Holding My Breath Until the Final Decision

Monday night.  November, 3rd.

I’ve not been very engaged on the blog writing front of late.  It didn’t help that last Tuesday, while I sat on the panel of the San Antonio Film Commission’s monthly Film Forum at the downtown public library, moderator Nikki Young mentioned on several occasions that my blog is a must-read, and had me blurt out the website.

It’s not that I’m lacking in anything to say.  My life continues to be an intriguing mosaic of little unexpected adventures here and there.  I have something of an ant’s-view, myopic it may be, of a substantial region of the film and video world here in San Antonio.  Actually I should get on the stick and use my blog to spread the word on three important events.

One.  The 2009 Luminaria Arts Night in San Antonio.  I’m co-chair of the film committee.  And, dammit, the submission deadline has already passed.  Maybe I didn’t do enough to get the word out — leastwise in my blog.

Two. There’s the San Antonio Film Summit.  It’s part of the NALIP-sponsored Adelante Film Forum, which will be this coming weekend.   The Summit will be Friday, November the 7th, at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.  Free, and open to the public.  We hope to bring together the local production companies, independent producers, broadcast media, independent media, media educators, artists, activists, actors, and on and on.  We want to see where we are in this city in regards to time-based visual media.  There has been talk about a city-owned building which might become available to the film community.  Nothing so elaborate as Bergstrom Field in Austin, but something remarkable, nonetheless.  This Summit will hopefully also serve as a sort of needs-assessment from the San Antonio film community.  I’m banking on that most important triumvirate of San Antonio bureaucracies will be there to see what a diverse and extraordinary group we all are.  The crucial city offices I’m talking about are: The San Antonio Film Commission (attached to the CVB), the Office of Cultural Affairs, and lastly a group that so many filmmakers and artists forget about, the Economic Development Department.

Three.  Then there is, of course, the Adelante Film Forum.  We need people to sign up!  I believe it’s only 30 dollars, 10 dollars for students.  Check the website, in case I’m wrong.  www,napil-sa.org.  NALIP stands for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.  If you check out the websites, national and local, you’ll see that their mission statement makes room for non-Latinos to be members.  Personally, I think it’s pretty difficult to make films in San Antonio and not fit into this mission statement.  Anglo I may be, but I’m not only a member of NALIP, I’m also an executive officer of the San Antonio chapter.  I feel I should point out that the NALIP-sponsored Adelante Film Forum, an excellent three day conference, is not geared specifically toward Latino producers or even filmmakers who are working on Latino-specific productions.  This year’s Adelante Film Forum, just like the previous three years, is bringing in producers, distributors, writers, and so forth, of all ethnic backgrounds who are open to all manner of productions.  Come on out, join me,  and get involved.

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The other day I attended a meeting with a local film group, and it hit me that I’ve become increasingly ambivalent to this whole film production thing.

I’ve been fumbling around in this city for half a decade, and it seems I’m nowhere near the position I need to be in to make a comfortable living doing what I want to do — and that’s making movies.  Well, I think that’s what I want to do.  But I can’t blame this city.  I just don’t seem to have the drive to make things happen for myself.

With the recent advent of a well-paying temp job (which like so many temp jobs could evaporate at any time, it’s akin to living on a month by month lease), I’m not so desperate in wondering where my next paycheck is coming from; however, with this vague financial stability I’ve found myself at a sort of crossroads.  I could remain here in San Antonio and concentrate all my energies on trying to get my own projects funded and made.  Don’t get me wrong, this temp job working as a copywriter for a major auction house up in Dallas (“guest cataloger” being the term they use) still keeps me under the national poverty level.  But that’s okay, I suppose, because I’ve never known anything else.  By working, say, two or three weeks every two mouths, I’ll still be doing better than any full-time retail job I’ve ever worked.  So, I’d be able to keep the wolves at bay and have loads of time to polish a script, seek funding, and so forth.  Appealing.  But this isn’t too divergent from the lifestyle I’ve managed here in town for the last three or four years.  And that obviously wasn’t working.  Where’s that feature script?  That novel?  That polished film?

