Thursday, July 19, 2012

San Diego Comic Con 2012

I shouldn’t have to post this warning, but this post contains language that may hurt delicate sensibilities. If it does, what in the hell are you doing reading the blog of a horror filmmaker?

For photos from my trip, head on over to my Flickr account!
Anyway, you always read about how crazy San Diego’s Comic Con is, but it doesn’t really sink in properly unless you’ve lived it. I was there from at least 8 am until 9 pm every day from preview night until Sunday close. I definitely lived it.
But first, let’s start with my initial couple of days in San Diego. You may have noticed that I’m careful about using names in my posts about certain adventures I’ve had and certainly try to not name the people I’ve stayed with. I even avoid telling people where I’m staying when I’m in L.A. because safety is paramount and I don’t want to be the unwitting cause of some stupid, pointless drama or to have people suddenly start talking to me because I know this person or that person (I’m more familiar with this than you might think.)
My kind San Diego host was nice enough to give me a lift to Balboa Park early on Monday morning, a beautiful, huge area smack dab in the middle of the city that houses pretty much every single museum San Diego has to offer including the San Diego Zoo, which was my main goal for the day. I walked around just taking in the architecture and the biological house (where they have a lot of exotic flowers like the Venus fly trap!) and then headed over to the Zoo where I promptly got a sunburn.
A slideshow of my San Diego (not including Comic Con) photos, with some L.A. thrown in there for good measure.

