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.