Recovering from the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2011

(Friday.)

Well, the diagnosis on my computer was dire. It’s back with me, but with a new hard drive, and lighter by about 200 gigs of miscellaneous files. Hell, I don’t even know what’s missing. So, tonight I begin the long process or reinstalling Final Cut Studio. This is a massive suite of programs which will clog up this new hard drive with over 50 gigabytes of stuff. The first things I put on were the browsers I actually use. Firefox and Google Chrome. For some reason, I just can’t warm to Safari. Also, Handbrake and MPEG Streamclip (handy workhorses for video hackery). And you gotta have VLC, as a great universal (and free) media player.

The biggest pain in the ass was one lost file. A little and seemingly inconsequential Final Cut project file. This is what kept track of all my cuts and fades and effects of an 18 minute edit of the last Windows Performance for Jump-Start. About 15 hours of work has vanished. I still have the original HD video files, so I’m not in panic mode, just surly and bitchy.

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One of the more constructive things I accomplished today was to get my CAAP proposal off to OCA. OCA is the Office of Cultural Affairs. Most local artist know them because of the funding they provide to art and cultural organizations, as well as individual artists. They have a sizable budget, which is principally pulled from a percentage of the San Antonio hotel / motel tax. One of their new programs is the Community Arts Access Program. This initiative will allow the creation of a San Antonio artists roster. Artists and art organizations submit proposals of what they have to offer to communities. If they are chosen, then they will be placed on the roster list. Community organizations, cultural centers, schools, etc, can then request these artists, performers, groups, and such. The artists will get their full fee. OCA will match the fee on a sliding scale of 50% down to I believe 25% (depending on the total amount). It’s similar to successful programs which have been presented by Humanities Texas and the Texas Commission on the Arts. One big downside is that it actually puts the onus on the artists to get out and hustle and find community organizations to invite them to come do their thing.

The two videos I wanted to use for work samples were also lost on the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2011. But I had a third option. I went with that.

As I filled out the online proposal form last night and this morning, it occurred to me that my proposal might not fit the criteria. I offered what I called a Digital Documentation Workshop. I would work with various arts and cultural organizations, training their staff on how to record their projects and events using digital video cameras, audio recorders, and nonlinear editing systems. The hands-on workshop would also include taping one of their events or performances and making sure that, by the time the workshop had wrapped, they had a finished piece. These videos could be used for their archives, to broaden their audiences by posting video files online, and to create more polished and professional video clips when seeking grant funding.

Because what I’m proposing isn’t in itself art, I hope I don’t get kicked out in the early stages before I have a chance to defend the proposal.

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(Saturday.)

I woke up too late to make it to the Cesar Chavez March. Bummer. I love that feeling of positive group energy. If you’ve never marched in a rally, you’re missing out on an amazing experience. This is when you truly understand that the streets belong to the people, And if we ever become as complacent as I fear we will, it will be because fewer and fewer people and organizations take to the streets for events, rallies, demonstrations, and even parades. I remember once my sister asked me why I sometimes join with bicycle clubs on group rides. I couldn’t give her an answer. I had to confess that it’s just one of those things you have to experience for yourself. And I hate giving lame answers like that.

So, blowing off the Chavez march began a series of shirking other cool events I had wanted to attend. The Dignowity Park Pushcart Races. And the events put on by my friends at the American Indians of Texas (AIT-SCM) down on their land on the far southside.

I did, however, manage to take a short bike ride out along the Mission Trail. It is finally Spring, and there is no turning back. The swampy and rich fecundity wafting from that creek which feeds into the San Antonio River near MIssion San Jose was filled with all the odors of hatching mosquitos, the fruity-tinged scent of the mountain laurel, sun-warmed mud, algae blooms, and all the earthy agitations which come from the rising of the sap, from flora and fauna alike — all those birds and bees and horny feral dogs back in the thickets. I feel we’ve finally emerged from that dark tunnel of winter. Fuck, yeah!

