In a red Volvo station wagon, Hugh, Emmi, Katie, Adam and I departed Atlanta just after 5am for the resort city of Sarasota. Having spent a few great years of my youth riding in my parents station wagon(a woodie) with its long bench seats and commodious trunk space, I couldn't help but compare that wagon with its modern day Swedish counterpart. Our ride was like a pair of tight fitting CKs whereas my parents ride was like a pair of sweatpants. Here is a picture from the road.
We played a car game called "Numbers." In this game, you basically have to count as a group as fast as you can. It sounds simplistic, maybe even Neanderthalic, but it's actually quite fun. While we laughed and drove by the stinky chicken farms, Alex was in the air. The festival paid for his plane ticket and he wanted to arrive early to poster the town with BC. The drive took 7 hours after subtracting a one hour Cracker Barrel stop.
Sarasota is the town that the Ringling family built so gaudy statues of clowns line the streets. Jerry Springer, Stephen King and Brian Johnson of AD/DC all have homes here, in addition to the thousands of snowbirds who migrate here during the north's frigid winter months. The Sarasosta Film Festival is one of highest attended and well financed festivals in the United States and some say the world. Mercedes is a sponsor and provides a fleet of 14 cars to the festival for its transportation needs. You just call up the transportation coordinator and tell them where you are and they'll send one of these luxury vehicles to pick you up and take you wherever you need to go.
When we first arrived in San Jose for Cinequest, I described it as a Blood Car kind of town. I didn't expect to say the same thing about Sarasota until I saw the front page of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Alex corroborated this because while we were on the road, he put up a BC poster in nearly every shop on Main St.
They also have recommended attire for the parties that are held every evening after the films. For the Opening Night Gala last night, upscale evening wear was suggested. Before we left Atlanta, Alex, Hugh and I went shopping for suits in Little Five Points and at Ragorama I found a stunning 3 piece cream polyester suit. Alex couldn't find a suit so he went to Macy's and bought a $200 Hugo Boss suit he plans on returning after the festival.
We dolled up for the Opening Night Film and Gala and made our way to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's studio and conceived based on a shell his wife found. We arrived early and met Geraldine, a member of the PR staff for the festival. In her enchanting voice, she invited us to walk down the red carpet before the film began. It was the beginning of a series of bizarre experiences at the Sarasota Film Festival. Flashbulbs went off all around us, microphones were shoved in our faces. Even though the red carpet was only fifteen feet long, it was a frenzy.
In the Shadow of the Moon was the opening night film and I was the only person of BC who seemed to really like the film. I'm a great lover of the moon so the mounds of archival footage was quite a treat. NASA turned Buzz and Neil into filmmakers, strapping cameras to the their chests for their first steps on the moon. And those cameras were not little. They poked out nearly a foot from the outside of their spacesuits and would probably give you a bloody nose if you jumped around. A Q&A followed with the film's director and the sixth man on the moon, Edgar Mitchell, moderated by one of the festival's great programmers, Tom Hall.
Our next stop was bizarre experience number 2, the party. I guess parties in Hollywood are like this all the time. The only things that seemed to be missing were hard drugs and I attribute that to the older, respectable demographic of Sarasota. Words like 'extravagant' were invented for events like this. It was held at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, a palatial, sprawling museum once owned and lived in by the circus king of America. In the center in the very back of this picture is a replica of Michaelangelo's David. Live band. Free champagne. Open bar...at least six of them. And this bar wasn't just open, it was gaping. Free food and if you think I'm talking about cocktail weenies and cheeseball(which I love) then you're wrong. Think sushi, hundreds of jumbo shrimp, raw oysters, maduros, Cuban sandwiches, a gigantic veggie table and more. For dessert, servers seemed to float around like angels handing out mini-cups of Dippin' dots. I am not lying. Dippin' dots. Stephen King couldn't make this up. I thought the moon was a far away place, but this event made me feel like I was in a different cosmos. It was wonderful. Katie and Adam chatted for a while with Elias Koteas, who has a film in the festival. They kept referring to him as Casey Jones, who he embodied in the live action TMNT years ago. We also met a really cool individual named Ryan O'Neal who looks like Jack White and the lead singer of My Chemical Romance had a baby. His girl, Rachel, works for the festival and has championed our film.
After the party wound down, we moved to chez Ryan and Rachel and stayed up until five am talking about BC and many other topics which I cannot recall. They have two of the largest and loudest cats I've ever met. When they woke us up at a quarter to eight in the morning, we decided to cab it back to our hotel and sleep. While we were in the cab, Alex invited our driver to our first screening that night, as it was now Saturday. He said to her, "If you show up, I'll dedicate the film to you." She had heard about the film and said she would. We'll see if she shows.
I made a few resolutions for this festival based on my Cinequest experience. One: Eat three square meals a day.(Broken on the first day) Two: Not stay up partying until dawn.(Broken on the first day) Three: Do not injure myself. (Depending on how you look at it, I've either kept this one or broken it. For my own moral support, I'll say I've kept it.
This is what Adam looked like driving home after staying up all night.