What’s Actually Happening – March 3
I feel bad. I feel guilty. Because I started this blog about a year ago at Justina’s (my wife) urging and I was into it and writing fun stuff that was behind the scenes and naming some names and taking some artistic licenses and people were starting to follow it and pay attention to what was actually going on in my life with the stuff that I do.
Then I kept getting busier and busier. Which you would think would make it more and more interesting except that I stopped the actual blogging stuff and just posted press releases and interviews and movie reviews. Which I want everyone to see but that isn’t the point, is it? If I’m asking you to check into this damn thing then I should make it worth your while.
So, I’m taking another stab at it. Because there is A LOT happening and a lot happening with me wearing various different hats. So I’m going to try and stop being a perfectionist with the prose and just start delivering some goods – rough on the edit edges or not.
So, here’s some stuff to look forward to:
DALLAS International Film Festival. I’m into it BIG TIME. We’re like five weeks out or something and there’s great, exciting stuff and there’s “what the hell?!” stuff and there’s a lot of praying – to uhmmm…no one in particular. Because that’s how it works in film festival land. AND, this is the first year with no AFI involvement. Training wheels are off, baby! And I just might throw in some thoughts later as to why I believe that was a HUGE mistake on their part. I’ll give you a hint: It’s the “vision” thing. Or lack of it.
SXSW (or South by Southwest Film Festival for those of you that need this shit spelled out – literally). I’ll be covering the film festival for Movie City News, like I just did for the Sundance Film Festival. And once again, I’ll try to write about every damn thing that happens to me so you’ll have an idea of what the experience is like. Of course, you’ll have to go to Movie City News to read it, since Dave Poland promotes the fact that I’m reporting/writing/reviewing for him, so he’s kind of like you to read it on his pages instead of mine. And since I would kind of like him to pay me for doing that…it works for me.
FESTWORKS. At Sundance, Rose Kuo (Artistic Director), Robert Koehler (Director of Programming and film critic extraordinaire, David Rogers (Festival Producer) and myself joined forces to form our own version of a film festival super group. Hopefully, less like Asia and more like Derek and the Dominoes. But with less heroin and more staying power. Anyway, we all left AFI after beating the odds and the house with AFI FEST last year (if you know what I mean and if you don’t….well, I’ll talk about that at some point too, I’m sure) because we love film festivals in a way that we want them all to be the best damn things ever. And we think we can help various ones do that. Sometimes, it will be just some simple consulting, some times it will be us recommending some kick-ass person we know would be great for the job and a great fit and sometimes will swarm the place, roll up the sleeves and bust our asses side-by-side with the teams in place to make something work. Anyway, I’ll be announcing the first “official” project soon and it will be very, very cool.
STRIPPED. The movie. My first feature film as a director. And the first feature film for Justina and myself as producers. It’s a post-feminist horror film. Three guys on a birthday outing talk their way into the wrong house with the wrong women inside. Think TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or THE DEVIL’S REJECTS with a “family” of women orchestrating the proceedings…
We are scheduled to shoot this thing at the end of May going into June and as much experience as I have doing various jobs in front of and behind the camera and watching as many films as I do and working with as many filmmakers at the film festivals as I do – well, there is a HUGE learning curve with this thing every single day. Producers on the film include one of the guys responsible for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake and the other producer has cool-ass films like David Lowery wonderful ST. NICK and current SXSWers EARTHLING and AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK under his belt. We already have the horror dynamo known as Tiffany Shepis on board as well as Samrat Chakrabarti, an Indian actor that despite an amazing international filmography we’re getting on the ground floor with because various dumbasses haven’t cast the guy in some weird-ass network sci-fi series where a strange incident has tied a group of random hot people together in a world where truth is false and pretend is sexy….or something like that.
Anyway, Justina and I actually bought the house we’re shooting this thing in. Which I’m living in right now. I’m sleeping in the room that will be inhabited by ‘Crystal’ a hot little sociopath that like the color pink, scrapbooking and uhmmm…cutting things. Our friend Marc Lee is staying in “the killing room.” Fun! So, I’ll clue you into the process as we hurtle along toward the shoot not too unlike one of those test rockets they show in stock footage that would freak you out if you were standing anywhere in the vicinity while it blasts off the blocks and careens not entirely toward its destination.
Here are some fun things about the house: It’s in South Dallas. Which is not a “great” area. But it is a cool two-story four-bedroom place with close to two acres of land and a freeloading horse named “Money” that is taken care of by an old black rodeo guy named “Peewee”. Oh, and we are surrounded by Baptist churches. And a train. One final thing, when we cut the chains that had kept the garage closed since we bought the place we found an old cabinet that had in it (among other things) a bee keepers outfit and smoker, random mason jars with weird stuff in them and two chainsaws! Made to order for Justina and John, the couple that gets romantic when they’re watching OLDBOY.
