Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vampire Film Festival 2009 wrap up notes.

Well, this actually took me longer to get to than I thought it would. I've been trying to catch up on my sleep since I returned while also working and getting back into the groove of home life. Needless to say, it's been difficult, especially when I was bombarded at work with the bad things that have happened, and the things that haven't been done, while I've been gone.

Anyway, the main reason I wanted to write a little wrap up is that I wanted to take an opportunity to thank Asif, Karyn, and the entire crew behind the Vampire Film Festival for all of their hard work! This being your first year in a new city, I was surprised you weren't more disorganized, to be perfectly honest, but you pulled it off and it was an amazing experience with a fine crop of films from around the world. If you're a filmmaker reading this and you have something that fits into their programming packages (Vampire, Gothic, and Mythic) I highly recommend submitting this festival and recommend even higher attending it!

I wanted to give a separate shout out to Rene at Zeitgeist for hosting the event! I loved the venue and the sound system is fantastic even taking into consideration the wide openness of the space. Thank you for playing host to a bunch of bloodsucking gothic beasts as us!

Also, I want to say something to my fellow filmmakers! It was fantastic meeting those of you who were there once I felt well enough to join in! Stupid airplane cruds...

And, of course, one cannot forget to thank the city and citizens of New Orleans. The water damage runs deeper than the surface and yet you manage to be open and friendly so long as the tourists abide by their common sense, of course. Support PNOLA, the Red Cross, and any viable charity that will help to revitalize not only the French Quarter, but the areas surrounding the tourist center, the areas where the people who work there live as well as all the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. If we don't help each other up, who will?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Orleans Day Five and the Vampire Film Festival Day the Fourth

This was Monday, the 26th. My 31st birthday. Unlike the majority of women in the US (and possibly the world), I have no problem telling someone my age. I have no problem with the gray hair that's popping up. I've earned every year, every strand, and I'm just as excited about turning 31 as I was about turning 30 or 18 or 10. As such, I decided that I didn't want to spend the entire day at the venue. I wanted to see a couple of the flicks, but also tourist up New Orleans once more before I had to board the plane home the next day.

Goodbye Cafe du Monde and my morning view.

I woke up and had my “usual” breakfast at Riverwalk's Cafe du Monde, facing the Mississippi. After that, because I didn't have all that much time before the first show of the day that I wanted to see, I hung around the warehouse district and walked the Riverwalk Marketplace. Lots of very small shops aimed toward the tourist who either didn't know about the flea market in the French Quarter or had forgotten something there, plus an EB Games and an extremely overpriced t-shirt store. A little disappointing, but at least I got to talk to mon homie Evy on the phone. She decided that I was, indeed, in New Orleans when she heard the brass band in the background, roaming the mall. :D

I had a little time to kill so I walked slowly to the bus stop...and missed the bus. I forgot that the schedule changed pretty drastically from the weekend / Sunday time table to the weekday schedule, but I didn't have to wait too long for the next one. They run every half an hour on the weekdays (if they're on time, which the return bus to downtown wasn't.) So I got the bus to uptown and the venue to watch Strigoi. I saw the trailer for it and it looked like it was going to be fun and used a vampire mythos unfamiliar to most westerners. I'd heard of "Strigoi" before, but wasn't that informed about them previously.

I wanted to like it, but it was mostly dialogue with a little bit of action here and there. The DVD errored in the last ten or fifteen minutes and we didn't get to see the ending. It was pretty easy to figure out based on what we had seen, but still! A big letdown on an already big letdown of a movie I left a little frustrated because that covered two and a half hours of my birthday, of prime daylight in a city where it's really, really not safe to walk around by oneself at night, and then the bus back to downtown was running late and then I got turned around when I got off the bus and wasted another 45 minutes trying to get back to my hotel. I had yet to see the cemeteries or get on a street car and discovered that sundown was in thirty minutes or so from when I'd finally gotten back to my hotel. Ah well...stuff to do on the next trip! So, at that point I just hung around the warehouse district.

I had a lot of time to kill and I did go back to the casino. I spent $25 with no return, which I think was actually very good for me. If I'd left without playing again after my very nice win, I would have kept wondering what would've happened if I HAD played again, blah blah blah. I guess it's a writer thing so I'm very pleased with the outcome.

Since I hadn't yet sampled the culinary prowess of the restaurant attached to my hotel, I decided to return and try it out. Their menu must be new every day because it was a xeroxed, one-sided piece of paper. They had no house salad, so I had some friend green tomatoes (I had better fried green tomatoes in Portland, OR) and this excruciatingly large fried chicken sandwich. I do mean excruciating; it was hard to take a bite! The sandwich was pretty good, though, and their fries were nice. I still had some time to kill before the last film of the festival so I popped up to my room and started to pack up. My flight was at 6 am, but the shuttle was picking me up at 3:55 and the last film of the festival was scheduled to start at 9:30 (moved from 9 to accommodate the vampire dance performance) with the closing night party at 11.

