photographed. Unfortunately, we may not see it because it showed just a little bit of skin; hardly any, if you ask me, but the photographer seemed to think GSU wouldn't go for anything risque. They have obviously not seen Blood Car.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Tale from Interzone

I spent exactly 24 hours in Jacksonville, FL this past weekend for the film festival down there, now in its fifth year. Adam P. and I drove down hoping to catch a glimpse of the wildfires that have been ravaging south Georgia, but instead we became engulfed in one of our own. The trip reminded me of Naked Lunch, a book I've read twice; not out of pleasure, but out of a deep need to comprehend and distill its freewheeling prose and structure. I keep replaying the events of Jacksonville in my head over and over, expecting to see bodily fluids selling newspapers to communists and insects selling their thoraxes on the NYSE. Even though I never saw those things, I did see what they represent - the abstract, the allegorical. The trip will forever remain that for me - abstract, like a Jackson Pollack painting or a paragraph of Burroughs. Something splattered on a wall or a page.

That is not to say I cannot recollect the day in concrete terms. Adam and I hit the road early and made the trip in five hours flat, violating posted speed limits and leaving a scar of interstate in our wake. Jacksonville welcomed us with the grand Saint Johns River, conquered by bridges, but flowing in the cardinal direction North like Egypt's legendary Nile. River nerds might clamor at this and say rivers do not flow north or up, but only down.

At the JFF, each filmmaker is designated a 'host', an ambassador for the film festival who kindly drives you to venues and handles any and all personal needs. Jacksonville Mike was Alex's host and we attached ourselves to him. I don't know if Alex filled out some questionnaire about what kind of host he would like to have at this festival, but we couldn't have been any luckier unless it was Wong Kar-wai. Let me revise a famous Taxi Driver tag line: On every street in every city, is a somebody who loves movies who dreams of meeting someone else who loves movies. If we had a list, we could check off the city of Jacksonville.

Alex had arrived a few days earlier for the festival's opening. He said only five or six filmmakers were in attendance. I don't know if Jon Waters was included in that stat, but rest assured, he was there, too. Fate reared its beautiful head and reunited us with Cullen H. of Cinequest/Monster Camp fame and M. Tully of Sarasota/Silver Jew fame. A silver Jew is a Jewish person with blond hair, real blond hair. I met him briefly in Sarasota, but it was a pleasure to chat with a real NYC cinephile.

Blood Car was written up in the local entertainment magazine, eu, and given a complimentary, if occasionally backhanded, recommendation. It twice deemed the movie hilarious, but called the acting "ridiculously obnoxious". You can read it in its entirety here by clicking on the JFF Guide.

Like every film festival, JFF had parties. Grey Goose sponsored an extravagant party in a gutted library right downtown. We went to a party before that where we played the pitch game, in which we tried to pitch movie ideas to complete strangers. A winner is typically determined by a few factors, but mainly completion of the pitch. This entertained us for a while. After that, the rest of the night was a bit of a mess. I arrived at the screening of BC late because I couldn't find a ride to the theater(far away) and had to call a taxi. Somehow I left my cell phone in the cab and had to spend the entire screening and Q&A tracking it down. This is a photo right after I realized where I had left my phone. Alex is trying to comfort me by flashing the ATL sign and saying, "At least you didn't leave it in A-town." What you don't see is the audience through the wall on the left laughing their heads off at BC. We placed second in the audience award for the festival with only one screening of our film. Many other films had two screenings.

I've gone on to sum up this trip with this statement, which embarrasses me: "While I was there, the only time I stepped into a movie theater was to use the bathroom." True story.

In other news, the blood car used in the film was impounded last week. Alex parked it on my street, Archie's street, because parking is limited at his apartment complex. Several days later it was gone, probably due to expired tags. Now, the city of Atlanta has the Blood Car in an impound lot. They don't even realize what they're sitting on - the power, the knowledge, the invention. It's like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can only hope that one day, when gas prices really are $40/gallon and nobody drives anymore and impound lots become car graveyards, that a couple of randy teenagers pry open that rundown Honda and screw to their heart's content in the backseat. I hope...I hope.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Atlanta to Maryland: The Last Colony to the 6th

Our 2nd screening at the Atlanta Film Festival arrived much quicker than expected. Less than 18 hours after Thursday's platinum sellout, it drew an eclectic mix of young, old and middle-aged moviegoers to its sunny 515pm start time. Two wild ladies showed up who had attended the night before, invoking the spirit of Rocky Horror without playing dress-up. Apparently, such devoted mimicry needs time to develop.