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The big deal was Saturday night. I had a short film, “A Bourbon Would Be Nice,” screening at the Guadalupe Theater. It was selected to screen with over a dozen other entries to the Neighborhood Film Project contest. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t win the $3,000 prize for best film in the Southside division. I had seen Rod Guajardo’s short, and realized it was, um, well, a bit better then mine. But still, I wanted to see all the work; support my fellow local filmmakers; have my peers, cast, crew, and anonymous audience members, see my piece; also, I wanted to see how it played to a live audience (I’m still not sure if I want to fix the obvious problems and send it off to festivals, or just put it to bed and move on to the next project).

Click on this sentence to view the film on my Vimeo page.

Lisa Suarez is my star. I very much wanted her to see the piece, so I asked her to be my date some weeks back. This gave him time to contact a “Mami-sitter” to look after her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

I was happy to have a good turn-out of my cast and crew. Below is a photo of Amanda, sporting a new ‘doo.

There was Lisa and I. Deborah came to join us. Shimi. Amanda. Nikki. And there were other supportive people around. Many of the cast and crew of Robb Garcia’s film were sitting in the row in front of us. Nikki, with her PrimaDonna Production posse, was across the aisle. The place was filled with many artistic people who I truly care about and who I respect. I felt very honored to be in such company. And my row had the coolest people. Amanda Silva, who I’ve known since she was 17. She was an amazing teen, and is now an even more amazing adult, A wonderful actress, performance artist, writer, producer, and so on. And then there was ST Shim, who I’m been so lucky to have befriended. We have collaborated on several projects. She is a wonderful actress, dancer, writer, and, well, she’s just incredible. And then Lisa Suarez. I don’t know her all that well yet. She’s an insanely gifted actress and writer, I certainly know that. And a warm and wonderful human being. I hope to work with her on future projects. And then there was also Deborah Keller-Rihn, one of my best friends. An important local artist who allows me to occasionally conscript her into helping me on my little movie projects. I hope my dependance on Deborah hasn’t kept her from doing her own work, because I think she’s one of San Antonio’s top visual artist. I sometimes wonder if I’d still be hanging around San Antonio if she wasn’t here.

The films began. They were broken up by the four regions. There were 16 in all. One might think that there would be four films for each region. And because there were two categories, student filmmakers and non-student filmmakers, it should have been the two strongest student films and the two strongest non-student films per each four regions. But one of the problems was that the Eastside only had two entries. Just two fucking entries!?!? And no student entry. This threw symmetry out the window.

Let me just say that I am not $3,000 richer (Rod won for the southside, and I applaud the judges, his piece is very well done — were I a judge I may well have awarded his piece more points than my own). But, and here’s the cool thing, while my piece screened, the people in the audience laughed when they were supposed to. I succeeded in entertaining people. And maybe, just maybe, the audience response has pushed me towards reshooting three scenes, adding three new scenes, and doing a bit of ADR … and then sending the piece off to the festivals. There is this major reality gap when your friends are giving you critical feedback. Your friends suck at this. And actors are even worse. And actor friends …. are you nuts? Anyway, I’ll switch this around and look at that one scene which people say they like most. The scene with Shimi and Chris. I agree. This is my favorite scene. It has the best acting, the besting lighting, the best location, the best background distraction (the very very sexy Shimi), the best audio, and, well, just the best sense of playfulness. So, if people are praising what I think is the most praiseworthy scene, it helps me to feel that I’m not too filled with absurd self-delusion (and, let me tell you, there’s that in shit-loads amongst San Antonio independent filmmakers). But, people, help me out. If you don’t want to tell me when I suck (and, really, I can take it), tell me when I DON’T suck. That also helps.

Mostly I agreed with the judges’ decisions. I’m proud for us all. And when I saw Joy-Marie Scott, one of the judges, I had to walk over and tell her how much I loved her FaceBook comment which she posted following the screening session for the judges. (Let me add that Joy has recently moved to San Antonio from the California Bay Area). Here’s what Joy wrote: “A few Saturdays ago, I was lucky enough to screen all the film projects in competition — what a way to get a crush on the city. I can’t wait to see the finalists on the big screen, and then I’m gonna search out those fish hanging from the bridge and the horses Southsiders keep in their garages.”

I was quite put off by the low turn-out. I’m not sure how many people the Guadalupe can fit, but the place was only about half-filled. Last year the event was held at SAMA, They filled up that auditorium (not too much smaller than the Guadalupe), and at the last minute they created a second screening.