Nine o'clock rolls around and I grab a cab and head to Zeitgeist. The buses were still running, but again with the alone at night in New Orleans thing. Anyway, I walk in and discover that no one was there. I thought that was a bit strange since there was supposed to be a screening of the audience award winning film (Shadowland, as I predicted, and congratulations to Wyatt, Gayle, and Robert on the win!), but I didn't think much about it until Rene mentioned that some people who had shown up for the screening at 9 (and didn't know that the screening time had changed) left. I checked my phone and it was almost a quarter to 10! Eventually, of course, Asif and everyone showed up. At that point, I was zoning out; I'd had four hours of sleep the night before and I was thinking about various stories that I'm working on. Anyone who knows me knows that I get very focused and pretty intense when I'm thinking (which is a lot) so I hardly noticed when the crew came in. They probably all think I'm rude, and I suppose I am, but I'm a writer first and can't help it when I space out.

So we all settle down and start watching Asif's film after Larry Richman's very nice introduction. As far as the theme of the festival is concerned, it doesn't really fit in. And, I'm sorry Asif, but I have to say it: I saw the end coming within five minutes of the start, but that's how I would have ended it if I were writing it so I hope I didn't make you feel bad! The acting was great and it was great to see Patricia Richardson!

After the flick came the wrap party! I didn't want to stay too late just because of the earliness of the pick up and the flight, but I managed to stick around long enough for the group photos and some great conversation and to help them tear down some decorations. I called the cab, said my goodbyes, and went outside to wait for the ride...and felt like a goof as Asif and the crew brought stuff out to their cars and such. Ah well, such is the life of someone waiting for a cab. A couple of people came up to me to comment on my film which made me feel all warm and squishy. They really did like it!

Finally got back to the hotel a little after one in the morning, did a little more packing since I had to fit a surprise into the luggage (it's a present for Rick and in case he happens to read this, I don't want it to be spoiled for him), and managed to catch an hour's worth of sleep before getting up, finishing packing, triple checking the room, and checking out. From there, the return trip was a bit of a whirlwind. I slept through both flights, waking up only for touch down and landing, and was surprised to find that we arrived in Sarasota early considering the President had flown in half an hour previously.

Air Force One!!

Even though I knew he was going to be here, I was still surprised to see his plane and to see just how large Air Force One really is. I didn't get to take a plane comparison picture, but I think the SUV at the foot of the steps is good, too.

That was my trip to New Orleans. Reviews and a wrap up will be coming in the next few days as I catch up on my sleep and other assorted things.

All of the photos from the trip are in one very large collection on my Flickr, the direct link to the NOLA collection can be found here. All of the aquarium and parade photos are in that set and there are quite a bit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Orleans day four; Vampire Film Festival Day the Third

It seems like clockwork this entire weekend that I wake up at around 8 am. Today was more like seven. And it was Sunday so things opened just a little bit later than they would on a Friday or Saturday. So I did a few things online, double checked a few directions, and then remembered that I hadn't yet been to the Aquarium. I went online and checked the hours of operation and it's a good thing I did because they're not open on Mondays. :D

I got dressed, got my morning beignets (too darn good...) then headed over to the Aquarium. I love aquariums and all the neat little fishies and some reptiles and birdies and stuff. I took tons of pictures...I couldn't help myself!

From there, I headed back to the room because, wouldn't you know it, the battery died on my camera. I think the camera wasn't reading the battery's life correctly, but whatever. That means that I have no pictures from the screening or dinner before hand. One of these days, I'll get a photo of the audience and maybe one of the nice filmmakers or the festival will share their photos with me so you all can see how crazy my hair decided to be today. I kept it in a ponytail because it was windy and, Gods, it was a mess by the screening. Since I normally don't pay attention to The Frizz, I didn't even think about it before getting up in front of everyone, but I'm getting ahead of myself again.

So, yeah, left the hotel and tried to catch the bus to Zeitgeist realizing only as I got on the bus that I only had enough dough to get a taxi home. I had my card, sure, but there are quite a few places that don't take cards. I was on the wrong block for the bus I needed, I realized that when I saw 15 instead of 91, but then I found the right stop and the bus showed up only a few minutes later. A few more minutes and I was off the bus and in the Zeitgeist in plenty of time for the 2:00 panel of Vampire Literature. It was a good panel, though I'd never heard of the authors beforehand, but it was informative. Next came the Shoot Louisiana! panel. I'd LOVE to shoot here someday...the architecture, the atmosphere, the neighbourhoods...but the filmmakers, while extremely passionate, made it sound like the state of film production in Louisiana isn't so hot right now due to graft and the fact that the State doesn't support filmmakers with budgets of less than $300,000 (that's the minimum budget required for the tax credits, if I understood them correctly and you have to spend that much to $90,000 back.)

