Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bill In London - Raindance Wrap Up (rest of the fest)

A film festival isn't just movies... it's an adventure!


One of the fun things about Raindance is that I see the same people every time I’m at the festival. Some I have a nodding relationship with, others - like Janet - I hang out with. Janet is a regular on my website, and comes to Raindance every year. She told me that her boss automatically schedules her for half days during the festival. She sees a zillion movies over the two weeks, then goes back to her normal life for another year. We’ve bumped into each other at several screenings, and I’ve also bumped into Phil - a distrib from Spain who is a Raindance regular.

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t get into the closing night screening, because everything has been sold out (and opening and closing nights have stars in attendance - and they announce the winners). There’s a ticket shortage... and I’m hoping my badge will get me in. I walk with Janet and some other folks from the Troc Cinema to the huge cinema at Haymarket where they have the closing night movie. No one in the group has an extra ticket. At the Cinema, I look around for Elliot... limos are pulling up with actual stars. Not Ewan McGregor, but many of the other folks from SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE. I ask a couple of Raindance folks if they have a ticket or have seen Elliot... nope.

I also bump into Oscar who used to be with the festival and Oli who left the festival to become a film distributor... he released MAN PUSH CART. I talk with Jamie (Mr. Raindance Shorts) about the TALES OF TIMES SQUARE movie, and how much it resembles DEAD PEOPLE from 2 years ago.... Still no Elliot.

Then, moments before they wave the crowd in, Elliot shows with a ticket for me. I end up sitting next to Janet in the balcony - miles away from the screen. There’s a goody bag... I end up getting a nice woman’s watch, a woman's designer coin purse, a pair of fancy diamond studded *men’s* sunglasses (something I can use!), and a three pack of condoms. I later find out that there were men’s watches and wallets and the people in front got all kinds of other stuff like huge chocolate bars and CDs and gift cards and... well, you get screwed sitting in back.

After the movie, there’s a big party in some danged night club. Another walk... this time, imagine hundreds of people from a movie *all* walking down the same street to the same club... then trying to get past the door guys. Basically, hundreds of people crowding a street as they are let in one by one.

We get in, and it’s the normal film fest party. So, you have these intelligent people who love discussing movies, and you give them free booze, and then you crank up the disco music to levels that have been banned by the Geneva Convention. My ears are about to start bleeding when this attractive blonde woman from Idaho (or someplace) comes up to talk with me. She’s a film maker, recently divorced... and we have to move our faces *really* close to hear what each other are saying. She smells good... probably much better than I smell, since I was up early to teach my class. Some disco dan guy walks past, giving her the eye... and she moves even closer to me (if that’s even possible). I’m thinking about two things: the condoms in my goody bag and that f***ing sofa in the production office. I ask where she’s staying (hoping she has a bed) and she tells me she’s sharing a room with some other female film makers. “You know, in the old days they used to edit on tables big enough to sleep on, now it’s all done on computers.” Did I say that out loud? Yikes! She replies that she edited her short on computer. The disco dan comes by again... and she moves close to me. Within kissing distance. But I’m shy and wonder how awful my breath is after a day of mochas and Chinese food and free beer. I almost go for it, but when the disco dan guy moves away, so does she...

She tells me that she’s trying to avoid that guy. She went out to dinner with him during the festival, and he got the wrong idea (the same idea that I have) and I realize that *I’m* the condom. I’m protecting her from this disco dan guy. Swell... Bill the nice guy strikes again. She looked at me and just knew I was nice... I give off that non-threatening vibe. Just once I want to give off the dangerous bad boy vibe and maybe use the condoms in the goody bag... even if the sofa killed me in the process.

Free beers. After a couple I was really feeling it - which is strange. I'm a big guy and not a lightweight. Last year at this time I was in Austin (another fest) and we often began drinking early in the day - I have no idea how many drinks I'd have in a day, there - but *many*. So two or three beers shouldn't have had me wobbly. That's when I realized I hadn't eaten at all that day... and hadn't had much to eat the day before.

Lots of free beer (and other drinks) but trying to talk over the torture-loud disco music has made my throat raw... and I have to teach a class tomorrow. The hot divorcee asks me if I’ll walk her to the tube station - it closes in ten minutes. She’s afraid disco dan will follow her back to her hotel. Sure. We walk through the romantic London streets to the tube station, carrying our goody bags. Catch the last train. Her stop is Russell Square, like mine. We exit the tube station and nothing in the goody bag gets used that night...

Though I would have to use the sunglasses the next morning.

I entered the production office, racing to the alarm key pad and praying I could punch in the numbers before the police cars showed up, and tried to find a comfortable position on the sofa... not easy when you’re over 6 foot tall.


The Mystery Class. I don’t even know where it is. I have no e-mail on subjects, so I’ve brought along my ideas class. It’s a good general purpose class. I walk to the Raindance office, grabbing a Café Nero along the way (my 5th stamp - halfway to a free mocha!). Elliot walks me to the venue - a private club with a meeting room and a dining room. This is group of writers, directors, producers, and agents who have all been assigned a mentor... and are meeting for the first time. Before I do my talk, Elliot does a ten minute commercial for Raindance. Swell. I do my class, and it goes well. It’s interesting that the country responsible for some of the greatest sci-fi and some of the greatest crime films... not to mention Hitchcock... has so many creative folks who seem *amazed* by the very concept of using your imagination when coming up with stories or scenes or characters. It’s like the “brain drain” from IPCRESS FILE was administered to the entire population. These folks need an imagination kick start! They've been watching too many remakes of Jane Austen novels. Folks, you have imaginations... it's okay to use them!

