Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Microcinema Fest Updates

MONDAY AUGUST 8: My brother Eric and I rolled into Palatine around 10 p.m. and hooked up with a friend of Eric's, Ravi, who has been working on a couple of documentaries and was interested in coming to our workshops. We then trooped over to Fest organizer Michael Noens' house, where a cookout was still in full swing. It was great to see a lot of the people from last year, including my roomies out in Rapid City Jay Neander and Jon Solita, and Calgary's favorite son Wally Fong. Everybody got acquainted or re-acquainted, and then I called it an early night as I had to meet Peter O'Keefe at the train station the next morning.

TUESDAY AUGUST 9: I finally met Peter O'Keefe, and it was another of those surreal moments where someone you have emailed with and talked to on the phone over a long period of time is suddenly standing there in the flesh. People are always taller than I think they'll be. Perhaps I'm just short.
Peter and I had lunch and talked a bit about our presentation. My feeling is that if there are more people in the audience than on the stage you have been a success. When you write it on your resume or whatever, you never say how many people were there. So I was pleasantly surprised when we ended up with about 30 participants, many with good questions and feedback.
That night I decided to attend a local premiere of a feature shot by a recent high school grad called Vices. It was a cleverly executed story about a high school basketball star who begins to get entangled with an apple-cheeked homeroom godfather, and that eventually leads him to some bad decisions about sex and drugs. The director had about 200 people at Cutting Hall, the same venue for MCF later in the week, which was an encouraging sign. The teens in the crowd enjoyed it thoroughly while the collective blood of the parents ran cold.
I think Vices had some great storytelling, and a very natural performance by director Mark Iverson and some others, but suffers a bit from poor lighting and shooting, rough editing, and an uneven sound mix. But you have to give him credit--when I was his age I might be able to rouse a dozen neighbors to watch one of my Super-8s on the side of my garage.

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 10: Today Wally Fong and I were planning on teaching two sessions, one on basic production and the second a moderated roundtable for advanced filmmakers. I think we may have been hurt by the location being listed wrong in the newspaper, but we ended up with 12-15 for the first session and perhaps 20 for the second. I think the second roundtable session went especially well and could have probably gone on even longer. There were a lot of people with a lot of different talents there. It's hard to teach basics when people come from all different backgrounds and you need to keep them on the same page, but I think everyone got at least a little something useful from it.
That night I met my Rapid City crew at a local laser tag venue, which first I thought I was too old for, but before long was running and gunning with everybody else. It is such a guy thing that the guy gene sort of kicks in regardless of age, race, creed, status, whatever. We were pretty well pounded by Wally Fong, who apparently still had the secret map tattooed on his eyelids from his days working at one in Calgary.
I think I came in dead last, even behind some little kid who cornered me and kept pelting me with laser beams.
That night was the "barnside" screenings, a traditional festival event where filmmakers can show work in progress or screen things that did not make the festival. I saw a short from a guy I like named Bill Kersey who had something else in the festival. This one was called Permean Flow and was striking images married to found audio. Six Feet Frozen, which I reviewed at Microcinemascene.com, played pretty well, as did a comedic short called I, Crapbot. Wally Fong showed some music videos and an episode of his online web serial GCU and Jon Solita showed some commercial work. A filmmaker named Jesse Cowell showed a moody little film school short that played well. I think there was a Dr. Who fan film, and a bit of something shot nearby in Illinois, but I was eating or talking during those. But easily the gut-busting success was a sketch comedy piece done by college chums of Jon Solita called Live to Tape. I actually thought it was funnier than anything in the festival, by far.
Later some more Rapid City friends, including Warren Blythe and Jonason Ho, rolled in, and it seemed like the festival was ready to take off. And it was.

Next time, almost thirty movies in almost three days. Until then, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

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