Touring the ISDs of Bexar County on 5 Gallons a Day

Monday morning, as I was sipping my coffee and checking my various email accounts, I happened to glance up at my calendar. Something didn’t look right. I pulled it down and squinted closer. Oh, fuck! I’d scheduled for Tuesday two campus visits to pimp the Josiah Youth Media Festival. Jefferson and Taft, both at 11 in the morning. I sent an email to Adam Rocha to see if I could reschedule another day to talk to the kids in his film program at Jeff. I was moving on to some other important task (probably catching up on the blogs I subscribe to) when the phone rang.

It was Adam. “How about today?” he asked. Sounded great to me. Knock it out, and thus accomplish an important task for Monday. “When?” I asked. He said eleven. I said I could do it, no problem … though I wasn’t too sure what time it was at the moment. “Great,” Adam said. “I’ll see you in twenty.”

As in twenty minutes.

So, I put on a some pants and jumped in my truck. I’m not too far from Jefferson High School. It’s on the west-side near Woodlawn Lake. Actually, I got there in plenty of time. I went inside and checked in at the front office. I was given some very involved verbal instructions. Ten minutes later I found myself out beyond the athletic center in some godforsaken wasteland where I can only assume the seniors escape to get high, or whatever kids do these days. I backtracked and asked directions from a perky student equivalent of a prison trusty — hall monitor, maybe. She gave me some useful directions which took me to a smaller building whose entrance was maybe 50 feet from where I’d parked my truck.

When I entered the building, I began aimlessly wandering around, looking for the room. As I passed an open and unmarked door, I heard a familiar voice shout out: “E. Boss! Where are you going?”

It was, of course, the ubiquitous Jessica Torres, one of San Antonio’s top young filmmakers.

I walked into Adam’s room. There was a photo op in progress. The kids were crowded around Adam as a woman took their picture. I, of course, had to pull out my iPhone and snap off a few blurry photos. (No wonder the Japanese have no interest in the iPhone — the camera sucks.)


I pitched the festival … poorly. I wasn’t prepared at all. And damn when I mentioned ASCAP Adam asked me to tell his students what ASCAP stands for. My caffeine levels plummeted and I froze up. I blathered a couple of inane sentences and Adam asked me something more basic and I moved on.

All in all, it proved quite the success. Adam had already gotten eight of his students to submit completed films with paper work. I walked out of there with eight submissions to the 2009 Josiah Youth Media Festival. Adam’s students are on top of things. 21 days ahead of deadline. Yeah! Mustang Cinema rocks!

I thought I’d celebrate. I called up Deborah to see if I could buy her lunch. We met at a little cafe over near the Woodlawn Theater. I wanted to see her before she left for two weeks in New York City.

It must have been while enjoying a torta and a few cups of coffee that I realized that my cold was gone. How inexplicable. It hit me on Thursday and was gone in Monday. Oh, hell, it probably wasn’t a cold at all. Just some biological warfare experiment being tested by one of the many military installations in this city. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll cough up my pancreases.

So, feeling more human than in recent memory, I took to the bike trail for a late afternoon ride. Hot and way too humid. It helps to know the stops along the Mission Trail where you can find water fountains. Especially water fountains with chilled water.


The coldest water on the Mission bike trail is at the rest rooms of Mission San Juan. Push the spigot button, let it run for about ten seconds, and, there you go. It will make your teeth ache, but in a wonderful fashion. Well, perhaps you have to have cycled for thirty minutes or more to truly appreciate this experience.


Tuesday I headed out for another school visit. It was Comm Arts. AKA, Communications Arts. This is a magnet school out at Taft High School which is located in NISD, the North-side Independent School District.

The freaky thing is — and here, let me quote Wikipedia: “San Antonio and Bexar County are served by 17 separate independent school districts.” That’s nuts.

Anyway, last year Comm Arts submitted several really impressive pieces to the Josiah Festival. In fact, a documentary they gave us won best in that category. Heidi Whitus and the other instructors working up north at Comm Arts are doing an impressive job bringing out the best in their kids.

