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!!


Marvin the Martian said...

Hurrah, survived your Q&A! I knew you would.

The captcha for this comment is "sushi". How unlikely is THAT?

Lori said...

I did survive it, thank goodness!