The actual Blood Car, now more an embodiment of independent filmmaking than of disturbed sociopathic violence, sat cooking under the southern sun all afternoon. The poster we tacked up in the windshield nearly peeled off. Wrinkles seemed to develop in the hood and chassis almost overnight. 'Twas dreary to behold. Fairly soon, we'll have to organize a not for profit campaign to save the car that brought us to the Atlanta Film Festival and beyond. As if flattering the car's dilapidated state, the projection at our Friday screening left much to be desired. The film had to be restarted after an incorrect aspect ratio issue and poor picture sharpness. But worst of all was the color balancing of the projection system, which egregiously rendered the red blood of the title card "Blood Car" a Barney the dinosaur purple.

Alex was furious and we were disappointed. Following several attempts on Alex O.'s part to address the problem with the help of AFF volunteers, the decision was made to let the film continue. We let off steam upstairs in the filmmaker's lounge shooting pool and having drinks, but thanks to Hugh B., who stayed to watch the film, we received text message updates that reassured us, "Crowd laughing." We returned to the theater to conduct the Q&A. We were quite warmed up for this one because of an extended interview with up and coming film mag Short End Magazine prior to the screening. No photographers or sellout crowds this time, though we did have a strong showing for a challenging slot. It nevertheless was a marked difference from the previous night. Poor 515pm. It can never grow up. It will never be 9pm or 10pm. The Peter Pan of screening times.

Nothing too wild followed. In fact, we acted much more sedated at AFF than our previous two festivals, which I believe is directly correlated to the 'out of town' factor. We didn't cut loose nearly as much, at least I didn't. Cinequest and Sarasota imbued us with the confidence of master criminals, but in Atlanta everyone knew us already so if we tried to break the law, we'd be apprehended much more easily. But what I continue to notice from festival to festival is the recurrence of various films and how it resembles a club, one I wish existed in high school. I was in the French club but never attended one meeting. It's a film festival club upon which we unknowingly stumbled, but will now desperately seek out. The great indie films travel the circuit. At first glance, this repetition might seem slack, but it feels quite the opposite. It brings these filmmakers and their films together. I missed many films in Sarasota because I knew I could catch them in my hometown. I regret missing a number of AFF's programming triumphs; Protagonist, for instance.

But Atlanta's closing brought what felt like the first leg of our festival run to a close. The culmination was the unforgettable Thursday night. You can only find that kind of support at home. We've been on the circuit since March. Only two months have passed. Winter was the pupa stage and now spring ushers in adulthood. A greater question might be how many legs there are to a festival run? Alex leaves for the Maryland Film Festival tomorrow morning, and had I known how good the program was up there I might have made an effort to attend. It's his first solo festival trip, but it won't be his last as the perks of being a film's director include free flights and hotel rooms. Anna C. will be traveling down from NYC to meet him so he won't be all on his own which should assuage your fears. Southern boys in the big city occasionally meet a Joe Buck fate, but Alex is a bit more street smart than Voight's gigolo hayseed incarnate.

.342 - Believe it or not. I don't remember what our festival BA was last time, but this is assuredly an increase over it.

Two dynamite slide shows of photos of BC at AFF can be found at and Kudos to the photographers. And there's a special gem on CinemATL's website for anyone who missed the Thursday night BC screening. Click here and you'll find video footage with memorable snippets of our screening in Atlanta and of me announcing my candidacy for President of the United States of America in 2008.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Atlanta Film Festival - Lines Movies Make

The AFF blimp, a beacon of independent film, was restored to its rightful owner yesterday - the Atlanta skyline.

Though tonight was our Atlanta premiere, the day began rather quietly in contrast to the bustle that would follow that night. It rained. I saw last year's Palme d'Or winner, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. I updated the FWW site with our screening information.

Our day-of-screening promotional approach for AFF differed a bit from the past two fests. We didn't stand outside the theater right before showtime like carnival barkers trying to pull in the cinematically undecided. Our weapon of choice for Atlanta was email and myspace, targeted at family, friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends. It seemed to work because when we arrived around 8pm for our 10pm screening, there were only about 50 seats left out of 300(not 350 as originally reported).

Alex drove THE blood car used in the film to the theater and parked it right in front. Blake M., our FX man from the film, came out and reinstalled the blade that chops up human beings so they can be readily converted into a combustible fuel. We left the trunk open so passersby could see the trunk where so many promising souls met their makers in the film. Typically, you might think this would be the beginning of a rather wild publicity act to promote the film, e.g., we dress in old tuxedos and coax you into undergoing a questionnaire and some minor tests and we determine what your personal mpg would be if you were fed to the blood car. World's Fair/EXPO material if you asked me, which the US has not hosted since NOLA in 1984.

