A Fecund and Rewarding Weekend For Some

[Written Friday the 13th; posted 08/17/10.]

Friday night and I’m feeling at loose ends. There are two events happening in town to which I have a bittersweet reaction.

The 48 Hour Film Project is currently underway in San Antonio tonight. This is the fourth year this international franchise has operated in San Antonio. I’m proud to have run the San Antonio 48HFP for the first two years. Year three, the reins were turned over to the very capable Michael Druck. And this year Dana Fox (a young woman new to me) is proving herself to be a real powerhouse. I was at the kick-off ceremony tonight at C4 Workspace where the teams got their instructions, and then, at 7pm, they were released to the wilds to script, shoot, and edit a short film.

I have mixed feelings about these sort of film races. It strikes me as a sad way to squander resources to make what will almost certainly be a glaringly inferior film than what one could fashion with the same resources, yet given a week or more of preproduction–and ditto on postproduction. But, I can’t argue that it’s a hell of a fun way to spend a weekend. The problem of being a city produce of the 48HFP is that, if you’re also a filmmaker, you feel a sting of sad loneliness–everyone else is being creative and having fun. and you….you’re running the show.

Perhaps I would have done it as a filmmaker this year. But I don’t have the money for the entry feel. Hell, I don’t even have the money for rent. And I’m a bit dismayed that no one asked me to be on their team.

And there is also the Creative Capital artist development retreat happening this weekend in San Antonio. Creative Capital is a New York-based arts funding organization. This is the fourth year that San Antonio has been on their list of cities. I was chosen to attend the second year (2008). It was an incredible experience which I shared with about 20 other local artists.

Last night (Thursday) I walked downtown with Deborah (who also attended in 2008). The Office of Cultural Affairs hosted an alumni meeting where attendees from 2007, 2008, and 2009 could share with one another where we are in our careers. It was actually very cathartic and quite fun. But as Deborah and I walked back to our King William neighborhood, I felt envious of the 2010 group. They are about to get fired up and generally reinvigorated in their sense of importance and legitimacy within the creative community. And me? I’m back to generally floundering about. Lost and dejected.

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I’m drifting away from this blog.

Mostly I seem to be scrambling about working little jobs that bring me a little bit of income, but not enough to live on. Also, I’m spending significant pro bono time working on event planning. I hate this stuff. The truth is, I’m not so adverse to doing stuff for free, but I hate being roped into doing things I’m not particularly good at.

Take the whole fundraising concept. If I knew how to make money, I wouldn’t be divesting my book collection to second-hand shops and an auction house. This upcoming event–Noche de Recuerdos–that Ramon, Deborah, and I (AKA, Proyecto Locos) are planning is a sound concept. But it will cost money. And how are we trying to raise these funds? Selling raspas. Great fun. But the money is damn dinky. And then there was our fundraising screening of the great San Antonio film, “Viva Max!”, which so few people get to see anymore (it has no current active distributor). We’d hoped for a hundred people. But only 25 showed up. I think we made a profit of seven dollars. And, of course, the three of us aren’t making anything off this. We’d like to. But unless we get schooled by some fundraiser guru, we’re going to be beat-down and no less impoverished by the day after the big event.

And speaking of my current excursions into the lands of pro bonery, I have yet again answered the call to sit on the Luminaria Steering Committee. I love Luminaria. I think it’s certainly a good thing. But because the nature of the committee work is all about fighting to make all the artists happy with as little compromise as possible, well, it’s pretty damn thankless.

[However, here’s what’s keeping me stoked about Luminaria 2011: Susanne Cooper. She’s running Luminaria 2011 (along with the great Richard Rosen). For Luminaria 2009 Susanne was co-chair of the dance committee. And, as I, co-chair of the film committee, was trying to place three multi-media dance films with live performances on a stage suited for dance, Susanne expressed excitement with bringing film and dance together. We bonded. The both of us wanted to push these sort of multi-disciplinarian presentations. And for Luminaria 2010 we saw our vision played out on Stage 7 to great success. I’m hoping 2011 will see these sorts of multi-disciplinarian acts become more prevalent. Today I might be dragging my heels….but Luminaria 2011 is gonna be damn fine. Fuck yeah!]

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Okay. Here’s the deal. In two or three months I’ll have a large manuscript ready for review. I’ve never been sure just who reads my blog. I do know there are very few people. But if you’re a writer or a serious reader of fiction, please let me know if you might want to give feedback on a novel I’m working on.

If you’re familiar with writers such as George Saunders, Thom Jones, Denis Johnson, that’s certainly a plus. I don’t know if I really like these guys, but I think I write somewhat in their style. I should point out that my work is a bit more fun to read than these guys.

My episodic roman a clef is currently slated to be titled “Tunnels Under the Tower.” It’s a first person narrative where the protagonist is never named–however, it’s safe to say he calls himself Erik. All this stuff is at least 50% autobiographical. The book–it’s a novel, but I think it best to call it a “novel,” as it’s really a series of interconnected short stories, somewhat in the manner of “House on Mango Street” (the brilliant work by my famous neighbor, four houses down, who never seems to remember me). This “novel” of mine is divided into 40 self-contained short stories which will all be interconnected into a cogent narrative. I have 33 of the story / chapters in various states, from polished to very rough. It’s a daunting thought to polish all this stuff, as well as hammer out seven new pieces. Currently I’m at 61,000 words. I expect the finished work to top out at about 85,000 to 90,000 words. It will cover an eight month period in 2010 from March 6th to November 21st. I’ve hit upon these two seemingly arbitrary dates to bookend the piece because of two stories I’ve already written and of which I’m quite fond, and one riffs on the fall of the Alamo, and the other concerns the final visit of John F. Kennedy to San Antonio, before his ill-fated trip to Dallas the following day.

I printed up 175 pages of the current draft of the manuscript. And as I’ve been thumbing through the pages, it occurred to me that there are some damn fine sentences in there. Also, more than a few killer paragraphs. Beyond that, I have absolutely no clue as to whether or not the individual stories work (and I guess I need to start thinking of them as chapters). And as for whether or not the collection will function as a single coherent text is so far beyond the grasp of my objectivity.

Anyway, around early November I hope to have a solid first draft to let other people look at. If you have any interest, please drop me a line.

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