Before Installing the Wet Bar

Saturday I attended the Adelante Film Forum, put on by the local chapter of NALIP (the National Association of Latino Independent Producers). Actually, it was pretty much single-handedly coordinated by Dora Pena. There had been a series of restructuring within the local chapter, and, when the dust settled, it looked like the Adelante might not happen this year. Dora decided to present us with a smaller, more scaled down version. She did a wonderful job.

The event was held at Gemini Ink. We started off with an opening address by Drew Mayer-Oakes. And then Dora introduced Mary Lampe, the Executive Director of SWAMP (the Southwest Alternative Media Project). I'd heard Mary give her basic spiel about getting funding through fiscal sponsorship at least twice before. But I find her enthusiasm and general optimism about film projects to instill a sort of mental health when I feel that movie-making is a no-win situation, or, as AJ Garces might put it, a black hole

During our lunch break, we had Kiko Martinez of the San Antonio Current as a speaker. He gave us hints on dealing with the media. When I first met Kiko, it was during the Josiah Youth Media Festival. He walked up to me on the day of the student workshops. I thought he was one of the teen filmmakers. But, Saturday, as I listened to him spin tales of a jaded journalist, I knew I'd never see his youthful face quite the same again. I enjoyed his candor and sense of humor. Also the lunch was pretty good. Mad Hatters catered, and they make some mean sandwiches.

Next we had Rosalinda Morales, LA casting director. She seems to know everyone. She had some useful comments about the value of placing a name actor in your film. Even if it's a telenovela star who might be unknown to non-Spanish-speaking Americans. The potential for foreign sales will become significant.

After the Adelante I headed to Urban-15 for the Manhattan Short Film Festival. Herman Lira was coordinating the event. Before the door opened for the public, I sat in the performance space with the other volunteers — mainly kids from the Harlandale high school's film program. We were given assignments on what we all would be doing during the evening. When my name wasn't mentioned, I later asked George what I was supposed to do.

“You're back up,” he said, looking surprised. I guess I should have known.

Amanda, visiting from her student life in San Marcos, had come down to act as Mistress of Ceremonies. She sported a short hairdo that a certain Miss N. Young might gushingly denominate as “sassy.” But, all of us Amanda Silva fans, always find her adorable, no matter how cute her coif might be. Here's a shot of her next to René, Urban-15's office manager.

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We managed to draw a pretty good-sized crowd. Maybe 75 people. I hung out in the lobby talking with Cat and George. And I also took a spin through the courtyard that Hector and Rosendo had cleaned up for the intermission which would feature George's signature aguas frescas. There were tiki torches and crisscrossing white Christmas lights. It had been raining earlier, but now the skies were clear and the breeze cool.

And when the crowd came out to take a breather and help themselves to refreshments, it brought memories of the first time I had ever been to Urban-15. My friend Michelle, who dances with their troupe, invited me to the Urban-15 anniversary party. That was probably 3 years ago. The courtyard was filled with lights and people and drinks and tacos. It was a warm, gracious, neighborhood event. And things haven't changed. The events are just coming more frequently.

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I headed into the performance space to watch the second half. I had already seen the first half as a sneak preview. I headed up to the third floor. This is where the choir loft used to be back when the building was a church. George and Cat had turned these rooms (which have windows which over-look the screening space) into balconies. I walked into a room with five chairs. Because the chairs on the floor below hadn't yet been filled, these sky boxes were kept for the Urban-15 folks and their volunteers. It was a great place to see movies. Maybe one day they'll install the wet bar and fondu station.

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As a volunteer, I had the same rights as the paying public. I could vote on my favorite film. I chose a piece from Spain called “The Prestidigitator.” It possessed a wonderful combination of innocence and cynicism. The pacing and structure was impeccable. Acting, perfect. The lighting, sublime. And the camera work was flawless. There was some jib work that just flowed with an organic naturalness. There were places where I would have demanded a close-up insert shot, but the filmmaker never felt it necessary. And he was right.

Herman called me a couple of days later to tell me that the San Antonio winner was, I believe, either “I Want to be a Pilot,” or “Boris's Complete Book of Rules.” The first place winner from all cities — all the venues around the globe where this contest / festival screened — was “One Hundredth of a Second.” I didn't see this one all the way through. It was playing while I was checking the projection and sound equipment earlier in the week. I never made it a point to sit down and watch it with a critical eye because it struck me as profoundly manipulative, with a soulless, two-dimensional protagonist. But I guess people were moved by the exquisite cinematography and the gritty subject matter of photojournalism in war-torn regions.

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Sunday, I returned to the Adelante.

We began the day with Kat Chandler. I know Kat from her blog on the Storie Productions site.

Last year (or was it the year before?), I attended an event where Stacy Schoolfield talked about the feature film, “Jumping Off Bridge,” produced by her and Kat Chandler.

I was so beguiled by Stacy's warmth and honestly that I navigated to the website of Storie Productions that very night. And ever since, I have been an avid subscriber to Stacy's blog. Normally, I would only skimmed Kat's. They both can be found on the Storie Production website. Stacy has a way of writing that can just break your heart. She talks about her work with homeless shelters, or perhaps her rescue animals, or maybe just hanging out with her daughter — and the writing is just so emotionally unguarded, but devoid of mawkishness. There is no way one can write in that manner without it coming straight out of the bones. Whatever it is she writes about — whether it's her daughter going off to college or some bit about a dying bat on her downtown Austin jogging path — it's all just perfect … and profoundly moving.

But now that I've heard Kat Chandler give her talk about low-budget independent filmmaking, I have her voice in my head, and I can now read her blog entries with a new sensibility. And don't think I won't. When Kat was up there telling you what you need to know (even if you didn't know you needed to know it), it's like coming out of the amnesia and realizing your are in the presence of your very best friend … whom you've forgotten for way too long.

After Kat, we had Mike Tolleson. He's not near so charming as Kat Chandler (sorry, man), but he reminded me that I really need to be thinking seriously of the bigger picture if I really want to be a filmmaker. Business structure, CPAs, contracts, and all that soulless and horrendously expensive stuff that is the business side of show business.

What a mess….

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