Elvis Lives!For those of you who have been following the saga of Cherry, you know that last week we screened the film in Memphis. Before I tell you about our fabulous trip to the birthplace of Elvis Aaron Presley, however, I would like to thank Lovisa, the newest member of the Cypress team, for her most excellent redesigning of the Cypress web universe. I had been getting tired of the chaotic look of our Making Cherry and Cypress Films home pages. There were links everywhere and dozens of different font styles, colors and sizes -- not much in the way of graphic coherence. There are a few tweaks to be done yet, but all in all I think the new look is a vast improvement. For those of you who may be nostalgic, we have preserved the most recent version of the original Cherry home page here. Alrighty then, on to the Memphis report.
My first memorable moment was missing the plane. I miscalculated the traffic in Manhattan (it was the dreaded matinee day, Wednesday) and forgot that almost every cab in New York inexplicably goes off-duty exactly at the beginning of rush hour (and even when they're on duty, they only pick up white people without babies). I arrived at the airport just in time to see the airplane sitting at the gate with the jetway slightly disattached. The friendly Northwest Airlines employee told me that they could not reopen the door to the plane without forfeiting their on-time departure. I argued with her for the full fifteen minutes that the plane sat there to no avail. So, six hours later, after a change of planes in Detroit, I finally arrived in Memphis.
I should back-track a bit and explain how the Memphis screening came about. I had written a letter to the editor of Entertainment Weekly in response to a series of articles they wrote on violence in the media. It was just after the Columbine shootings and Congress was getting all squirrelly and blaming the entertainment business for the ills of society in general. My letter basically said it's the "entertainment" business, not the "protecting the moral standards of society" business. And while it's certainly true that our industry is part of the problem, it's unfair to scape-goat us; life's more complex than that (what about parents? schools? churches?). Anyway, Michael Harwood, who is on the board of the Memphis Film Forum, read my letter and sent me a sympathetic e-mail, which ultimately led to him asking to see a tape of Cherry. The Film Forum is contemplating starting a Memphis Film Festival and they were seeking a film to screen as a preliminary event to heighten the awareness of independent film in Memphis. Michael liked Cherry, so he offered to fly us down and create an event around the film.
Before arriving in Memphis, I had done three telephone interviews for local papers. In addition, the morning of the screening we appeared on a local morning television show. A very weird experience. The host was sitting about ten feet from us, but we were instructed to look into the camera, not at her, even though she was asking the questions. The red lights on the cameras were not working, so besides having to overcome the incredible urge to look at the host, we never knew which camera to look at. And it all happened at 6 AM -- not our perkiest time of day.
After the interview we had some time to kill, so Michael took us to Mississippi to one of the casinos. A few dollars poorer, we hopped back to Tennessee to meet with the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission. After taking a brief detour into Arkansas (one of those unfortunate wrong turns that takes you on an interstate highway across a bridge over the Mississippi river and five miles into another state), we joined Linn Sitler and Sharon O'Guin for a delicious lunch and a chat about the potential for filming our next project in Memphis.
Next on the agenda was Graceland! What a bizarre place. While listening to a recorded tour (which featured such gems as Priscilla lovingly recounting how Elvis once had the cook make meatloaf for dinner every night for SIX MONTHS), we meandered through the house and grounds. All I can say is that being a star does not necessarily guarantee that you will overcome your white trash roots; there was an inordinate amount of muddy brown shag carpeting on walls and ceilings complemented by crystal chandeliers and lots of TVs.
After a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up and tuck in our shirts, we drove over to the Malco Ridgeway Theatre for the screening. The Malco is a multiplex of four theaters. Cherry preempted something fabulous like Double Jeopardy -- and they actually put "Cherry" up on the marquee. A good-sized crowd turned out (I guess our little comatose pre-dawn interview paid off) and while the laughs were not as frequent as in prior screenings, most stayed around for the wine and food afterwards and spoke highly of the film. But, the real fun was at the post-party party. We went to the P&H (Poor & Hungry) Cafe with about ten people from the screening and drank numerous pitchers of beer. Wanda, the proprietor, treated us like kings. The quote of the night was from one of our new friends, Melissa: "How can you not like porn?" A rhetorical question, I guess.