After that was the Film/Literature mixer. I met a filmmaker from Seattle named Jeff whose short, a version of Edgar Allen Poe's Morella, was in the same package as mine, and Maria, whose short film, Blood Sisters, was in the first night's midnight package. She was kind enough to give me a copy since I left early that day due to the Airplane Cruds. I also met the filmmakers of NosferaJew, which was in the same shorts package as Maria, and gave them a card. They said they'd send me a copy as soon as they could. :D

Gayle (producer of Shadowland) gently chided me for not talking more and throwing myself into the proceedings. As long time readers have heard me lament, I'm not so good with the networking thing, not because I'm a snobby filmmaker (I'm a snobbish fan of film, but I don't think I'm better than anyone else), but if I don't have anything to say, I don't say anything at all. Add on to that the being sick for the first two days of the festival and thus leaving before the midnight shorts and still trying to experience New Orleans while I'm here, it was all a bit of a whirlwind that I still wouldn't change for anything!

I also spoke at length with Asif Ahmed, the director of the festival, and Rene Broussard, the owner of the Zeitgeist, and two fine gentlemen to boot, and the Event Director, Karyn Bui, invited me to dinner with herself and Asif. I was joining Asif, Karyn, Jeff, Maria, Larry Richman (a critic and photojournalist from L.A.), and the filmmakers of Shadowland (writer/director Wyatt Weed, executive producer Robert Clark, and producer Gayle Gallagher) and we all went to Coop's Place on Decatur for some authentic local cuisine. Well, I don't eat most of the things on the menu (seafood, rabbit, ham, sausage), so I got a blackened chicken sandwich and a house salad. Delicious all around! It was a bit of a tight squeeze for nine people in there, but it worked and there was a lot of great conversation!

Afterwards, we went to the original Cafe du Monde so people could have some magic wake up juice and sugary goodness so we could all make it through the two shorts packages. I had no room for beignets (figures...there was no line!), but I did have room for a nice hot chocolate. Yummy! Had to cool it down with some water, though. My tongue still feels a little burnt.

We got back to the venue and the place had more people in it than I'd seen all weekend, even keeping in mind that I wasn't there the entire time. Even Jeff said that there were more people for the night programming than he'd seen and he had been pretty firmly ensconced.

The lights are shut off and Gothic Shorts Package 2 starts. First up: Jeff's Morella. I thought it was well done and well shot and his lead, Dennis Kleinsmith, looked very familiar to me. I can't think of where I might have seen him, though, and I haven't seen the films on his IMDb page. Jeff's film, and I find this to be a compliment, had a 70s Argento / Bava look to the composition which I liked a lot. Since he liked my shirt (it was Suspiria, which is a film by Dario Argento), I take it to mean that he understood what I was saying.

There were a few more flicks (more comprehensive reviews coming when I get home tomorrow) and then came my flick! I find it interesting how it plays differently every time I see it in a festival setting. At Indie Gathering, I poked at it a bit, but overall I was just happy for a screening even in spite of no one really showing. In CenFlo, I was having an awesome time watching it with so many people. Here, there were a bunch of people and yet I couldn't stop picking at the flaws and coming up with new ones. There comes a point at which one has to step away from a film and set it free unto the world. Even with my relatively short post-schedule, the only thing that makes me giggle every time (other than how much I love all my cast) is how I had to assemble the fight with the goons. I wanted to do it differently on set, but that was not to be. Ah well! I love the flick, I love everything about it (even that clumsy fight scene), but sometimes one is too overly critical of one's own work.

I saw a couple of people around me shake their hands, like, “What?!” so I became nervous for the Q&A, but also excited. I wanted to hear what they had to say! Well, the two I saw didn't say anything so I was nervous for nothing. Myself, Jeff, and musician Jill Tracy (she had a music video in our shorts package and a music video in the midnight shorts package) got up. Jill Tracy's music video was the last thing seen so she got most of the questions (took a load off my mind!) I had some interesting questions: why a silent film? How long was the shoot? What did you use for the shadow effects? Did you cast for strong bone structure?

The first question: I made a silent film because I wanted to experiment and have some fun and what better time to experiment than on my own dime?

The second question: The shoot was something like five or six days spread over two weeks because I shot the film around Christmas time. Christmas wasn't the problem, it was that everyone was working retail!

