Friday, September 11, 2009

Have Your People Call My People

A new feature of this year's 48 Hour Film Project (oh no, not that again!) was that The Best of San Diego showcase was invited to screen at the Temecula Valley Film Festival. That's pretty exciting, because in the past the only opportunity for a big-screen viewing was the local one that you were entitled to with the cost of admission. The TVFF is a "real" film festival--you don't have to enter a contest to be shown there, typically. And many of the movies are longer than seven minutes.

Our two screenings days were Thursday and Saturday, but since several members of our team were otherwise engaged on Saturday, I put on my organizer hat again and, well, organized a field trip to Temecula (about an hour from here) for Thursday. We didn't really know what to expect except a "smaller" screen than on Saturday. The actual dimensions of this screen were not indicated. More on that in a moment.

Robyn--bless her heart and her SUV--offered to drive, and Calvin, Lisa, Rachel and I were happy to be her passengers. Lisa provided the mix tapes. We met at my place, and had a jolly time on the trip, as I knew we would. I was riding shotgun, which is why my neck hurts today--I couldn't stop butting into every conversational thread in the tapestry.

We arrived to a smoking hot afternoon (how do people live in Temecula? It's like Palm Springs!) but were soon distracted by the sign "HOSPITALITY SUITE" very close to the theater. I had read about the hospitality suite--are there two words in the English language more felicitously compatible?--and figured we should poke our heads in to find out if it was false advertising.

Readers, it was not. We were enthusiastically (I'd even venture "suspiciously so") greeted by a bunch of bejeweled ladies of a certain age, who asked who we were, and with an ironic smirk, I responded "We're filmmakers." (I know, I know, it's not exactly ironic, but when I was getting my MFA in Poetry, I never answered that question "I'm a poet.") This set off an even more violent wave of enthusiasm, and before we could say "I'll be in my trailer" we were being handed five all-access festival passes on lanyards, and reminded about our free tickets to the weekend gala--tickets to which retail (for civilian slobs) at $100 a head. We received an invitation to a private party, a goodie bag, and a friendly reminder about happy hour. With a flourish, one of the ladies invited us to partake of the earthly delights of the HS, which included some giant burritos, a whole lot of chips and pretzels, and every kind of beverage known to humankind. Soon, we were ensconced at a private table (well, it was private because there was no one there at the moment) digging into our second lunches, flashing our badges, and pretty much feeling like we were the man.

"Why oh why didn't I know about this and plan to come here for a full day? Hell, for five days?" I lamented. It was yet more incentive to win the Audience Award next year.

Noticing that the witching hour was drawing nigh, we scurried to the theater, where we were given ominous (though polite) instructions to scurry right back out, head through the mall, and stop when we saw signs for "Screening Room A."

Readers, here is where the mighty are fallen. High on our indie filmmaker street cred, we figured the next step would be shielding our eyes from the blinding flashbulbs on the red carpet, being escorted to our plush VIP seats by booth babes, and trying to act dignified when teen girls asked us to sign their flesh. Instead...

...I can think of a few choice words that the "A" in Screening Room A might stand for. The room was a closet, with folding chairs. And the folding chairs? Empty. Except for a guy from David's work and his fiancee. Otherwise, empty. A brave-faced host handed us ballots that asked us to rank the films One through Ten from "Worst to Best." Quoth Robyn: "What is this language? WORST? Is that necessary?" No, I don't think it is.

Not that it mattered. With five of us representin', the vote was going to be a crushing landslide. Stand back--we'll take you with us. The screening itself was a bit sad. Something was egregiously wrong with the audio, so that all the bass was grinding and sandy, and the treble was nonexistent, resembling the experience of answering the phone in the middle of the night when you're wearing earplugs, but you've forgotten about the earplugs. You can just hear some faraway, high-pitched noises, loosely approximating the rhythms of human speech.

Chastened, we returned to the HS for "Happy Hour," but I guess we were the only ones desiring a dose of the happy sauce at 4:45 on a Temecula Thursday, because again, we were the only ones there. And somehow we ended up with five matching Dr. Peppers after all that.

It might have been nice to check out that "industry party" for which we'd been given the hush-hush private invitation (you know, we'd be blindfolded and led to a van to travel to the top-secret location) but two of us had four-year-olds at home. Scratch that: one of us did. The other had contrived to drive all the way to Temecula after hiring a babysitter WHOM SHE HAD LOCKED OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH NO KEY. I'll let you guess who that was. But I'll add that she is truly proud of this fine display of parenting savvy.

That last bit didn't stop us from heading to Old Town, which on a hot, dusty evening in early September, appeared as if a Wild West shoot-out would happen any minute now. We ate dinner at a passable place, verging on crapcake, but they had a nice patio and some fun '70s tunes. I tried not to grimace too much when I sipped my Lemon Drop, which tasted a bit like Mop n' Glo with a sugar rim.

There was a lot of hilarity on the way home. That's all I remember--the hilarity. And a lot of it. I'm going to call the field trip a success. It's all material, and that's what counts.


Mary said...

What a great post! Congrats on getting in the festival! Too bad about the screening room.

Temecula has come a long way since my mom opened her "Folk Art of Mexico" store in Old Town.

The guy from the TV show "White Shadow" (Ken Howard) filmed some sort of western there around 1976. I did have his autograph and a piece of fake broken glass that he had kicked through. I wonder what ever happened to that!

I remember when Temecula had no theater and not even one stoplight!



Caroline said...

Oh dear. Oh me oh my. I'd apologize for my people, but they aren't my people. (We weren't cool enough to live in Temecula proper, are out in Unincorporated turf.)

This was at the mall? Somehow I'd always pictured the festival being down there near the wineries or something.

Burritos and Dr. Pepper. (Sigh) You deserved better. At least you got a good story out of it.

Sam said...

@Mary: I didn't know your mom had a store! Cool. :)

@Caroline: It wasn't a mall. It was called "The Movie Experience" or something like that. Actually, it was at the mall...for everyone else. They made us walk 4 miles down the road for our screening. ;)

Jen said...

Oh, my goodness! That part about the babysitter cracked me up!

Sounds like you had a great day. Well deserved (well, you deserved a red carpet, too, of course!) ;-)

Miss J

The Wades said...

Shoot, I read this the other day and so how didn't comment. Drives me crazy.

Some highlights for me:

"I was riding shotgun, which is why my neck hurts today--I couldn't stop butting into every conversational thread in the tapestry."

"Readers, here us where the mighty are fallen."

"Stand back--we'll take you with us."

And the Mop n Glo with sugar rim--just great. Keep on keepin' on, my talented friend.

Anonymous said...

This post cracked me up - especially since I live in Temecula and have volunteered at the festival. You are definitely not the first to complain about the audio and other issues at TVFF. All I can say is that it's run by an all volunteer crew with absolutely zero budget. One day I'll write about my own experiences working there - ranging from frustrating to absolutely surreal.

PS Yes it's very hit and miss when it comes to good food and lemon drops here. Next time you come, check with a Temeculan and we'll point you in the right direction!