On Tuesday, I ventured into downtown San Diego just to get a feel for where I would be spending the next five days of my life and walked along the bay via the Embarcadero Marina and Seaside Village. The weather was absolutely gorgeous the entire time and, of course, I managed to make my sunburn worse, but I saw a wild seal (who needs Sea World?!) and the Midway (what a huge boat!) and then my host and I went out to the Hotel del Coronado where they filmed Some Like It Hot and had dinner, then went back to the house to prepare for the next day. Preview Night.
Wednesday is Preview Night at Comic Con. What that means is that they let you in to the exhibitor floor around 6, I believe it was, and you can start spending your money early and then, alter on, you can watch some special screenings of new genre pilots. Since I’d already planned my weekend (HA!), I decided to do my shopping on Preview Night, well aware that sometimes you can get better deals on Sunday. I’m a t-shirt person and got a Carrie Fisher Wishful Drinking tour shirt, a Miskatonic University shirt, and a Facehug shirt (a parody of Facebook with a facehugger. :D)
It was fairly well packed on Wednesday night, but I kept telling myself, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” And I hadn’t.
Afterwards I went to a screening of Street Fighter hosted by Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings for GamerCon. I, perhaps not surprisingly, hadn’t seen Street Fighter before. I don’t think I’ll see it again, even if the late Raul Julia was so good in it.
Wednesday and Thursday, I did what I call calorie packing. I ate more than I usually do and had actual ice cream (god, it was delicious, too). I got the idea from marathon runners because I figured that I wouldn’t really have a chance to eat during the con. I was right. Other than whatever breakfast bars I brought in with me (which, let’s be honest, are like Lembas bread...they might fill you up for a hot minute, but don’t taste like much), I didn’t eat at Comic Con and usually afterwards, I was too tired to get something to eat. I feel like I lost weight, but the scale’s all like “Nope.”
Thursday was the true start of Comic Con. I managed to just barely make it into a couple of panels, but even though I left one early, I didn’t make it to the screening of my friend Karen Lam’s film Doll Parts. This made me a sad panda. Not making it to things became common throughout the con. How in the hell do people make it to all of the panels they want to see? Oh yeah, they camp outside the night be-fuckin’-fore.
Yes, really.
And they stay through panels they don’t care about, pretty much guaranteeing that those who want to see that panel don’t get to.
Obviously, I’m really annoyed by the way Comic Con handles the panels and am going to sum up Thursday like this: I got to see the Disney panel and Jackie Chan in Hall H by sheer luck. The rest of the panels were in smaller rooms and no one really cared about them enough to line up for days in advance.
Friday, though...Friday was going to be a big day. The Firefly and Walking Dead panels were that day as well as the Resident Evil movie and Looper/Elysium/Total Recall panels. Firefly was in Ballroom 20 which is a big room, but not Hall H size. I got in line for that, but first i had to find the end of the line...which was all the way down by the bay. Eventually, volunteers came out and told us that where we were in line meant that we probably wouldn’t get in. I was fine with waiting to see until they came out and told us to sit down. For whatever reason, that got my hackles up and I left the line, wandered for a moment, then got in line for Hall H. It was still early so I hoped that maybe I could get into the Walking Dead panel at 1:30 I think it was, even though that line wrapped around a large sidewalk by the bay...twice.
I got into line around 9 am, I believe. I didn’t get into Hall H until the 3 or 4 pm Resident Evil panel and even then, I almost didn’t make it for that.
I’d thought ahead and put a couple of movies on my iPod, including a great flick called The Cellar Door. It starts out a bit slow (I’m sorry, but motherfucker kidnaps me for some weird fetish thing and I get a chance to escape, I’m not going to just knock him out and run. He’ll Always Be There if I do that. No, no, I’ma make sure he can’t follow me, y’dig?), but the film picks up in the second act or so and doesn’t relent. Most of that intensity is thanks to lead Michelle Tomlinson and how well she plays off the antagonist.
I survived a six hours wait in line to see these panels. Now that it’s over, I can say it was kind of worth it, but I would not do it again unless I had friends who were willing to stand with me. Because Comic Con apparently refuses to figure out a better method (reserved or ticketed seating, separate lines, clearing the fucking rooms in-between panels), they’ve made standing in line a team sport. You need at least two people so that one can go to the bathroom or make a Starbucks run and the other can hold the fort. All of the friends I had at Comic Con were WORKING the convention either as press or in a booth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to being by myself and doing a lot of things by myself. When I was a kid, I was once yelled at by my brother’s then-girlfriend because I said that I wanted to go bowling with them and for a long time afterward, I just waited for invitations to hang out. Eventually, I decided that I wasn’t going to wait anymore and started to invite myself. My conversations with me often go like this:
“Hmm...I want butterbeer.” -- “Do you have money to go to Universal?” -- “I have an annual pass.” -- “Let’s go!” -- “WHEE BUTTERBEER!”
In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty socially awkward. Thankfully, I understand that.
Shit, now I want some butterbeer and my annual pass has lapsed.
Anyway, after wasting most of my day in a fucking line, I escaped and went to things that didn’t really have lines and the next day, Saturday, where the big panel I wanted to see was Django Unchained, I skipped out on lines almost entirely and hung out with a couple of friends who came down from L.A. I missed out on Django, Mythbusters, and Carrie Fisher, but hanging with people I like, even in a madhouse such as this, was far better. When they left, I caught the Tromatize Me panel about branding yourself / your work and that was pretty much it.
Sunday, I headed in and went right to the dealer room for try and snag some free stuff. Because I wasted my time in line on Friday and didn’t want to waste my time on Saturday, I missed out on the swag, but Sunday I was able to grab some free stuff and I got a good deal from the Famous Monsters of Filmland booth that had a buy-one-get-one-free deal on their shirts and hoodies.
I had a couple of panels I wanted to get into that day and I managed to get into two out of three of them. I missed the Drew Struzan panel, though. Ah well. Since I missed that, I ended up going to the Sega pop-up arcade and playing Aliens: Colonial Marines and then went over to the Nintendo lounge and played the new Castlevania 3DS game. I was disappointed in their 3D, though. Either it needs work or they need to take that handset off the display.
After that, I went back to where I was staying, hung out for a bit, then passed out for I was leaving very late the next day and wanted to be all fresh.
The next day was a Monday, the start of a new week. I popped back downtown to check out what I didn’t get to see while there during the event, got some food, and then went back to make sure I had everything packed up and ready to go for my trip home. 
I left San Diego International Airport at seven pm and got home around 11 the next morning. That was rough.
So there you have it. I survived Comic Con. If I ever have a film that makes people stand in line like that at a con, I’m going to make sure they’re taken care of. I’m going to have volunteers take them bottles of water and Lembas bread and maybe even line-exclusive swag because the way Comic Con handles it is bullshit.