So, by having the event on the westside, we lost serious audience. I don’t blame the westside. I blame ill-educated audiences. They need to learn that not only is the westside safe and friendly, it’s also pretty fucking hip.

Well, it was a great night.

One of the more high-profile after-parties was over at the El Tropicano Hotel. This party was put together by Rod Guajardo’s better half (and trust me, he’s a handsome guy, but reserve judgment until you meet Rosemary, because, well, oh my goodness). The party served to celebrate the whole night of great films. But also we were celebrating Rod’s birthday. It was all very sweet.

Here’s a photo of Roman Garcia, Me, and Lisa Suarez.

Around midnight I dropped Lisa off at her home. She needed to let her Mami-sitter leave. And I headed home. After I was back home at my computer, more than a bit inebriated, I got a text from Rod. It seemed the after-party had become an after-after-party at the Pedicab Bar and Grill. I ignored the text. I was already home. And ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Rod. A bit drunk. I let him know I’d be at the Pedicab Bar in ten minutes, but he’d better buy me a beer, because last call was coming up fast.

The Pedicab Bar is maybe four blocks away from my place as he crow flies. But there’s that pesky river. So I decided to drive. I was there in maybe five minutes. It was my first visit to the Pedicab Bar. Funny, I had tried to get the Bike Porn traveling film fest there many months ago. And I had written a short story where a fictionalized version of my actor / wrestler friend Gabe the Babe works as one of the Pedicab drivers for a somewhat fictionalized version of this bar and pedicab business. I was happy to find that it was just the sort of laid-back cool divey venue I had thought it to be.

And even though when I walked in to some motherfucking Karaoke, the coolnes of the place wasn’t diminished. The place is raw and punk. And no amount of flirtation with mainstream bullshit will strip away the Pedicab Bar’s friendly fuck-you attitude. I like the place.

I hate, and I mean absolutely hate stand-up-comedy. But when I arrived there was my friend Roman Garcia, actor and comic, He took to the stage (there were very few people in the bar). He did a version of his recent act. But very laid-back. He was talking to us, and responding to us. But not in some antagonistic format. The bottom line was that Roman was giving Rod a wonderful present — a free performance. I have to say it was one of the most sweet and playful stand-up routines I’ve ever seen. If all stand-up was like this (a weird kind of community event), there might be whole new audiences. And then Roman did some Karaoke. It was a Journey song, I think. He fucking nailed it. So now I know that Roman isn’t just a great actor and comedian (I already knew that), but he can fucking sing.

Jose Bañuelos was also there. I know him as an excellent actor and committed filmmaker, but until I heard him do Elvis — and damn well — I have to admit, I have new respect for the guy.

They eventually shut down the bar, and I was able to escape without ever having to take the stage and bellowing out some song.

The night eventually ended. I do wish I had won. Three grand would have been nice. If I won, I would have taken a thousand dollars and distributed it equally among cast and crew. And the balance I would have used for another project, where I could also pay my wonderful collaborators.

Oh, well. I’ll keep trying. Maybe I’ll get a bit better with each new project. That’s always been the idea. And sometimes it even seems to work out that way.

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(Sunday.)

The second screening of “A Bourbon Would Be Nice.” Again at the Guadalupe Theater. It played with about a dozen other films which were submitted to the Neighborhood Film Project. The Westside and Southside, only, in keeping with, I presume, the longstanding rivalry between those two sections of the city. This was part of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s Cinema in the Barrio series of free movies. I was glad to have an opportunity to see some films which weren’t selected to play last night. Such as a cute and polished narrative from Scott Greenberg. I was dismayed by the very thin turn out. And dumbfounded how few directors of these thirteen or so films were in attendance. Just Scott, Rod, and myself. (True, I did see Alejandro Rodriguez in the audience, and he was a central crew member on Ismael Leiva’s film.) Manuel with the Guadalupe contacted all us filmmakers. Free passes for ten of our friends and a chance to get on stage for a Q&A session. Who turns their backs on that? And we three all did films for the Southside. Not a single Westside filmmaker was in attendance. And the Guadalupe is ON the Westside — in fact, it was featured prominently in many of the Westside films. What’s up? I think I know who won this throwdown.

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