We all hung out at the Independent, which moonlights as the Filmmaker's Lounge during the day(providing free Stella to badgeholders) and is located above the theater, as the line formed for the premiere. That night, it should have been renamed Cheers. Familiar faces all around plus many new ones. Friends dragged their friends. The sky went dark. The moon went red. The line lengthened. I'm quite glad the rain subsided because then the experience of seeing a roller-coaster sized line for BC would not have happened. I felt nothing but overwhelming joy at the sight of this. I wish I could amputate pieces of each film festival we've hitherto attended and combine them into a Blood Car frankenstein's monster. The fact that we enjoyed a bird's eye view of the line form only magnified how impressive it was. My small digicam's flash doesn't have much throw, but even a panoramic camera couldn't have contained the line. It reminds me of a 360 degree picture I once saw from the top of Mt. Everest, which to Nepalese natives is known as 'the forehead of the world'. Humans are lucky to have binocular vision because that necessitates moving around to see everything. I couldn't see the entire line from one place. It was that long.

During the pre-screening gathering, Alex O. was in the theater with the festival and projection staff to ensure the film received the best possible exhibition, which this time around was off digibeta instead of HD. Alex considered renting an HD deck himself for the screening, but for some reason, that was not permitted. He was quite concerned about it because there had been several problems with the projection and audio at films throughout the festival. Great World of Sound, which Alex worked on, ironically, had some stinging audio problems during its first screening. Satisfied, he joined us in the lobby and people were ushered into their seats and the final 50 tickets were bought and sold. As in San Jose, it was a complete sellout! Festival volunteers toted in benches to accommodate more patrons. I recognized so many faces. Friends we hadn't seen in ages turned up with new jobs, new watches and even wives to see the film. Not one protestor.

I wanted to watch the film with the hometown audience and I did. We all did and we all enjoyed it like it was new. Hugh B. and Adam P. usually watch it. Katie and Tony and I watch it often, but perhaps not as frequently. Alex usually does not watch it, but he did tonight...most of it anyway. We also decided to resurrect my presidential speech from Cinequest for this screening because of the hometown crowd and the whole blimp business.

Alex saw one woman walk out of the film and look a little troubled. He approached her and thanked her for attending, stating that, "I know the film isn't for everyone." He said she seemed really bothered by the film and said the film needed a disclaimer about the content and that she didn't know the film contained pornography/pornographic material.

Most people stuck around for the Q&A. We were able to recognize a number of the crew members who worked on the film for their efforts, which was gratifying. The tone of the Q&A continues to be a balance of behind the scenes stories and stand-up jokes. Robert P., production designer, whose mother was in the audience, joined us on stage during the Q&A. I don't think the mic was ever passed his way, but several design/FX questions were asked. We threw out a few t-shirts and wrapped it up. Afterwards, down under the screen, we were mobbed and tried to carry on as many conversations at the same time as possible. It's difficult because you want to talk to everyone, but you basically have to conduct McConversations.

I was so proud to see such support for the film. Thank you to everyone who attended and expressed their kinds words about the film. I apologize to everyone who I did not have a chance to speak with and thank personally for spending your Thursday night with us. I promise you all that you will spend another Thursday night with us sometime soon, in a movie theater, with a big screen, watching a Fake Wood Wallpaper film.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Atlanta Film Festival - The Sith Philosophy

Transitioning from the Sarasota Film Festival to the 31st Atlanta Film Festival equates to a car decelerating. Overall, AFF is much smaller than SFF, but it promised to be much bigger for Blood Car. It's like being Harry Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life and Atlanta is our Bedford Falls. Friends and family, colleagues and enemies are slated to arrive in great numbers, enthused and raving for the Atlanta Premiere of Blood Car. True, we've showed the film here before, but that was an exclusive cast and crew screening. I am proud that we are part of this festival.

Arriving home from one festival during the spring of another also brought home certain realities about the film festival circuit. Initially, I marked my calender with a couple of films every day, but I quickly had to drop that to 1/day. I was festival-ed out and I was forced to act like an adult and balance responsibilities with movies, the north and south poles of a magnet. I picked up my pass on Sunday afternoon, April 22. No swag at this festival, but the pass was the flash kind - you flash it to a volunteer and they admit you to the theater.