After that, new stuff that has just come up include doing some stuff with the Texas Frightmare Weekend screenings at the end of April, working with the Las Colinas Studios on a couple projects, possibly the Vision Awards benefit and definitely the Feel Good Film Festival.
I’m sure there is – and will be – more. Because that’s how things have been since January 1st. A very strange year and a very cool year so far.
So stay tuned….
The other night, I was watching Elvis Costello’s Spectacle show and he was interviewing Tony Bennett. At a certain point, Bennett said that when he began singing with big bands like Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Duke Ellington, etc. that the public decided for themselves if they liked a band or a singer versus having a corporation “convince” them that they liked it. In his opinion, the audiences were more savvy, paying attention more to what they were hearing and experiencing and then making the call for themselves as to who they wanted to see and hear more of.
And fifty years later I analyze and re-analyze my part or role in that process when it comes to my stuff. I am, after all, the publicist. So, I am supposed to try and sell the artist, the film, the event, the organization, whatever – to the public, to people, to “you”. But here’s the thing that I feel justifies my efforts (because the thought that I would be considered a flack grosses the hell out of me): I truly and genuinely believe in the need and the worth of each of these film festivals and the filmmakers and their films. And I have very high annual goals and my own “vision” for The Vision Awards show that I produce and a sincere belief in the good and greater potential for positive change that Retinitis Pigmentosa International (the organization it supports) can achieve. I even put some time in on behalf of the comedian Doug Stanhope for awhile last summer because he is smart, and relentless about delivering the unvarnished funny (and I so loathe so much of what is accepted as stand up comedy by people who have been fed a never ending calvacade of witless and canned Comedy Central crap).
So I’m not just selling for selling’s sake. I want everyone to be aware of what’s going on, to hear our side of it, to listen for a moment about why I think it’s worth the time or their attention. No single film is for everyone but there is a film for everyone. After 20 years in this town and 15 years in entertainment PR and television/film production, I’m as cynical as the next person, but there is stuff out there that should be celebrated or at the least be attended. Because, if it goes away it just may NOT come back. That goes for each of the film festivals, it goes for the filmmakers, it even goes to the specific programs within the American Film Institute that benefit film artists and future film artists and film lovers to come.
So, while it wouldn’t seem that I should be, considering my job – I’m with Tony Bennett on this one. Because, while I know I have a tough time just sitting through the trailers for movies like THE SPIRIT, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and BEDTIME STORIES, I know that anyone who experiences a typical film fest screening with a smart Q&A afterwards by the filmmaker will always come back for more.
My job (or jobs – depending on how you look at it) for the American Film Institute, AFI FEST, AFI DALLAS, the Indian Film Festival, Lone Star Film Festival, Feel Good Film Festival and last, but certainly not least – The Vision Awards has required me to increasingly to take on the role of spokesperson. Which honestly, I am happy and sometimes relieved to do because I know exactly what I want to say and what I think people need to know about each of those film festivals, events and organizations. Of course, I’ll hear or watch myself afterwards and appropriately loathe myself for opening my mouth and preaching my happy version of the movie gospel like that too loud guy standing in front of you in any line anywhere in Los Angeles or worse – like that roommate or co-worker or ill-chosen boyfriend or girlfriend you just can’t escape well enough.
And, yet – after the handful of television, radio, and print interviews, panels, Q&As, there is much more to say. And even after hating listening to the sound of my painful earnestness and in the worst cases – obviousness, there is still so much more to say. So now – after a lot of prompting by my wife (a dedicated and much more prolific writer, herself) to begin writing and blogging about what I’m doing and what I’m seeing – from my perspective – well, I’m gonna give it a shot.
And while I won’t always be writing about “work”, a good amount will be about film, filmmakers and the film festival world because the films and filmmakers I give the largest rat’s ass about need as many voices singing their praises and alerting everyone as to their existence as they can get. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin and their wonderful, intimate documentaries like KAMP KATRINA and INTIMIDAD, Jacob Medjuck’s SUMMERHOOD, Johnny Asuncion’s FLOAT, Daniel Stamm’s A NECESSARY DEATH, pretty much everything Bill Sebastian (MIDLOTHIA) has done since I’ve known him, Mo Perkins’ A QUIET LITTLE MARRIAGE, Sabine El Gemayal’s NILOOFAR – there are so many more, but I’ll stop this list for now.
And film festivals – well, in these tough economic times – they are under siege in more than a few ways. Sponsors are going away, and there is a lot of fair weather support out there that is hanging by a thread by small groups of people in each case that see their film festival as just that – theirs. And so they work harder and harder to keep it going and make the next edition better than the last. And they deserve someone shining a light on them too. So here we go….