Friday, October 06, 2006

Bill In London - Arrival At Raindance


The last time I saw London... they tried to blow me up.

The terrorists.

The first time I attended the Raindance film festival was in 2001... I flew to London in a plane filled with jet fuel on October 11, 2001. The day before, some crazy guy had been arrested for threatening to blow up the very flight I was on!

The last time I was in London, I arrived on 7/7/2005... the day of the London bombings. I arrived just as they were closing down the tube (subway) - and they wouldn’t tell me why. The tube station they had blown up was in Russell Square - where my hotel was. The double decker bus they blew up was a block away from my hotel....

This time - no terrorist activities. I arrived exhausted, as usual. I got up early so that I could make it to LAX 4 hours early, so they could examine my shoes, then flew for something like 10 or 11 hours (I can’t sleep on planes), then waited for my luggage, then dragged my luggage to the tube station, then tool the tube to Picadilly Circus Station. Raindance hadn’t told me which hotel I’d be in, but I guessed the same one as last time - near Russell Square. I could have taken the tube there - it’s a few stops farther - but nobody told me which hotel, so I’d have to go to the office. It was also early in the morning, so the hotel check in time was probably a few hours away. If I was lucky, the last fest guest had moved out of that luxury suite I had 2 years ago, leaving it to me. I’d gladly wait until 11am for that suite!

I always manage to pick the wrong stairs to drag my luggage up at Picadilly... and then get a little lost. I know where I’m going - but I end up taking the longest possible route (with my luggage). Same thing this time. Eventually I get on track, passing the big theatres where Guilgud and Olivier worked (one is named after Guilgud) and the strip clubs and sex shows, then to the outdoor market... then to the Raindance office. I buzz the door, climb down the treacherous staircase, and collapse on a chair. Where I get the odd news.

I won’t be staying in that luxurious suite at the Lancaster.
I won’t be staying in the nice room I stayed in before getting bumped up last time.
I won’t be staying in some other hotel.
Elliot (Mr. Raindance) tried to convince me that in the middle of rainy October, every hotel room in central London is booked. I’m skeptical.

But they have a lovely production office with a comfortable sofa for me.

FIRST MAJOR CRISIS: I have joked in the past that I would sleep on a cot in the office - I’m very low maintenance. But I never expected to actually sleep on a cot. Elliot tells me that they can buy me a mattress if I need one. This isn’t sounding good. Also - they don’t have the keys to the production office, but they’re going to send a runner as soon as one becomes available. Would I mind just hanging around the office for a while?

Well, the film fest is in full swing, so most of the runners are... running. They’re running prints that just arrived from Croatia to cinemas where the movie will screen in less than an hour, they’re running DVDs to jury members, they’re running...

And I’m waiting. Exhausted. Smelly - when was the last time I showered? And my clothes seem itchy - how long have I been wearing this shirt?

Eventually we get the keys, and Elliot walks me to the production office... at Russell Square. The owner (Sean) is actually there - great, because there’s a massive complicated alarm system to keep their editing equipment safe - and you have to type in the lengthy code number within a few seconds or all of Scotland Yard will come crashing down on you. Sean shows me around - full bathroom & tub... kitchen... but it’s still a sofa and not a hotel room. Plus, Sean will be there working for a few days before he has to go away on business for about a week. While he’s gone, the place is 100% mine, but until then, it’s like having a roommate you don’t know *plus* sleeping in someone’s office.

I later find out that the festival no longer has their deal with the Lancaster, and my guess is that so much money is tied up in the festival itself that they can’t really afford to put me in a hotel until after they count the festival earnings... and by then I’ll be on a plane home. So I’ll just have to rough it. This is the problem with being low maintenance - you’re the guy they sick on the sofa. If you’re a pain the ass, they put you in the suite.


SECOND MAJOR CRISIS: I sent my list of 2 hour classes to Elliot (Mr. Raindance) months ago, and he was going to select 2 that I would do during the festival. I always put at least one or two new classes on the list. So Elliot selects - the 2 new classes. I have nothing on them - no notes, just an idea. That means the classes must be created. Swell. The problem is, with jet lag and alcohol and midnight shows - I need to have the class written out word-for-word in the event I am brain dead the day I have to teach it. The more awake I am, the more I can go "off book".

So I write up one of the new classes, then something goes weird with my computer while I'm writing the second class and the keyboard stops working. Actually, it works sporadically - I can type about 5 sentences, then it just shuts down and I have to reboot to type 5 more sentences. So - with the clock ticking - I don't get the class finished. I'll have to wing it.

The larger problem with this class is that it's *fluff*. It's style over substance. I can talk about substance, but it's hard to wing something that's mostly just ideas.

Elliot (Mr. Raindance) *loves* style type stuff. He loves the flash. I *knew* he was going to select the 2 new classes, because they were both more style than substance. I can talk about Theme... but that's rather boring, isn't it? Wouldn't you rather hear about writing sex scenes? Two years ago I was on a panel that was called Hollywood Sucks - not much substance there. No effort was made to discuss how to make Holywood stop sucking, or how to deal with the sucking... it just sucks. End of panel.

So, today I'm long-handing notes on tomorrow's class. I hope I'm not too brain dead... but I didn't sleep well last night, so I may go into one of those exhaustion comas tonight where you just conk and wake up 12 hours later groggy and end up completely screwed up tomorrow morning.


