Klaus Nomi, Quantum Gravity, and the Monte Cristo Sandwich

Dar and I have returned to our weekly hikes. We got sidetracked by film events that we both became enmeshed in promoting. The other week it was up at McAllister Park, on her side of town. Wednesday it was the Mission Trail, down in my realm.

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It's a time to bitch and commiserate and generally gossip about the folks we both know (chiefly in the local film world). I think it's finally sinking in. Dar's realizing what a potential monster she created in the SAL Film Festival. Its hugely successful first year has set into motion high expectations for the next year. This also means that she has the opportunity to solicit more and larger donations. I hope that all of the emerging independent filmmakers in San Antonio understand that for Dar this is a labor of love. This endeavor (at least in its current incarnation) is far from a cash cow. She passed all the funding dollars into the cash prizes; and the ticket sales were used to pay for the venue — the very swanky Aztec don't come cheap, but for all those who attended the event, there can be no dispute that it was the perfect place to showcase some of the finest San Antonio short films. And the thought that the sophomore year of SAL will be on a grander scale, with more and larger cash prizes, well, I can only hope that all of us in the San Antonio film community understand the full implication. This is a film festival for us, done right.

And as me and Dar were dodging the cyclists zipping by on the Mission Trail, it occurred to me that 2007 witnessed the birth of two crucial local film festivals. SAL and the Josiah Youth Media Festival. It's rare to find small film festivals (especially in their early years) offering sizable cash prizes. These two festivals each provided prizes totaling a thousand dollars. And in their first year. (Actually, Josiah provided the “cash” in the form of lines of credit at B & H, the premiere online source of film and video supplies.) This is significant. For those with a working knowledge of how film festivals work (and there are literally hundreds in this country alone), it's clear why so many don't offer cash prizes. Film festivals are damn expensive to run. And most of them pay staff. But to see tiny operations like SAL and Josiah manage to reward struggling artists with the most useful form of recognition — money — is a remarkable thing. What I'm getting at is that film festivals are often crass moneymaking operations that prey upon desperate filmmakers, who often pony up festival fee after festival fee in hope of exposure. Rarely are their films even deemed worthy enough to screen in the festival. But SAL charges no submission fee. And Josiah only charges 5 bucks. I'm proud to have been involved, in some degree or another, with both of these festivals.

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I met with Michael Druck that Wednesday afternoon at Jupiter Java and Jazz, on S. Alamo, pretty much in my neighborhood. The coffee there is phenomenal. I had a truly kickass latte, constructed by co-owner Vanessa. She and her husband John were gracious enough not to kick us out. As me and Druck were leaving, I realized we'd stayed there an hour after closing. John dismissed my apologies. “Oh, don't worry. I'm still cleaning up.”

The reason I was meeting with Druck was that he was soliciting feedback concerning the feature he and Bryan Ortiz produced, Doctor “S” Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies. I was a bit uncomfortable giving critical feedback. I knew that Bryan was still working on adding to the edit, especially the audio. I've seen three of Bryan's short films, and I felt fairly confident on what elements he would fix. I made a few suggestions to Michael. Ultimately I think the piece has the potential to find distribution through the avenues that Michael and Bryan have already considered … such as Troma Entertainment. It's good to see that they are sticking with things. Michael is the guy you want on your team. Bryan is very lucky to have him as a producer. Not that I want to diminish Bryan as a filmmaker. He might be very young (as is Michael), but his understanding of visual story-telling is quite advanced.

I expect only success after success from Bryan and Michael's Film Classics Productions. I only hope that once they finish this corny, campy feature, that they stop doing what I refer to as “intentionally bad” films. As a director/producer team, they are better than that. Mark my words, seven years from now they'll both be lounging in their Malibu mansions while I'm hustling drinks with Three-card Monte in a seedy suburb of Saltillo.

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Last Tuesday night I attended the San Antonio Film Commission's Film Forum. It's a monthly affair. Last year it was held in the summer. But this year, it started late, in August. I really hope Drew manages to keep it running year round.

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This October forum was all about audio in film. Great. We need as much info as possible. Too many zero-budget films have miserable sound.

The panel, moderated by Nikki Young of PrimaDonna Productions, included Frederico Chavez-Blanco, Roland Perez, Gerard Bustos, AJ Garces, and Rodolfo Fernandez. I only knew the last two gents, so it was a great opportunity to listen to some new voices.

Much of what was covered I already knew. Gerard had some useful and pragmatic information. He seemed to be a well-rounded generalist. He's a camera guy as well as a sound guy. He cleared up a couple of misconceptions I had.

However there was a bit more hot air than I would have cared for as these experts in a narrow field of production began to pontificate. It's hard to hold it against them. They were just geeking out to an audience who had a fighting chance of understanding their arcane lingo. But there was way too much chatter about preferred hardware and software, and not enough explication on the methods to get the best audio with the tools you already have. This sort of equipment fetishism wastes everyone's time.

Also, I would have liked to hear more information about Foley work and ADR.

But, really, it was great having a panel of five sound specialists talk for an hour and a half.

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The attendance could have been better. But it was nice to see Scott Greenberg. I don't think I've seen him in a year. Also, Kevin Williams was there — Rodolfo handled all the sound work on his feature film, Sandwich. And Hector Machado, one of this city's great actors, showed up. As did the beautiful and brilliant Laura Evans. Sometimes I think that our actors are more interested in the local film scene than our filmmakers.

I should point out that Rick Lopez and Russ Ansley were in the audience. Chadd Green, of PrimaDonna, was running the front of the house. And Lee Hurtado was al over the place, getting photos of the event. There were probably a couple of folks I forgot. And then there was the scattering of folks I didn't know. But where were the three or four dozen San Antonio filmmakers who I do know of?

Guys … you gotta get out and meet one another.

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My little Guenther Street house is partitioned into three apartments. The property manager is obviously asking way too much, because the other two places had been empty for months. However, recently, one has been rented. The smallest, though, is still waiting, lonely and unloved. I feel the pain. But I wonder if the woman who rented the apartment on the north side of my building, scant weeks ago, is still enamored of the apartment she once called charming. She had gone to considerable length to assemble a canvas-topped gazebo at the end of the long driveway we both share. Last week, when I returned from a long day working for the Company, I nosed my truck into the drive. I noticed that what had previously served as a dense bamboo privacy fence between the rear or my house and the rear of the house on the next street over had been savagely eradicated. A once lovely lush green wall was now a naked hurricane fence — just wires and poles — looking into a lifeless backyard of a paint-chipped bungalow … obviously recently bought and in the midst of renovation before the big investment resale.

I guess I'll one day get used to this. But what most irritated me was that I had written a short story where that stand of bamboo was an important plot point. There was supposed to be a wonderful garden of loquat trees and ferns and a fucking swimming pool hidden behind the wall of bamboo. But all I see now is a sad little backyard with a refrigerator on its side and a cracked and lopsided birdbath.

One of the great problems of augmenting the world around you into a fictionalized form, is that reality will be proved to be so slight and anemic, whereas imagination will offer color and grandeur. Of course the exceptions occasionally present themselves, and a real life event unfolds that could never have been imagined … such as Klaus Nomi, quantum gravity, and the Monte Cristo sandwich.

I believe the acme of social decadence is when a deep fried sandwich is universally embraced.

You must fight the down-turn of society. Do not fry that sandwich!

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