At the registration table, Linda B. commented, "Did you hear about the blimp?" I said, "Blimp? No." She proceeded to describe to me one of the more expensive of AFF's promotional materials which was a sleek, blue, inflatable, helium-filled mini-blimp(not a zeppelin, which is a rigid airship) with the festival's name and dates on it. I inquired about it and she said it was stolen off the top of a nearby business(pictured here) in protest of the AFF's screening of Blood Car. Obviously, I was in some state of disbelief about this, given it was our first encounter with any sort of protest against the film based on politics. These anti-Blood Car protesters also taped their theft and posted it on youtube. Originally, these former enduring freedomers planned on organizing a protest in which they would "keep people out of the theater by force if necessary." Apparently, he thought more drastic actions were necessary. The orchestrator of the entire operation is a man named Ron, who writes a blog entitled, 'Are you the enemy?'. His motto is a variation on a well-known one, going back as far as the New Testament which reads "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." Ron's reads, "Either you're with us're the enemy." Now President Bush has said this a few times, but I think the most famous use of this phrase is in the George Lucas film Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Anakin Skywalker, later adopting the Sith name Darth Vader, utters the line to Obi-Wan, to which he cleverly responds, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." What is my point? Is George W. Bush a Sith lord? Is the man who stole the blimp a Sith lord? I'll post this evidence on a Star Wars message board and let them be the ultimate arbiters of this case. The event really galvanized members of the AFF and the Atlanta Film community and many other anonymous-ers. It's actually an interesting discussion to read. As I wrote this, I read that the blimp has been returned. I'm a little disappointed he caved in to good sense.

I've kept up my 1 film a day pledge and lucked out so far with winners. They are: Killer of Sheep, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Great World of Sound, and Zoo. I've also been riding Archie's bike to the theater almost every day. It's on the left. Alex's work postering the town has paid off as people comment again and again about seeing posters at a mishmash of businesses. One particular business down the street from me flaunts a poster at a busy intersection and it must have closed down right after the poster went up. I hope the poster manifests itself for months to come, even as the building is demolished.

Yesterday, Alex, Adam, Katie and I were invited for an interview on Emory University's internet radio station, WMRE. Clever, huh. Our host DJs were Rueben M.(left) and Ed. M(right), two young students filled with verve. We gave Rueben and Ed t-shirts and posters, a caller two free tickets to Thursday's screening, and anybody who was listening an earful of vitriolic, off color jokes. Since very few people seemed to be listening and it was their last broadcast before the semester's conclusion, the floodgates blew open and the rest was like a bad dream. I had a wonderful time and laughed quite a bit. When we told our hosts about the teen who fainted during the film in Sarasota, Rueben commented that the last film to do that was The Passion of the Christ. Another club BC can add below its photo in the 2007 yearbook.

There are approximately 700 seats available for seeing Blood Car at the AFF. Tomorrow, Thursday, you have less than 350 opportunities to see the film. Friday, you also have less than 350 opportunities to see the film. Come out and support our film, independent film, the Atlanta Film Festival and most of all...cinema. I hope to see you with one of these in your hands tomorrow. (Note: Hey Coca-Cola. This isn't They Live. Give it a rest.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sarasota Film Festival - In closing

Looking back, I regret that I wasn't able to blog from 'the emerald city' of Sarasota each and every day as I did in San Jose. As a result, I don't think I was able to fully come to terms with the experiences of that trip and concomitant film festival. There's a void, Jerry, a void. A deep yawning chasm. Pictures are worth thousands of words and I've selected a few to sum up the trip.

No1. The SFF doled out merchandise vouchers to all attending filmmakers, which could be redeemed for a variety of items. They mistakenly gave me two, so I went home with one t-shirt and these sandals. I am rarely afforded the opportunity to spend a week without wearing shoes. Thank you Sarasota.

No2. I snapped this photo not in honor of Wachovia, but in honor of Jacques Tati's Playtime, which screened at SFF as part of the Architecture series in glorious 35mm. His film may not change your life, but it will change the way you see; and not just the way you see buildings. Until this film is as well known as Jaws, I'll consider it lost. I saw two other classic films during my Sarasota trip, of which only The Flowers of St. Francis is worth spending time watching.

Nos3-4. The next two deal tangentially with Blood Car. I snapped this photo of a UPS truck just on a whim, but today I read in Time magazine that UPS is nearly complete in its mission to phase out all left turns by its drivers to reduce carbon emissions which accumulate quite rapidly while idling at traffic lights. Astonishing. How do I know this driver is making a left turn? If he was making a right turn, the picture would be a brown blur...because the truck would be moving, not idling. Next we have a traffic update from Sarasota. I hope someone forgot to change the 'Year to date" numbers. If not, Sarasota on pace for record breaking fatality statistics.

In's a word association of things I didn't blog about: gelato, Archie's children, Noah, little hamburgers, Ellen Barkin, celebrity near-misses, Paris, Je t'aime, Ray Tintori and Death to the Tinman, Alex Ott, Swedish Weekend, time crisis, ms. pac man, talkative old people who ruin afternoon movies, film festival Bob, Of Montreal, autographs, trolleys, blondie, Jackie Treehorn's doppelganger house.

No5. Dear Sarasota, we hope to be back next year.