My other potential plan would be to make another sabbatical down to the Big Bend, perhaps permanent.  As long as the auction gig is to last, it doesn’t seem to matter too much where I live.  They pay traveling expenses.  And the cost of living in the Big Bend is easily less than half of that here in San Antonio.  It’s an economically devastated region, don’t you know.  Besides, there’s not a lot to do there … well, you know, not a lot to do that costs money.  Hiking Closed Canyon, camping under the stars, biking caliche jeep trails deep into the Bofecillos Mountains, grabbing a free Spanish lesson from the borrachos who hang out under that huge salt cedar behind Rosendo’s store, or watching the javelina come down from the hills at dusk to drink from the river … these things cost nothing at all (well, you might want to pop for a few cerveza fria for los borrachos, ’cause who could be that pinche?).  So, the question remains, would I do a better job of making projects down on la Frontera?  First, I should point out that there is no shortage of great stories to turn into documentaries throughout the frontier borderland.  But the amount of support from their local film community is, last I heard, zero, as there is no local film community.  The self-aware dilettante in me is intrigued with the notion of being the big fish in the micro-pond.

I’m conflicted.

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Tomorrow is election day.  I got a jump on things and hit the early voting back on Thursday.  I had toyed with the notion of voting with the crowds tomorrow, but I decided to just get it over with.  I was over on the east-side of town, scoping out a building L. Darlene Miller, CCIM, Commercial Realtor and film festival promoter extraordinaire, threw my way as a possible studio space.  It was a bit out of my price range, but the fact that it was coded for office space as well as for a restaurant, I wanted to at least peer through the windows.  Can you imagine a home studio with a huge kitchen complete with electric fryer vat?  I kind of liked the place.  It’s on East Commerce.  It used to be an old house, and still has a curved, railed front porch.  But I decided that even if I had the funds, the place lacked a large central space I could use to build sets and stage more involved shots.

Next, I headed down Commerce, even further east.  The Claude W. Black Community Center was doing some solid business aiding the locals in all their early voting needs.  I felt a certain properness to be casting my vote for, I certainly hope, our first black president there in the heart of San  Antonio’s African-American community.

As my sister wrote on her blog (in response to her early voting experience), it was quite a thrill to vote for a presidential candidate who you really want in the office … and, of course, who you actually think has a good chance of winning.  I would feel a lot better about Obama if only he would stop his saber-rattling about increasing troops in Afghanistan.  Yes, I know this was mostly his attempt to look tough when talking alongside Hillary (whose rhetorical blood-thirst was second only to that of Lieberman); but, here’s the thing — I’m gambling that Obama is actually a screaming progressive leftist (and perhaps he actually paid attention to the time he spent with the Reverend Wright), who is cleverly concealed by a thin candy coating of semi-liberal centralism.  A feller can dream, can’t he?

After leaving the polling place, I made a stop at that huge, rambling series of east side cemeteries.  I shot some scenes of grave stones for a video piece I planned to do for the Centro Cultural Aztlan’s Dia de los Muertos show.  But I had to call Deborah and cancel.  I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I can’t seem to author DVDs on my computer anymore.  My Mac’s iDVD program has crapped out on me.  I think it happened either when I upgraded my operating system to Leopard (which has yet to impress me), or when I upgraded my video editing program, Final Cut Pro.  I do have a copy of DVD Studio Pro, but this son of a bitch has a learning curve like the Matterhorn.  I need a few weeks of intense study to master it.  I hated to, but I had to bail.

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Another current project is a proposal I submitted Friday to an artist-in-residence program out in Roswell, New Mexico.  Back when I applied for the San Antonio Artists Foundation’s annual grant, I figured I had a good 85% chance to get it.  This Roswell gig, I’ll give myself a 15% chance.  And seeing as I didn’t get the SA Artists Foundation, I’m pretty sure Roswell’s gonna turn it’s nose up as well.  But, hey, you have to play to win.  It’d be sweet to get the residency.  It’s for a year.  They provide a living / studio space and an $800 monthly stipend.    Roswell sits on the edge of the Staked Plains, aka Llano Estacado.  The fringe of the Rockies hits just to the west of town.  Take a two-lane blacktop towards the town of Capitan, and you’ll soon find yourself passing low mountains within the Lincoln National Forrest.  It’s wild, lonely, and beautiful.  And if you don’t mind appearing the rube, you can also look for UFO crash sites.  There are two not far from Roswell.  One’s on private property.  Another is at a really nice place to camp.  Oh, my goodness.  I believe I have just outed myself as a rube.