I’ve been in email communication with Heidi for a couple of years. To the best of my knowledge, I have yet to meet her. And Tuesday got me no closer. I met with another instructor, Stephen Villela. I like him. His students asked some good questions. I’m looking forward to some strong submissions again this year from the Communications Arts Magnet School at William Howard Taft High School, NISD. What a mouthful!


My other Tuesday student film commitment was the 800 Pound Film Festival at Santikos Northwest 14 Theater. This is the film festival put on by NESA. This stands for North East School of the Arts. It’s an arts magnet in Robert E. Lee High School. Which is in NEISD, the North East Independent School System. This endless iterations if ISDs is, to put it impolitely, a fucking morass. But, I gotta say, this little impoverished blue collar city has more student film programs (at the high school level) than Dallas or Houston. In fact, if someone were to tell me that San Antonio had more high school-level film programs than all other major Texas cities combined, I wouldn’t be too surprised. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. San Antonio is rich with high school film programs (and excellent ones, at that), but appallingly poor with college-level film programs.



Thursday, I headed up to St. Mary’s Hall. This is a private school with Episcopalian roots. K-12. Carol Parker Mittal teaches the media / film classes. Her students’ work has been featured in the last two years of the Josiah Festival. The two stand-out pieces were both claymation narratives. But St. Mary’s Hall students have also submitted live action narratives as well as abstract experimental works.

Carol let me into the media room and then she headed out to find some students. I believe they were on their lunch hour. But she returned with maybe ten students. Of course she did. She was treating them to pizza.

While I was waiting for her bring in the kids I took some time to check out the set they had designed for this year’s stop-motion animation project. It’s something else. A mad scientist’s lab. I believe he’s experimenting with pets, as the tiny prop books on the tiny shelves all had pet-puns as titles. I noticed, behind the fly-away walls, two battery packs. This means that all the lighting effects would be practical effects. No CG bullshit here. Old-school. The camera? A Nikon. DSLR.

I took a few shots with my iPhone, feeling like a spy on a movie set. I’ve decided not to post them here. My dozens of readers need to come out to the Josiah Festival (or any of the other local screenings that this piece will play). It doesn’t yet have a title. But keep your eye on this blog. I’ll let you know. I’m sure it’ll get into every festival that it’s submitted to. I was given sneak previews of three clips. I saw a dolly shot. I saw a rack-focus. Wow!


Thursday night was a NALIP-SA meeting, We had all four executive officers show up, which hasn’t been the case recently. (Mostly because this is the first meeting I have been able to attend in maybe three months.) I would have liked a better turn out, but I think we laid out the programing for the next three months.

Attendees: Veronica, Dora, Manuel, Raemelle, Sandra, Victor, Ron, Ralph. And, myself. I can spell Raemelle’s name with confidence. I have her business card from the NALIP national conference. The card has a breathtaking photo which I assume is her acting headshot. I think she lives up in Austin. How cool. She and the fiance drove down just to be with us!

I was hoping to have more time catching up with Sandra and Victor (AKA Pocha y Payan). They had just returned from a tour of France, Italy, and NYC. All I really know of this excursion was lifted from their Twitter feeds and FaceBook posting. I’m not sure, but I think Sandra might have been traveling (in part) to research an art project.


One of the things Sandra showed me was this Tarot deck she’d picked up in Paris, designed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (my vote for the most important living filmmaker).

She said he’s very accessible. In fact, when she and Victor dropped by to meet him, they were told to “come back next week when he’ll be back in town.” But they had to fly back to the states. What a bummer!

My favorite Twitter post from Pocha whilst she was in Italy (I probably could look it up, but I choose to paraphrase from memory): “Italy filled with cliches. All the men ask me if I’m married. And then they ask me if I’m Catholic.”


I stumbled on an early silent Buster Keaton film online.

Click over to Sherlock Jr.

My honest and unexpected laughter came at the 5:56 mark.

I’ve never heard of this film before. A quick internet search has informed me that it is often cited as a surreal film or an early work of meta-narrative.

Maybe. I still haven’t seen it all the way through. Most likely it’s just a playful comedy by an enormously talented early actor / director.

I’ll finish watching it over the weekend.


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