Friday  November 22, 2002


Lovisa gets some Belgian love

The AFI Fest is over. Man, that was fun. The festival organizers did an outstanding job of making it a filmmaker-friendly event. Arguably the best aspect of the festival was the Kodak Connect program, which provided filmmakers with the opportunity to meet various industry people over a four-day period in the middle of the festival.

The ArcLight Theatre was a great venue with all the theaters in a single location, lending the festival a market-like atmosphere which can only help the AFI Fest achieve its presumed goal of becoming a serious player in the overcrowded calendar of annual festivals. And, not incidentally, there was a cafe in the theater courtyard which became our primary source of sustenance and lubrication throughout the week.

Before I get into the details, I'll answer the most burning question first: yes, all world rights to EvenHand are still available. It seems that in spite of our carpet bombing postcard campaign and Fat Cop Cypress Chick-a-palooza, no distributors actually showed up at the screenings. But, I have received calls or emails from several major indie distributors since the screenings expressing interest in seeing the film. Time will tell where and when that will actually happen. There has also been a steady stream of invitations to submit EvenHand to other film festivals.

Interestingly, having a festival in Los Angeles does not, in fact, guarantee that the distributors will show up. Arguably the opposite is true; when studio or distribution execs are attending a festival in another city or country, they are a captive audience and can be expected to do nothing but attend screenings. What else is there to do? Conversely, when they're in their own town, they just want to go home to the family at the end of the day.

Postcard #3 can now be revealed

Yeah, okay, enough of the industry hoo-haw. Here's the fun stuff:

At the airport in New York, Jon went through the usual long security line. When it was his turn to go through the metal detector, he stepped forward, only to have the security woman ask him if he had been given permission to enter. Jon replied that he wasn't aware he needed permission. She eyed him coldly, made him take his baseball cap off and put it on the belt, then waved him through. Once through, he was told to go see the guy with the wand.

He was instructed to take his shoes and socks off, then spread 'em. The wand beeped over the front of Jon's pants. Wand guy said "Sir, is there any reason this is beeping here?" Jon, sensing that he was getting the full treatment, said "Well, I'm wearing a belt." "Sir, remove your belt." Jon took off his belt and wand guy waved his device across Jon's waist, again producing a beep. "Sir, is there any reason this is still beeping here?" Jon said "Well, my pants have a zipper." "Sir, undo the button of your pants." At that point, Jon was so fed up that he pulled his pants down to his ankles and mooned the guy.

Needless to say, the cuffs were instantaneously slapped on him and he was whisked away, grinning like the Cheshire cat as the crowd roared its approval. The security woman yelled after him: "Sir, you're not going to be flying today." Jon's reply was: "You want to bet?" After a complex negotiation with the airport cops, which ended with them basically becoming pals, Jon was allowed to board the plane. The humorless security people wanted to press federal charges, but the cops evidently saw the absurdity of this. What's the federal charge for showing your ass?

The AFI headquarters at the ArcLight Theatre featured a gaily decorated room called the Cinema Lounge. The lounge was a full-time refuge for filmmakers and other badge holders and the site of an Absolut-sponsored cocktail party every afternoon at five-thirty. I always attended, never missing an opportunity to meet other filmmakers (and drink free booze).

One of the most intriguing of the filmmakers was a young animator named Nirvan Mullick. He wrote and painstakingly animated a short film, The Box Man. We had a long chat about his other, very interesting animation projects.

Click on the Vincent poster for a link to HELADO, Gert's very cool website.

I pegged Nirvan early as a talent and a good fit for the EvenHand crew. Seeing him promoting his film with a cardboard box on his head pretty much closed the deal. The Box Man went on to win a special jury prize for animation and the audience award for best short, both well-deserved.

Also encountered in the Lounge were the "Drunk Belgians," Thomas and Gert (above). Now, in truth, they weren't always drunk, or even any more drunk than we were, for that matter. I guess it was their fun-loving attitude that earned them the title. Their film, Vincent, was a delightful, whimsical fairy tale about a boy with one ear. It was a beautifully shot HD short, proving that digital doesn't necessarily mean crap.