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Halloween.  Back on Friday night.  My friend Kat, is, I believe, currently in town.  I’ve spent at least two Halloween’s with her on my porch.  But this year she never gave me a call.  Kat lives an unusual life, and I would never make demands on her.  Either she calls me, or … well, that’s the only choice.  She goes from one bad relationship to the other.  And it’s marriage one season, annulment, the next, and probably now, some unstable and inadvisably young fiancee.  (For those regular blog readers checking their scorecards, this might not be the Kat you’re thinking of.  I know about five women named Cat or Kat.  This is the one who has on occasion advertised in the back pages of the San Antonio Current and, no, that’s not how I met her.)

So I wasn’t hanging out on my porch, handing out candy.  Instead, I walked to Chip and Becky’s place across the street.  They make a big deal every year.  Hell, you have to in this neighborhood.  Kids come in from all over.  As I’ve said before, the citizens are rich (except for me), the house are old, cool, and spooky, and the candy is damn plentiful.  So, yes, of course the kids will come to this neighborhood.  Chip and Becky are on one side of the street.  Their house faces that of Brad and Dina.  Chip has always struck me as a perennial Republican.  His wife?  I don’t know.  But across the street from them we have a clear case of a house divided.  Dina is for Obama.  Brad, McCain.  But in a clear and playful approach to bipartisanism, Dina and Brad’s house was dressed up as a clear McCain / Palin house.  Dina was dressed as Sarah Palin.  Her husband, Joe the Plumber.  Across the street, Chip took on the role as a serious Obama supporter.  Their yards were filled with political signs and all sorts of red, white, and blue festoonery.  Loudspeakers in the trees of each house were playing the most outrageous statements from each parties’ ad campaigns.  Clearly Chip came up with this scheme.  He kept shouting out what he though was the rhetoric from each side after it has been cooked down to its sugary essence.  “It’s either Socialist, or War-Monger.”  I was about to explain that only one was a dirty word, but I decided to shut my mouth.  Hell, I was enjoying the man’s tasty homemade chili and a comfy seat on his front porch.

These two families had also strung across the street what amounted to a clothesline on pulleys.  Hanging over the street was the “Undecided Voter,” his or her head was a box with a question mark on it, with the arms and legs made from streamers.  One of his hands held a sign for McCain (it was on Dina’s side), his other held a sign for Obama (on Chip’s side).  As the kids came up to the porch for their candy, they were asked (on both Dina’s porch and Chip’s porch) who were they going to vote for.  When they’d name McCain or Obama they’d get an “I Voted” sticker placed on the costume, and the dangling effigy would be pulled one way or another — toward the fake democrat house when Obama was mentioned, and toward the fake republican house when McCain was mentioned.  I can only say that Chip wasn’t pulling too hard with each Obama vote.  Because if he were being fair, that dangling “Undecided Voter” should have been hugging his house, the Obama house, after the first ten minutes.  95% of the kids said Obama.  The other 5% I guess had apolitical parents and they were just guessing, you know, and hoping for candy.  If only we could allow the children of San Antonio to vote, Obama would have Texas sewn up.

To Chip’s credit, he allowed this “Undecided Voter” to remain hanging over the street, poised above the curb on his side (the Obama side) until early this morning when a big truck thundered through and tore it down.

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Yesterday I decided to figure out how to burn the most basic  disk using DVD Studio Pro.  Nikki and Chadd at PrimaDonna Productions had been so kind as to burn me a DVD for a work sample which I sent along with my Roswell proposal, but I knew I had to come up with a method to do it myself.