The third question: The shadow effects took FOREVER because of the method I used. I equated it to stop motion rotoscoping because I made a mask around Rickey in Apple Motion and would have to animate the mask's control points (anywhere between 60 and 260 points) individually by one pixel per frame (I think 280 was the highest number of frames.) I think the effect is wonderful, but it was backbreaking.

The fourth question: Okay, the last one kind of threw me off. I hadn't had that question before. Then again, though this was my third festival, it was the first Q&A for the film, and I believe that the woman who asked me this was an artist. Very few people pick up on the defined lines. I did cast Brian based on his incredibly expressive face and those big beautiful brown eyes and while I knew he was an actor, and had been assured that he was good, I was very happy to discover that he is indeed fantastic! He and Eon were the main focus of that question because of their intense close-ups.

Oh! And I was asked if I liked Sin City. I did like Sin City, but that wasn't what inspired me to make it black and white and so contrasty with a little colour. Sin City has no gray in it. Mine does. Quite a bit, actually, especially in the final scene in the grotto. But I also LOVE black and white photography. Strong blacks, nice shadows. Unfortunately, it looked a bit blown out on this screen and I did mention that. Also unfortunately, I think Rene took it personally. I wasn't bitching or anything, I just mentioned it. It's not his fault the whites were really hot. It plays differently everywhere. Ah well, sorry Rene!

After the screening, I briefly talked to one of the people who looked annoyed about something. He said that I should have just stuck with one font for the whole thing. I think he was a little drunk, though. The fonts are representative of each character. I thought that would be good to differentiate between all of the cards since I had so many of them. Interesting. The girl next to him looked annoyed by something, too, but I didn't get to her fast enough to find out what her problem was, but she looked annoyed about the religious aspects. No one commented about an Asian woman playing that character or what I was talking about.

Throughout the weekend, I've had to explain what the title of the film means. I knew it would happen that people thought I'd filmed in Jerusalem or that I was trying to tell a story set in Jerusalem and it's hard to explain what the title means without giving away the entire plot. Basically, “A Hammer Fell in Jerusalem” refers to how an American couple vacationing in Jerusalem described a very loud sound they heard that shook the land (the earthquake I describe in the first card.) “Anathema” is the name of the chapter and comes from a Greek word that once meant something offered to the gods and now means something shunned by the gods.

After the mingling in between packages, and the filmmakers all singing “Happy Birthday” to me, we sat down and watched the midnight vampire series. I do have a problem with the too slick, too hip vampires (like Underworld) and the badass flawless black vinyl encased vampire hunters. They make me giggle. At least give me a good characterization or something to think about!

The filmmaker for the short The Third Shift, Bruce, was there and he got up for his Q&A. He got to shoot his flick on the Red! He knew someone who knew someone who owned it and rented it to him for a really small chunk of change. Nice guy, too, with a good flick!

Asif asked the filmmakers to fill out the ballots for the Audience Choice award showing on Monday. He admits that it should have been the general public, but apparently there weren't a lot of people who came for all of the shows everyday. He also acknowledges that the filmmakers may not be objective. I know Shadowland's going to win even as a I voted for The Revenant. I liked Shadowland well enough, but The Revenant was so freakin' good...

Asif and Karyn were nice enough to act as my shuttle back to the hotel. I posted my pictures from the aquarium and passed out. :D

My plans for today: I'm going to see Strigoi at 2, find out who won the Audience Choice award thingie, head out for some fun around town for my birthday, come back for Asif's film (Lost Dreams) and the closing night party, then come back here to pack up and try to get some sleep before I head home. May be hard...the shuttle's coming at 3:55 to pick me up for my 6 o'clock flight. I should probably be up by 2:30 or so. At least I can nap on the plane or when I get home.

Man, oh man...this festival and this trip have been amazing!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Orleans Day Three, Vampire Film Festival Day the Second.

I passed out shortly after I posted last night, which was nice, and woke up feeling at least a little better. I'm not completely well, but I definitely feel better than I did last night.

Today was the day of the Jazz Funeral for a Vampire (which keeps putting that Elton John song in my head, the “Funeral for a Friend” one from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which is my favourite EJ album) and the Scavenger Hunt. I ended up going to only one film, The Revenant, and I went to the “costume party” at the Original Dungeon.

The Funeral Procession was freaking awesome!! I didn't want to drag a hugely complicated costume up here so I went to a costume shoppe in the mall and got a cape and this really cool devil mask and wore that to the procession. Not terribly creative, no, but easy to transport and simple. I wonder what the devil mask looked like in the airport x-ray... The mask is pretty tough plastic, too, not flimsy like most cheap masks.

