Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LONDON 11: Day 8 - Scenes & Janitors

The day begins with my (free) Scene Class, and it is packed. My Italian friend is in the back of the room and I wave at him. This was the class that they switched at the last minute - and it ended up being a segment of the weekend class that isn’t part of this version of the weekend class - so I have plenty of material and am fully prepared. That is good, because every day is different as far as sleep and jet lag are concerned. Some nights I have no trouble sleeping, others I sleep for an hour then wake up... my body thinking it is whatever time it is in Los Angeles. But I am usually pretty clear headed even when I am sleepy - and today is a day when my eyelids want to close, but I still make it through my class... and even use MOTHS as an example of a story that may take place mostly at one location, but still contains many scenes.

I have decided not to stress over the weekend class - whatever happens happens. I suspect it will be a small class this time, but how can worrying about it change that?
I’m at a film festival, watching films, and I want to have a good time.

My legs are tired, and I realize it’s because I have walked *everywhere* since I have been in London - no taxis, no tube, no buses... I’ve walked from one side of town to the other and back every day... and sometimes a couple of times a day, as I usually return to my hotel with my class materials and drop them off before heading back to the cinema to the screenings. Another reason for my sore legs - no lift at my hotel so I am *constantly* climbing stairs, and the cinema is down 2 flights of stairs (they have a lift, but I never use it). I’m getting a great workout every day, and not eating very much. Usually just a sandwich every day from the EAT across from the cinema.

I race to the cinema to meet Janet and see...

MOVIE: PHILOSOPHER KINGS - an interesting sounding documentary about university janitors in the United States. I’m thinking this is going to be the real life version of GOOD WILL HUNTING, but the film is all hook and no delivery. They interview a handful of janitors, and even though some are interesting and likeable, none are philosophers or geniuses. And, once introduced as janitors, they never really show them doing their job! One guy at UC Berkeley keeps getting sent to restrooms... which are clean and in order and do not need him to do anything! If you are doing a movie about janitors, I want to see some moping and toilet unclogging and janitorial duties!

The film focuses on their personal lives - a man from Haiti who uses whatever spare money he earns to do basic improvements in the village he came from - bringing safe drinking water down from the mountain using pipes, etc. A one armed man with children. A woman from the south whose mother went into a coma and she had to take care of as a child. An art student drop out who cleans up an art college... and a sweet Viet Nam Vet who works at a Christian College and has had every job you can imagine before he became a janitor (Rodeo Clown? Check!) Though their lives are interesting, the film doesn’t focus on the janitor side (they could be anyone) and none is a genius or philosopher or seems particularly wise. This is just a group of regular people with regular people problems. Not a bad film, but not exactly what was advertised.

The new edition to Raindance is the Café - where I am teaching my classes - which has a party going on throughout the festival. There are some evening events there, but mostly there is a Meet The Film Makers Party there every night. I have yet to attend one of these, but I decide to drop by tonight and see what it’s like. The problem ends up being that they have a DJ who has cranked the music to “Ear Bleed” and no one in the café can hear each other... so there is a group of people standing on the street outside the café talking and very few people inside.

The other problem is a Raindance screw up - the plan was to sell drinks and food, but they neglected to secure a license. That means they can *give away* beers and glasses of wine and sandwiches and fresh fruit, but can not *sell* it. So they have a donation box... and Elliot is *constantly* telling people to donate. Every time he speaks he encourages people to put money in the box. I put a fiver in the box and grab a beer (worth about half that) and walk around talking to people... er, shouting over the extra-loud music to people... and have a couple of conversations with film makers who have taken my class in the past and want me to see their movies.

I also talk to the director of POPATOPOLIS - a documentary about sleazy director Jim Wynorski (whom I hate) who directed my VICTIM OR DESIRE movie (which I call VICTIM OF DIRECTOR). They have a little remote control robot that has been terrorizing London (and the film fest) and their film is showing tomorrow. The director and his editor are funny people and we talk about working with Jim and just working in Hollywood. I plan on having lunch or dinner or something with them when I return to LA - well, if their movie is good.

The strange thing about festival films is that many of them are overly arty (like the Italian film that was *not* made by my Italian friend) or ragged and indie or just too strange. A film like that can play at a festival and even win a festival, but has almost no chance of doing anything in the real world. Rebelling against the focus ring is great for fests, but most people kind of like their films to be in focus. So I’ve seen a mix of weird films and really good small films that really deserve a release of some sort in the United States.

After I’ve finished my $10 beer, I walk across London to my hotel, climb the stairs, and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow I have another class, and some films (including POPATOPOLIS and a film about a screenwriter that is supposed to be arty and maybe filled with female nudity).

- Bill

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