Paying the Price of a Free Coffee Mug

Now I remember one of the downsides of working for the Company. As a temp worker, I'm affected by the vagaries of other divisions — divisions, I might point out, staffed by full-time employees. Anyway, I discovered that my services weren't needed this evening … but everything should be up and running full speed by Monday. Time to hit the ol' plasma bank.

On the upside, I was able to head over to the Esperanza Center for a screening of Lost in Beijing (2007), directed by Li Yu. It's one of the reasons to attend film festivals like this. I most likely never would have put this in my NetFlix queue or picked it off the shelf at the library. But it's a great film with a tight, always unfolding story-line. It's heavy with handheld camera work and jump cuts that are woven together organically and never got on my nerves.

The annual Cine Mujer at the Esperanza pulls a decent crowd — well, for this sort of thing in San Antonio. There were maybe 50 people tonight. But it occurred to me that I rarely see familiar faces from the film community at these events. Sure, if people I know have a film screening. But not so for these curated shows of international works like Cine Mujer, the Jewish Film Festival, the European Film Festival, the Canary Island Film Festival, Manhattan Shorts, and so on. Many of these screenings are free or damn cheap. I'm tempted to decant a tall serving of bile for my fellow filmmakers, but maybe with the convenience of Blockbusters and Netflix (not to mention a public library system with a decent and growing film collection), the trend is to learn from films one watches at home.

I've had this on-going conversation with George Cisneros at Urban-15. He wants to know how to plug into the San Antonio film-going community so as to fill more seats at the occasional film events they have at Urban-15. The problem is that in San Antonio there isn't a deep love for cinema. The people who attend film festivals in this town (who aren't there to see a film they themselves worked on, or, perhaps, in hopes of catching sight of a famous so-and-so) are generic lovers of the arts. These are the people who attend the theater, art openings, dance performances, poetry readings, and so forth. They are curious and often have a deep liberal arts background.

People in this city who I see in attendance at these film events are less likely to be card-carrying members of, say, the Pier Paolo Pasolini Appreciation Society, than just generally open-minded creative human beings hungry for new ideas and experiences. Perhaps there are still cities in this country where you can turn to a stranger in the row behind you before a film begins and find yourself in a deep conversation about the early work of Fassbinder. Don't expect to find it here in San Antonio. Art always takes a back seat — hell, it's usually asked to trot along behind the vehicle.

This brings me to my afternoon. I was invited along with about 20 other local film people (chiefly educators) to give input to the proposed expansion of the a media / cinema program at Northwest Vista, one of the more promising campuses in our Alamo Community College District.

The invite came from Manny Navarro Jr., Coordinator of Occupational Programs. It seems that they will be expanding their video and multimedia programs into a very ambitious and streamlined curriculum.

The program seemed to be weighed heavily toward technology, with a very slight acknowledgment of the arts.

This sort of wrong-headed thinking is rife throughout the film and video programs for kids in this town. And the results are, for the most part, shockingly bereft of aesthetics.

Ultimately it comes down to the instructors. I hope that when this program gets up and running, they will have teachers on staff who introduce the students to composition, lighting, and how to, for fuck's sake already, gather and edit audio.

I cadged a ride with Russ. And when we showed up, there were his colleagues from Harlandale High School, George and Dago. What? This was pretty much the entire teaching staff of the Film School of San Antonio (AKA, the cinema department at Harlandale). I had images in my head of emo introverts sitting at editing stations in a darkened classrooms looking around and calling out in a fearful croak: “Sir?”

Konise was also there, as well as a guy from Edgewood Academy. Drew and Pete made it. Kevin Williams and Roger Castillo. Ned from Say Si. And a bunch of people I should have known (I guess) but didn't.

We were provided a very nice taco buffet bar. And each of us was given a Northwest Vista coffee mug. As I had run out of coffee at the house I was looking around for the big kettle of coffee to fill up my new mug. No coffee. Just sweetened tea. Sweetened? This ain't Alabama.

As I carried my plate of food to a seat, grumbling about no fucking coffee, I noticed Russ sauntering in from the hallway blowing across the surface of his coffee mug.

“You went to the staff kitchen, didn't you?” I asked.

“Still another cup or two in the pot,” he said with a smug grin.

And he was right. Just enough for a full cup.

There was enough hot air generated to lift the Goodyear fleet to the to Troposphere. But I believe we were all lassoed under the umbrella (and who said I couldn't mix a metaphor?) of the Northwest Vista Video & Cinematography Advisory Committee. And don't think I not gonna stick it on my resume.

Here are a couple of snaps. I wanted to stick my new Northwest Vista mug in the foreground to make the images look cool. This course I now know to be ill-advised, as the photos look pretty awful.

Here we have Drew, Brandon, and Pete. Hm. Looks like they're there for their parole hearings.

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And this is a man who's name I didn't get. He had some very good things to say. He represents an important production company in town I had not heard of before with the unfortunate name of Apple Productions (which inexplicably hasn't been litigated into oblivion by Steve Jobs). He's refusing to allow me my candid photo op and is apparently watching me photograph him. But his loss — my camera decided to focus on the plastic cup in front of him.

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Now I have really got to hit the sheets. I have an early shoot in the morning with Sam, somewhere downtown. I just have to figure out how to snake around the streets they will be closing for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (to help fund research for breast cancer).

Actually, I believe our main actor, JJ Phillips, will be arriving on set after running the Komen. Usually this would be a red flag. No one wants an actor showing up after running a marathon. But I watched JJ inhale over ten slices of pizza and still maintain his high energy state. Ah, youthful metabolism.

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