My first stop, however, was to get some breakfast. While it isn't the original cafe, I went to the Cafe du Monde in Riverwalk to try the beignets which was the one thing most recommended to me to do. It's basically fried dough with a LOT of powdered sugar, but I have to say that it is, in fact, a mouthful of yum. Surprisingly airy, light, and not greasy, they're so gooood. Guess you know where I'm having breakfast tomorrow...and Monday...

I got to Dutch Alley shortly after they wanted us there; I kept stopping to take photos of things on my way to the meeting place. Luckily for me, the festival was still setting up their table so I was able to walk up and help them out a little. Unfortunately, there weren't many filmmakers in attendance. In fact, I may have been the only one, but I don't know. I know I'm not exactly obligated to go to these things, but come on! The procession sounded like fun and, oh dear Lord, it was! We went from Dutch Alley to the triangle stage via the narrow as heck French Market. It was maybe four blocks, but it took us about an hour...OF FUN AND DANCING! I decided a long time ago that I wanted a New Orleans-style funeral and this totally sealed the deal, so pay attention loved ones and future executors! But I also want to be cremated so keep that in mind, too.

I also got to toss beads at people. The festival crew attached fest fliers to the beads and that made untangling the beads difficult. Also, the second time I tossed someone beads, I accidentally hit someone else in the from that point on, I just handed them out. One woman was trying to tell me to loop the beads on my arm to pass them out. She didn't seem to realize that I received them knotted. I think I passed out like fifty of those things. And danced the whole way to the triangle stage. I eventually had to remove the mask, though. It was hot and it was pressing against my right eye.

After that, I went to do the scavenger hunt. Almost everyone there was a local. Cheaters. I eventually teamed up with a couple of people who have lived here for a while and that was pretty cool. Strangely the three of us have Florida ties. I got to see some streets I missed on walkabout the other day AND they pointed out Joan of Arc, which I kept passing and never saw. So much to see in the French Quarter, man.

We got all of the questions (the director of the festival had issue with one of our answers, but the question stumped the locals in our group and two ladies at the tourist information center we went to) and headed back. Turns out the prizes were tickets to the festival and to the ballet, which my team didn't win anyway. I was fine with that, I have the filmmaker badge, but one of my teammates wasn't and kind of stormed off.

After that, I had time to kill so I had lunch at this hole in the wall gyro place called Dixie Gyro. I wasn't expecting much except maybe stomach issues...I'm kind of pessimistic about dive restaurants and this one kinda looked like a dive. As soon as I heard the woman's accent, I knew that my fears were unwarranted about this place. Everything about it was yummy, from their ranch dressing to the beautifully cooked chicken and onions to the lettuce and tomatoes they put in there, and the french fries weren't greasy. They were piping hot and good! If you're in New Orleans and want cheap, good food, it's next door to the Subway on Carondelet. Very small, very good.

After a delicious lunch, I returned to my hotel room for a photo post then left to catch the bus to Zeitgeist, which I missed and ended up grabbing a taxi, and saw The Revenant. I haven't done a movie review for a while, nor have I reviewed the flicks from yesterday yet, but I only saw the one today.

The Revenant is about a soldier who was killed in Iraq and wakes up a vampire and deals with im/moral and im/mortal. I'm boiling it down to it's basics because I don't want to spoil anything. It was a fantastic flick! I highly recommend it! It was hilarious (kind of juvenile humour, but still freaking funny) and thought provoking. A must see if you're disappointed in what passes for vampire right now (still looking at you, Twilight...)

I missed the bus back into town..again...and ended up grabbing a cab back to my hotel to drop off my bag and head out to watch the Krewe of Boo parade. I was going to go to St. Peter's Cathedral, but something made me stop on the neutral area of Canal and St. Peter, where the street cars go. I shouldn't have been right at the corner as it was tough to get attention from the goodies tossers, but it was a fantastic experience! Except for the woman next to me, whom I've dubbed the Vulture. She loved them beads, man...if I hadn't let go of one string, I'd still be around her neck.

Anyway, my favourite floats were the one that looked like Dagon from Lovecraft mythos, the Alien themed float, and (of course) the Vampire Film Festival float. Nope, I was not on it. I wasn't told about it, but then again, I didn't participate in the costume contest. I wanted to do the Scavenger Hunt, darn it!

Where I stopped was so perfect because I had a second chance to get beads because the parade did a u-turn at some point down Canal and came back to head down Tchopatoulas and that's when I got more beads. The people in front of me were almost worse until they got a bunch of beads with an eyeball attached to it from the Dagon float and gave a few to me. I just wanted one so I handed the rest out to other people. I was almost hit in the head once as I walked along side the last float toward my hotel, but I ducked behind a car and the lady the float person was aiming for was able to catch it.