I hit a few forums and message boards, and it seemed that many other people had experienced iDVD failure after upgrading to Leopard.  And to be honest, I wasn’t even sure where my iDVD program had come from.  I believe it came loaded on my G3.  I hunkered down Sunday and checked the internet sites of Ken Stone, Creative Cow, the DVX Users Group, and between all these resources, I found a streamlined method on how to use DVD Studio Pro to author the most basic DVD, free of any menus.  You load it into your machine and it starts playing.  A breeze, right?  There must be a simple drag and drop button.

Ha!  It took me an hour find a clear tutorial, and another hour to follow through with the instructions.  Add to that the time it took to get one burned.  On the first pass I utilized an incorrect compression.  There was also the hour and a half when I downloaded some freeware DVD burning program that was completely useless.

But I made a successful burn.  I now know how to make a bare-bones DVD Studio Pro disk, sans menu.

Software developers are either sadists or highly functioning morons.  Here’s my question?  Why is it that when I watch, say, This Old House, I can learn how to construct a hardwood floor, wire an entire house, or install a septic tank (true, I might do all these things quite badly, but, dammit, I understand the process and work flow), yet when it comes to Photoshop, DVD Studio Pro, or any number of music composing programs, I find myself spending three hours with an instruction manual, tutorial book, or a companion DVD, and I’m still perplexed and lost?

I want the guys who build my porch and snake my toilet in on the process of software development.

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2 thoughts on “Holding My Breath Until the Final Decision

  1. OK, I’m stumped. How does one go about finding out about such events as the San Antonio Film Summit? Is there master list somewhere? Are there billboards? A telephone tree? Flyers handed out at stoplights?
    Did the ENTIRE “time-based visual media” community show up? Or was it (snidely) the usual suspects plus the film commission?
    I think I could bring something positive to the table but that’s hard to do when you don’t know where the table is going to be.
    I guess this may be inappropriate as a comment.
    Help me Blog y Mas; you’re my only hope!
    Todd

  2. Well, Todd, as you might have noticed, I’m in something of a burn-out cycle. In the past I have tried, in my humble manner, to bring attention to these sorts of events. Mostly on my blog, direct emails, and by attending various gatherings (however, it’s with obvious chagrin that I admit I have never made it to any of your events). But lately I haven’t been very effective. I think I didn’t even get around to sending out emails until the day before the summit. And yes, you certainly would have brought something to the table. However, the turnout was pretty sad even from the folks we remembered to invite with a fair amount of lead time. The most glaring absence was a representative from the Office of Cultural Affairs, and shit, they were one of the damn sponsors.

    As far as finding out about these sorts of events, I do believe Drew posted info about the summit on the Film Commission’s website. That’s a good place to keep an eye on. But you also might want to get onto the NALIP-SA listserv.

    info@nalip-sa.org

    Veronica is very good about forwarding emails out involving any sort of local film-related event she is made aware of. Shoot her you emaill and she’ll put you on the list. Also, email her all of your events, and she’ll pass them along.

    As for the “usual suspects” comment, I think I know who you’re talking about. Some of them were in attendance. But there were also a couple of people representing some local (and authentic) production companies, and a couple of artists and media activists who I rarely see at these sorts of gatherings. All-in-all, the crowd was pretty thin. But, at the risk of coming off too snidely, isn’t it about time you became one of those usual suspects? It’s very difficult to rope in to these events people who actually do this sort of work for a living (such as yourself), because, well, they’re usually busy. Working. And the fact is, I sometimes forget that the main reason I know that these sorts of events are going on is because, as a small fish in this small pond, I get very little in the way of gigs, and therefore I have oodles of free time to spend sitting on committees, taking in “meetings” over lunch, and generally networking and gossiping with the arts and cultural folks who’ll put up with me. Little surprise, I guess, that I know of the events.

    I keep hoping an individual or an organization will rise to the occasion and become a handy umbrella for all this sort of stuff — a clearing house for information, postings, resources, et al. The film commission isn’t really set up to provide this service. As for the people or groups with grand visions along these lines, well, to date they have either suffered quick burn-out, or else they are so clearly pushing a self-promotional agenda, that the “film community” (such as it is) wisely recoils.

    I’m waiting for someone with tremendous energy to come in and build it. I’m smart enough to know that person ain’t me.

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