As far as costumes go, I saw a lot, but very few really stood out. I saw a lot of men in drag, like male Slave Leias and a male Catwoman, even a male Princess Peach. Lots of Doctor Whos (not Doctor Whose) of varying gender associations as well as a couple of Hot TARDISes and Hot Daleks.I don't have a whole lot of costume pictures, though. Most of the time, I really just wanted to get to the point B...

Would I do this again? Sure! But I'd hope for a panel or friends to be with me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The guts of the story in all of it's bloody glory; Viscera 2012

Alright so I’m back from my trip to California which spanned not only L.A. for this year’s Viscera Film Festival, but also San Diego for the San Diego Comic Con. Chronologically, Viscera was first so that’s what this post is about.
I got in to L.A. in the afternoon and pretty much got right to work, heading first to drop off my bags at my kind host’s house then heading in to the Egyptian for the volunteer meeting. I didn’t have a film in this year’s festival, but that’s not going to stop me from coming out and supporting my fellow filmmakers! Since I was going to be there regardless, they asked me to shoot the weekend. 
I shot their Marrow event in February and learned a lot about live event sound -- remember, I shoot my brother’s band, but either don’t worry about sound or have my Zoom set up to capture it separately. For Marrow, I used my wireless lavalieres, thinking hey, they’re small, will travel well, and are really excellent. While all of that is true, lavs aren’t good for events involving lots of people speaking very loudly in enclosed spaces. Since I would have to check a bag for the week and a half I was in California, I packed my boom mic in that so I could take it with me, a HUGE improvement in the sound area.
In an attempt to be more like my brother, who had an accident while on a hike in Peru (sounds so exotic!), within an hour of arriving at the Egyptian, I...heh...fell and sprained my ankle. Spectacularly. I did this last weekend and I still have bruises and my ankle is still very sore (but I also limped my ass through all of Comic Con...) It was no one’s fault. I was hoping to get an interesting angle and knew where I was stepping, but my ankle decided that it didn’t want to go down that step and let me know...violently and painfully.
I would be standing still for most of the shoot anyway, so to me, there’s no real point in complaining about it so long as I could get my kind host to stop by a pharmacy before we went back home so I could get a wrap. I just had to knock my posture out of whack for a while as I supported my weight on my left leg. No biggie.
The rest of the volunteer meeting went well and I got to hang out with a couple of friends afterwards for a bit before the HOLY SHIT started. Then, we went and got me a wrap for my ankle and went to sleep. 
FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2012:
Friday was only jam-packed in that I’d made plans to spend some time with a very good friend of mine and then had to get back to the house and get ready for the MoHA dinner. My friend and I walked Lake Hollywood -- yes, with my sprained ankle...I don’t get to see this person very often and I’d never been to Lake Hollywood. Thank goodness for Tylenol through my entire stay! -- and then we had a great lunch at Aroma Cafe. 
When we walked up, there was a gentleman sitting by the entryway to the cafe. I instantly recognized him; it was Johnny Dark who is most famous -- to me anyway -- as Danny the owner of Danny’s Pizzaria in Just the Ten of Us. However, he was also in the surprisingly good Up Your Alley, a romantic comedy starring Linda Blair and the formerly Unknown Comic, Murray Langston (I used to be a huge Linda Blair fan.)
Part of me really wanted to go up to him and just say thank you, but the rest of me, the part that didn’t want to bother him, won out and I didn’t. This is a common motif for me...
After lunch, I made my way back to where I was staying and got ready for the MoHA Dinner. What is this MoHA dinner I’m talking about? It’s a gathering for the Mistresses of Horror Alliance, a new branch of Viscera headed by the fabulous Miss Maude Michaud. Where Viscera seeks to promote and encourage female filmmakers externally, MoHA seeks to connect those filmmakers with each other to encourage collaboration amongst our ranks. This is all a part of the message of Viscera, that we’re better working together like the organs of the human body (y’know...viscera.)
The MoHA dinner was at the CaƱa Rum Bar, a posh, exclusive, members-only joint in downtown L.A., and was catered by Anarkitchen. It was freakin’ awesome! I couldn’t film all of it, the lighting was pretty bad once the sun went down, but trust me when I say that it was a fabulous event.
After the MoHA dinner, it was time to get some rest for the next day was V-day, baby.