I came back here to kill the hour and a half I had until the party at the Original Dungeon started. Turns out that was when it opened and it wasn't a party for the festival or anything, it was “Hey, you get into this bar for free this night only.” I wanted to go to see the costumes, but also to see a Goth club in New Orleans. I kinda wish I didn't go. Basically, it was as if Disney had made the Castle (a Goth nightclub in Tampa) into a metal bar that fit into a thimble. Very little seating, very little room to move around, and the tunes come from a jukebox full of metal and a few industrial bands. The “dance floor” upstairs played some Goth stuff, but was the size of a shoebox and had very little seating.

I stayed for a while and talked to Jeff who was a photojournalist covering the festival and the goings on in New Orleans this weekend. He was nice and wanted to learn about my favourite flicks and I ended up giving him a bit of a lesson in Argento and Fulci. Mainly Argento. Got to exercise my brain a little. Forgot what Mater Suspiriorum meant (it's Mother of Sighs, by the way...stupid brain fart.)

After a while, I went out and called a cab. Most of the streets in the French Quarter are one way and people cross the street without giving way to the 2,000 pound hunks of moving steel. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so much, no one was hit on the street. Someone did fall down inside Dungeon and badly enough to call an ambulance, blocking traffic pretty far down Toulouse. I think my cab passed me by anyway, but I walked to the end of the jam, grabbed a cab from the company I called, and got out of there. Way too many drunk people. It was like Ybor if Ybor fit into a shoe box. (Ybor is a part of south Tampa that's made up almost entirely of night clubs, but at least they block off traffic at night.)

Now, I'm back in my room with a sore throat from the shouting for beads and a sore body from earlier in the day. I think I'll sleep well tonight!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day Two in New Orleans and Day the First of Vampire Film Festival

I'm back at my hotel room “early.” I feel like crap. I was feeling ill before I left home, but I thought maybe I kicked it in the rear. Apparently not. I've been shivering for most of the night even with my jacket and a long sleeved shirt. I wasn't even hanging out outside except for when I was waiting for the cab, but I'm actually getting a bit ahead of myself.

I ended up watching four episodes of CSI last night (I brought some entertainment with me for reasons like that) and fell asleep around 12:30. I woke up at 6, lord knows why, and couldn't get back to sleep, and I knows why – too excited! So I got up, got dressed, and decided to walk the city.

I started at Riverwalk and about fifteen minutes later, I was in the French Quarter. I turned on the GPS in my phone and just sort of got lost. I almost walked into a bad, bad feeling area, but I turned around pretty quickly and got back to everything that brings people here: cajun restaurants, bars, pubs, taverns, seafood restaurants, lounges, clubs, and hotels. Lots of hotels. Not a whole heck of a lot of stuff to do other than walk around if you don't drink. Took some photos of the area (which can be seen at and walked around for three hours. I also found a Walgreens, which was awesome because I lost my deodourant in the Great Room Swap of 2009.

I went through the French Market. Nothing really in the farmer's side, maybe tomorrow, but the flea market side was great. I got an adjustable clip-on sunglass attachment for my glasses. I have Transitions, but they just don't seem like enough in Florida. And I bought a couple of nice rings for pretty cheap. And a shy shilling for charity (or for himself, you know whatever) gave me a black New Orleans hat. He laid on the compliments pretty thick so I gave him a couple of bucks. A girl likes to be complimented every once in a while.

I went to get a beignet at Cafe du Monde, but man oh man were they full up! I'll try again tomorrow, I guess. Later on, I went to the Hard Rock Cafe to eat brlinner. I'd never eaten at one before so I thought, eh what the heck. Their salad had raisins in it and I've accidentally eaten more bacon in the past two days than I've eaten in two decades (I became a foulatarian – I'll eat chicken and turkey and the very occasional shrimp, but not red meat or pork – about twenty years ago. Maybe a little less.) The fries were good, but the “seasoning” was kind of lame and they had NO Stevie Nicks memorabilia, but my honey mustard chicken sandwich was excellent.

After that, I returned to the hotel room to freshen up, load pictures to the Flickr and say hi to mom. I didn't feel good before I left home, but I thought (hoped) that I'd managed to kick it in the rear, but mom heard my voice and was all like, “Oh em gee, you're sick.” And I was all like, “Oh em gee, I'm not.” And she was like, “Like, you totally are.” And I was like, “Shush, I'm trying to be positive.” I grabbed my leather jacket (I'm not a vegginazi, I just don't want to eat pigs and cows and cockroaches of the sea. I don't mind if others do) and headed out for the venue.