Saturday morning, I walk down to the cinemas... grabbing a coffee from Café Nero along the way. I love walking in London - everyone walks. The streets are filled with people. And those people know how to walk. In America, nobody knows how to walk. They stop for no reason on the sidewalk. They walk three abreast - blocking the walk completely. They can’t gauge speed and “holes” in the crowd and walk right into you. In London, people walk in perfect sync with everyone else. It’s an art... and I love walking there. I could have just hopped on the tube at Russell Square, and a half dozen stops later got off at Picadilly, but I’d rather take the long walk. Gets my blood circulating, and I can grab a coffee along the way.

The great thing about Café Nero is that they have a buy 10 get one free card. I’ve always ended up with 9 stamps at the end of my stay, and never got a free coffee... but I’m here for a couple weeks, shouldn’t have any problem getting a free large mocha this time around.

I get to the Cinema early, jot some notes, and then grab a coffee at a nearby Starbucks (there are three times as many as there were last year). The class is SRO - people literally standing along the walls! I’m a little nervous - jotted notes instead of everything spelled out, what happens if I go brain dead? I start off, and almost two hours later I’m getting the wrap-it-up signal from Elliot. Everything went fine... except I brought a big (slightly heavy) bag of CDs and forgot to mention them. So, Raindance made a bundle off the standing room only crowd, and I make zilch.


Sunday, exactly the same drill - up early, walk, Café Nero, standing room only, class goes well. Again I forget to mention my CDs. Just doing some quick math, I think Raindance has covered *all* my expenses (including the hotel room I’m *not* staying in) just on these two short classes. The next time I have to teach is next Saturday... my big 2 day class. Except... Elliot asks if I would mind doing a 2 hour class for some other film group on Monday. Um, sure, why not? It’ll help drum up students for the weekend, and I need to get the word out because the festival has managed to take up most of the Raindance publicity focus - they’ve done almost no publicity for my class. What subject am I supposed to do the class on? Elliot doesn’t know, but lets me talk to the woman holding the class. I give her my e-mail address and ask her to e-mail me a subject from the list on my website. After handing the phone back to Elliot I ask who these people are... he tells me just some other group. No details. This is going to be interesting - I’m teaching a class about some unknown subject to some unknown group... tomorrow morning!

But this is the last day of the festival, and tonight is the closing night film and the big closing night party...

- Bill

PS: Thought I'd mention the couple of folks who asked me if Seagal was remaking BLACK THUNDER - it played on satellite TV here a few weeks ago, and folks noticed the same plotline and character names and everything else as the Seagal film. Problem is - same exact audience. Of course, for legal reasons I told them I did not have sex with that woman... and did not write that script. But no one seems convinced. Seagal is in an ad playing before every danged movie, here - an action story on a golf course (a golf cart chase ends in a huge fireball explosion).


Good Dog said...


Good luck with the classes.

I think we need to take you out for a drink before you head back to the sunshine.


Piers said...


Anonymous said...

For the last 4 years, I've taught English as a Foreign Language (ie while NOT being in an English speaking country.) I completely empathize with you.

All things considered, and while not recently (ie the last couple years) doing so, I HAVE been done the roll-out-of-bed literally 10 minutes before class and ended being TOTALLY INSPIRED.

Maybe not the best course of action, but trust in your instincts. You've been teaching this subject enough to have any number of tricks in your bag-o-tricks.

These days, I lesson plan about 80% of my lessons, and wing the rest.


Spatula007 said...

I share your coma-like tendancies right now (8:30am). It's a double edged sword- on one hand, the part of your brain that's creative gets to trick the logic part into thinking it's more important, because you're tired. So you get to be more creative (or fluffy, as I call it) and it helps your wabberdabble.
On the other hand, putting a sentance together that consists of words that actually exist...

Cunningham said...

Go, Bill, Go!

That which doesn't kill you only makes you homicidal.

James Moran said...

Yikes. Good luck with the winging. Sorry about the weather at the moment, it's not normally this bad. No, I'm lying, it is normally this bad... I second and third the drink suggestion, depending how long you're around and what your schedule is like. We'll buy you a pint of warm beer and some botulism-stuffed pub food.

ObiDonWan said...

Sorry about the way the festival is going; sounds more like a nightmare than my typical dream of what-life-will-be-like-once-my-book/script-hits-big...

I suspect that "a drink" is not what you need at this point. Maybe a quiet swim or a long walk in quietness. Or a blonde and a bottle, whatta I know?

wcdixon said...

Life in the fuzzy lane --- hope it all works out, Bill - hell, at least you're seeing London again (never been over that way myself)...

English Dave said...

Bill I'll log on to DD and PM you.



"Pretty scary stuff!"

Just make it back here in one piece...


wcmartell said...

The good news: Slept okay, and the class went well. It's always odd when people come up to me after I've winged a class and tell me how informative and well prepared it was. But that's what hapened.

So - one down, tomorrow I have a 2 hour new class and then next weekend I do the big 2 day class.


- Bill

wcmartell said...

Okay, 2 down... the weekend class to go. I've seen a couple of films, and will probably tell you about them in the near future.

- Bill

Unknown said...

Hope the DD pint-a-thon goes well!


wcmartell said...

Wait.... I did a class yesterday for a group of assorted film folks on finding ideas. Went well.

- Bill

Anonymous said...

if you though the seagal ad was amusing, i'd try & get your hands on the ones Orange did before that in the UK .. they have the common theme of trying to pitch a film to the Mobile operators who feel they lack substance (ie; phones) ..

Patrick Swayze
Alan Cumming
Darth Vader
Spike Lee
Roy Schneider
Carrie Fisher .. amongst others :)

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