Up and at ‘em fairly early for it was The Big Day, the film festival at the Egyptian. Holy crap, you guys. You don’t understand. It’s the Egyptian. It’s one of the Holy Grails of film, one of the most famous and historic landmark theatres in the United States if not the world and they were allowing Viscera to be there. Not only that, but they welcomed Viscera with open arms into their gorgeous building and courtyard.
The carpet was rolled out down the middle of the courtyard leading to the front doors of the theatre. Blood spatters were still being added when we got there around 12:30 pm. The step and repeat banner and carpet were already set up and the lighting guy was putting up his lights, the raffle table was being loaded, and the MoHA table was raring to go. I was there a couple of hours early so I started getting B-roll almost immediately (B-roll is “extra” footage that will be intercut with, say, an interview or cut together to go under a voice-over.)
I loved shooting at the Egyptian, but I could’ve done without the curious stares from the Hollywood tourists. I stayed inside the courtyard most of the time, but I knew the sun would provide some interesting lighting to the Egyptian signs and eventually had to go out to the sidewalk for footage. I got some great shots, though, and at least the tourists weren’t so boggled by Something Going On that they tried to bug me about it. I did feel like paparazzi at one point when I was waiting for something out on the sidewalk. I’m the worst paparazzi, though.
I loved shooting the event and have to give a special shout out to the woman who did the actual interviewing part for me, Savannah Schoenecker. She did a great job!
There was a slight set-back in that the step-and-repeat set up had to be moved to another part of the courtyard due to a tiny oversight, but we still ended up finishing the carpet ceremony on time, if not a little early, and ushered everyone inside where the real fun was to take place!
During this time, I discovered that had one battery with full power whereas I had planned it so that I would have at least two. I shot director Mary Lambert receiving the Inspiration Award and the rest of the introduction, but because of the battery woes, I got to see some of the films as I needed to keep the one full battery for the intermission B-roll, the raffle table during the intermission as people came to claim their goodies, the formal MoHA announcement, and the awards / Q&A as the other batteries charged, painfully slowly, in the VIP section.
I loved pretty much every film I got to see this year. Some of the stand-outs for me were The Dump (about two serial killers who find themselves in an awkward position whilst trying to dispose of their victims), Escape from Hellview (a beautiful animated piece out of Israel), How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You (which was about accepting each other warts and all), and Barbie Girls (about friendship and obsession.)
After the screening was the presentation of the awards and, I’ll be honest, I can’t remember who won what. I know that Rebekka McKendry won something for The Dump (best director?), and that Bloodtraffick won (I think that was best cinematography), and The Night Caller won and I think that was for best film. I feel crappy for not being able to remember, but my footage is on my laptop and my laptop is in my room and my room is waaaaaaay over there and my foot is stiff and sore waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. /whine
Afterwards, we all headed over to Hotel Roosevelt for the afterparty. I shot a little bit there, but bars keep things dark for a reason. It was a great time talking to friends and seeing other friends who, for whatever terrible horrible no good reason, couldn’t make it to the main event. A few of us headed out a little early and got some rest for the next day was the brunch!
SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2012:
The first official Viscera Post-Apocalyptic Brunch was held at the Wirsthaus, a German bar and restaurant. Delicious Bavarian pretzels for brunch? Yes, please. (They really were flippin’ awesome.) I was a little loopy and tired, not unlike my compatriots, but all in all it was a great day! After that, I climbed into the car of my next kind host for the trip to San Diego and my first Comic Con experience, but in the immortal words of the voice over at the end of The NeverEnding Story, that's another story.

Now that I’m at the end of my post, and you, dear reader, have made it this far, I want to send a special thank you to Shannon Lark, Heidi Honeycutt, and Stacy Hammon, the triforce of awesome behind the Viscera organization. My love and my loyalty are not easily won and these ladies have mine in spades. Thank you Shannon, Stacy, and Heidi for proving to me that I’m not alone and that there are others out there who want to nurture and support other filmmakers, too. Now, I just need to get the hell out of Florida (but not move to L.A. I want to live in Portland, Oregon.)