Zeitgeist is about a half an hour walk from my hotel room, but I didn't feel good about walking there and I'm definitely not walking back, certainly not at the hours I would be coming back. Doesn't cost very much, but drivers here are insane. I don't know why people keep saying New Yorkers are the worst. They must not have ridden with a New Orleans cab driver or tried walking around here. They use stop lights for the pedestrians. I have to admit, that confused me at first. And you don't have to hit any buttons, the lights activate when they're supposed to.

Anyway, I grabbed a cab and headed in, got my fest pack, met Asif, the nice guy who's putting this shindig together, and the owner of the Zeitgeist, Rene, who's also very nice. In fact, everyone I've encountered has been very nice, bad driving aside.

Then I sat down for the first flick. No technical problems and surprisingly good quality sound, but I was like, “Oh man...I think I've gotta go back to the room...” I popped some Tylenol for a slight headache, bought some water, and was able to hang in there for a little while. I only stayed through Nadja, which was supposed to be Near Dark according to the schedule, and then said a few goodbyes and left. I barely talked to anyone. Now I'm pretty anti-social on a good day, but when I'm sick, I just kind of sink into myself.

Now, I'm in the hotel room and I'll write up the movies another day. Good night!

New Orleans: On the Day of Arrival

So, after an hour and 13 minute long flight, we land at Louis Armstrong at 2:08 or so. By four, I'm in my hotel. Why so long, you ask? Well, I decided to get a shuttle voucher via Expedia. It was $30 round trip. Pretty good deal...until you get in line to wait for a place in one of the shuttles, wait for everyone to board, wait for the driver to pile the luggage into the back of the short bus, and then drive into the city proper. It wasn't bad, just absurdly long. The drive into the city was slightly depressing because it didn't look much different from an average highway back home...until we got a view of the ginormous Mississippi River bridge. At least, I think it was the Mississippi River bridge, I don't really know my landmarks here just yet. Regardless, it was huge, it was neat, and it was NOT the Sunshine Skyway. My bag was at my feet and I was crammed into the back corner of the bus like a chicken in one of KFC's cages so no pictures yet. Also, I didn't want to take pictures of the airport. I'll do that on the way back.

So, I get to the hotel and check in and receive a really small room on the first floor where the door was hard to open and even harder to close and my view was of a brick wall.

My view.

Really, the only good things were a huge tub and the wireless (more on that in a moment.) SO, I called my mom to let her know I was here okay and she convinced me to go get another room. Now, I'll complain about my job and my co-workers, but I don't like sending food back unless it's super disgusting and I don't like to complain about a hotel room that is within a 15 minute walk of the French Quarter, but I knew mom was right (aren't they always?) and I asked for a room with a view that wasn't a brick wall. And I got it!

it may not be much, but at least it's not a brick wall!

I took this after I came back from walk about last night. It was rainy and only started raining when I was a few blocks from the hotel...well, sprinkling really. It didn't start really raining until I got back to the hotel.

So, I got my stuff into the new room and assembled my city bag for walkabout and left the hotel for Riverwalk. Seven minute walk, people, from the mighty Mississippi.

the mighty Mississippi

I took note of restaurants along my path. The street cars have a stop at the Hilton by the river so that's something to keep in mind. There was a live jazz band at a seafood restaurant on the river, but I rarely eat seafood so I kept walking. The Aquarium of the Americas is right there, too, and that's something I definitely want to do before I leave. I'm weird, I know.

Something else I wanted to do before I left was visit Harrah's Casino. My gambling consists of scratch cards every ten years or so. I don't place actual bets when I say, “Bet you!” But, who knows if I'll ever get to go to Las Vegas or come back, or even go to the Seminole casino back home. Before I left, I received a little birthday money and decided that I would be okay with spending $20 at the casino. I walk inside and get a feeling of cheery desperation, the cheery part provided by the happy “come play me!” tinkles coming from the sparkling machines. I stuck with the slots. I play War and Go Fish!, not poker or blackjack. Safer to stick with something completely unfamiliar like the slots and not cards.

They don't do coin returns at Harrah's, they handle everything digitally, with tickets that are barcoded so the machines from which you get your winnings, or your money back, know how much you get.

The first machine I played was called Poppit! I put in $5 and tried to read the instructions, but they were a little confusing. I decided to treat it like one of those side games in an RPG and just play. I wound up winning $22 and some change, which covered what I was willing to spend with a $2 addition. The next game I played was the Glinda version of The Wizard of Oz in honour of my mom. I lost $ knew that I'm not a fan of The Wizard of Oz. Next, I went to a classic slot machine with the pull thingie. Lost my $5. With one five dollar bill left, I roamed the casino looking for The Machine. I found it in Ghost Island.