Another film I really enjoyed was West Bank, Brooklyn, a micro-budget Super 16 feature written and directed by Ghazi Albuliwi, a first-time filmmaker and clearly a talent to watch. It's simultaneously a personal, surprisingly balanced and complex look at what it means to grow up as a Muslim in Brooklyn. It was shot pre-September 11th, yet it deals frankly and presciently with many of the issues we have all been grappling with since then.

Cinemania is an engaging documentary, co-directed by Angela Christlieb & Stephen Kijak, about film buffs in New York. These people don't just go to movies, however, they plan a trip to the cinema like generals plotting an attack on fortified battlements. Each has his or her particular compulsions, but all share an almost disturbing passion for film. A must-see for all film buffs.

Other films I greatly enjoyed were Journey Man, a short drama by Dictynna Hood, Family, a very personal documentary by Sami Saif, Fits & Starts -- possibly the most brilliant film ever made by a Stanley Kubrick protegé -- and Prom Night in Kansas City, a very funny documentary.

The highlight of the festival, for me, was the premiere screening of EvenHand on Thursday (no big surprise). I was really nervous going in to the screening, although I had enough confidence in the film to be reasonably assured that the audience would probably like it. It's still a big leap, though, showing your film to an audience of 200 people when the biggest prior screening was 8 viewers watching it on an Avid. The reaction was as good as I could have hoped. Immediately after the Q&A, Bob Hawk, one of the great Indie film gurus, approached and said some very nice things about the film.

The Friday screening went well, too, although the energy of the audience was very different. One theory is that it was later (10 PM), although I think it was the weird guy who laughed really loudly at everything. Have you ever experienced that in a theater? It's kind of off-putting, as if he's trying to force everyone else to laugh at stuff that just isn't that funny.

Crack AFI Staffers Joanna and Shaz get down

The next big event for the Cypress crew was the EvenHand party on Saturday night. Mike Doughty, who wrote four songs for the film, performed on the terrace of the ArcLight upper bar. It was a kick-ass show and made for one of the best parties of the festival (not just my opinion). Even the Drunk Belgians rocked out (they saw Doughty's show in Antwerp, too). After three events to manage on three consecutive nights, I predictably woke up sick as a dog on Sunday morning.

Doughty charts a path to Hollywood

On the way home, Cosmo sat next to an old guy on the plane. The two of them chatted intermittently throughout the flight. When the plane landed in New York they said their goodbyes and Cosmo was promptly arrested. Apparently, some other guy claimed he overheard Cosmo and the old geezer talking about storming the cockpit of the airplane. After prolonged cop conversation #2, and threats of bringing in the FBI, Cosmo was finally released without being charged. The cops got discouraged because the FBI couldn't even be bothered to show up and their seemed to be no real evidence that Cosmo had said anything of the sort. He's an interesting looking guy (now sporting a platinum blond mohawk), but hardly a threat to National Security.

Cosmo blends right in on Venice Beach

At the LAX security counter, the man behind the X-ray machine sternly called out to Jon: "Sir, do you have a knife in your bag?" Jon thought, Jesus, what the hell is it with these people? "No." "Are you sure you don't have a knife in your bag, sir?" Jon was feeling his blood pressure rise. "No. What are you talking about?" The guy stared at Jon for a beat, then broke into a huge grin and pointed to Jon's T-shirt: "I AM A  LIAR." "Got ya!" he said and Jon got on the plane. We're not allowed to joke about it, but I guess they are.

Lisa, Ruud & Thomas share a special moment

And yes, I did get sea monkeys. They were in my gift bag from one of the Kodak Connect lunches. They are flitting around in their plastic tub on the dining room table, now almost big enough to be visible to the naked eye. Just a few more months and we'll have homegrown popcorn shrimp. Yum!

- Joseph Pierson

PS - The EvenHand Variety review is posted in the next entry.


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Copyright © 2002 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.
All photos of drunk people courtesy of Gert Embrechts.