I put in my $5. It was pretty typical; I won, I lost, I won, I lost, I lost, I lost, I lost. Finally, I won. Relatively big. $150 and some change. I printed out my ticket and slowly walked toward the entrance all dejected like so no one would be the wiser. I cashed out, and headed to one of the restaurants I saw on the way to Riverwalk trying to not look like I'd just multiplied my investment by like seven and three quarters, which was difficult. I'm not an actor, after all, but I can occasionally keep a straight face.

In case she reads this: Janine, I wanted the play the Star Trek themed slots in your honour, but the damned Trekkies kept hogging it. ;)

So, I went to a restaurant called Gordon Biersch. I didn't know this until I walked in, but apparently there are like twenty of them all over the US. They brew their own beer, blah blah blah, totally uninteresting to me as a non-drinker, but the prices were pretty good considering where I am so I ordered a wedge salad and teriyaki chicken / tempura shrimp and, of course, a lemonade.

The lemonade was okay. It needed a little sugar, but otherwise it was good. The wedge salad was NOTHING compared to the wedge salad I had with Vanessa and Evy, but their ranch dressing was omnomnommy. The rice that came with the meal was kinda gross, “sweet ginger rice.” I'm not a big fan of ginger any more after a disastrous kitchen experiment with whole ginger root and the ginger was strong with their rice. The “vegetables” on the plate were just pea pods, which I happen to love, but don't use the plural when there's just one type... The chicken and shrimp were delicious. I wonder how many people skewer themselves every day with the shrimp skewers...

No dessert for me. I came back to the hotel just in time to avoid the heavy downpour and used some of my winnings on a small bag of M&Ms (85 cents! O_O) from the vending machine three feet from my room. :D Came in and tried for the next few hours to connect to the wireless internet. No go...I can see the networks all around me, but I can't connect to any of them. One or two look shady, several are city wireless, a few were from the hotel next door, and two were from this hotel. This morning, I found an ethernet cable and hooked up that way. It won't reach the bed so no being comfortable while I search, but that's a very small price to pay.

Today's plans consist of getting a beignet at Cafe du Monde, taking pictures, walking the French Quarter, grabbing a bus or a cab to the venue and starting the film festival thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Airport Confessions - SRQ Airport (surprise, surprise)

Goodbye Sarasota!

Well, here I am, back in the airport again. It's peaceful right now. The muzak right now is pretty hippity-hoppity and funky, completely opposite of the travelers herein gathered. While this trip is for a film festival, this isn't any old festival. It's the Vampire Film Festival's first year back in New Orleans. How exciting! To be there on the ground floor of an established festival's return to the city of its birth!

My film isn't a vampire film. It's in Gothic Shorts Package 2, which plays either at 5:30 or 10:00 pm on Saturday, October 25. The events calendar on their website ( says 10:00 pm, but the short films detail page says 5:30. I guess I'll find out for sure when I pick up my filmmaker package.

I'm also excited because I turn 31 on Monday, the 26. This is the first time I've ever been out of the state on my birthday. I won't be around my family or friends, but I hope to make a few new friends in New Orleans. The only problem I foresee is that I don't take the vampire subgenre very seriously. Not that it's not historically a rich and vibrant subgenre, but have you seen some of the crap people are putting out these days? (Twilight, I'm looking at you...) (Yes, mom, I know you like it, but sparkling vampires? Really?)

I'm not sure yet, but I was thinking about taking Monday away from the festival to tourist up the city for my birthday. I think there are some movies I want to see that day, though, so who knows. I've never been there before, who knows when I'm going to be able to get back and it's my birthday, that's the one hand. On the other, I am in town for the festival which is playing my movie. So, who knows. Regardless, I'm very excited! So much so that I just spelled “excited” wrong. Hee!

I thought I'd have a problem getting to sleep due to the anticipation, but that wasn't the problem. The problem came when our new upstairs neighbour decided that wearing super thick soled boots was a good idea at 4 am and also decided to walk right above my bed, which means he or she was on my roof because my room sticks out a bit from the rest of the house. Then I had a bit of trouble getting back to sleep. But I'm here! The time is near! Get used to it! Or something!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vampire Film Festival 2009

Hey everyone!

I received word the other day that A Hammer Fell in Jerusalem: Anathema has been accepted to the Vampire Film Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana! The film is in Gothic Shorts Package 2 which plays on Sunday, October 25 (the day before my birthday!), at 5:30 pm!

The shorts schedules:

There are features playing, too. In fact, I missed The Death of Alice Blue at CenFlo so I get to check it out here AND I'll get to see Strigoi and The Revenant, other films that have been accepted to festivals that my flick didn't and looked interesting! :D

In case the previous paragraph didn't make it clear, I will be at the festival, which runs from the 23-26 of October. My birthday's the 26th so if you happen to be going, find me and say happy birthday! Or not. Totally up to you!

My first trip to New cool is that?!