A good talk... and again I forget to mention my CDs. I’m going to end up taking the whole damned bag home with me to LA.

After my class, they serve lunch. Would I care to stay? Free meal? Sure? Elliot splits. The tables are set up by occupation - which makes no sense to me. So all of the screenwriters are sitting together and all of the producers are sitting on the opposite side of the room. No interaction! One of the writers at my table is an ex journalist... who interviewed me almost a decade ago! After eating a little, I realize how dog-tired and hung over I am... and try to stay awake long for the rest of the lunch.

I wander through Leicester Square later that night, looking for a movie... but all of the show times are off. I either just missed them or they don’t start for over an hour. I end up catching a late show of some American movie I’ve already seen on Tottencourt Road and fight to stay away. I walk back to the production office, the heavenly smell of grilled onions and sausages from the carts making me hungry. At night, all of these carts pop up - catering to the drunks staggering out of the pubs. I’ve never had one of the sausages, even though I’ve been one of those drunks.

Back at the production office, I fumble with the keys and then have to race to punch in the alarm code... making it with only couple of seconds to spare.


The film festival is over and it's the first day I didn't have to get up early and be someplace at a certain time to teach a class or attend a screening.

For some reason, the lack of sleep decided to catch up with me today - and I'm a zombie. That sucks, because I'm meeting some fellow screenwriters for a few pints tonight. I know a bunch of people from my website and various message boards, and when I show up in their country I always drink with them. Tonight is the Done Deal group - I’ve drank with them every year I’ve come to London. It’s a great group, and I have many fond memories of staggering through London with English Dave and EJ and Wolfy trying to find Dave’s private club after all of the pubs closed. By the time we got there, it was very late... and the guy at the door informed us that there was a dress code that Dave didn’t meet. (He was wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirt.) Anyway, word is out on message boards that if you show up at the Holbourn tube station at 7:30, you can drink with us. Anyone can.

I make an appearance at the Raindance office, then grab some lunch. I need to eat enough to absorb a whole bunch of alcohol.

Before leaving for London I made vow to eat vegetarian while I’m here. I’ve been eating all kinds of really fatty food, and I’m not getting any thinner doing that. London is filled with veggie restaurants - if you go into McDonalds they have vegetarian meals! - and there are many many Indian vegetarian restaurants. The food is good, and usually it’s a buffet. So it should be easy to go veggie for a couple of weeks, right?

Well, so far I’ve failed. The festival is close to Chinatown, and once again I’ve been mostly eating Chinese. There’s this cruddy chain of Chinese buffets called Mr. Wu’s. All you can eat for L5. But the food is kind of junky, and not much selection. The first time I went to London, I did a blog entry (on my website) about getting completely lost because I used Mr. Wu’s as a landmark... not realizing that there are a million of them in London and they all look the same. This place doesn’t look like a chain, it looks like a hole in the wall that’s about to be closed by the health department. I’ve also learned my lesson about the buffets in Chinatown that offer 17 dishes for L6 and have barkers at the doors... you end up going up stairs to some really grungy place right out of HOSTEL where they serve you things that were probably scraped from the plates in other restaurants. So, I see a buffet for around L10 with some pretty good food and very nice tables, and go in. The food is pretty good - but lots of deep fried stuff and wonton and stuff... plus some good entrees with lots of meat. I stuff myself. When the bill comes, it’s Mr. Wu’s... the upscale location! Twice the price, but much much better food. So I eat there regularly during the festival and a few times afterwards. I also eat at a sit down, waiters and waitresses Pizza Hut once. But only eat vegetarian twice - on the days I teach my two day class. I swear, I return from London fatter than I left.

I walk to the Holbourn tube station, getting slightly lost along the way due to a curved street. I ask a police officer at a *crime scene* for directions, and he points me to the tube station. I meet up with the group, we head to a pub, and serious drinking begins. Dave has great stories about a TV show he’s working on that has more drama behind the scenes than on screen, and Wolfy talks about his scripts. We all drink and drink and drink some more. And laugh. A lot. Later, Dave does a blog entry about how he’s not funny enough to write comedies - but I have to tell you, he’s funny-as-hell in real life. When they get ready to close the pub, we leave... I’m staggering. Really wobbly. I manage to make it to the tube station *seconds* before they close the gate. That’s a good thing, because I’m having trouble standing... let alone walking. I get on a packed subway car, ride it to my stop, stagger up the stairs and then have to face the frigging door and alarm system race against time.

I’ve learned a trick - the key that starts the alarm clock needs to go first. This lock is more difficult, but once it’s unlocked, the others are a breeze and the door opens. Unfortunately, this means I have less time with the alarm key pad. I take a deep breath, and start inserting and turning keys. I get the door open, stumble in, and then search my pockets for the danged alarm code - should have had that out before I started unlocking the door. Is that it? No, it’s a cinema ticket stub. How about that? Nope, blonde divorcee’s business card. How about that? Nope, Café Nero coffee card... 8 stamps (three to go!). How about that? Right... now I just have to punch in the numbers. Just like in a James Bond movie, I get the alarm de-activated with a second to spare.


Whenever I’m in London I always have dinner with my friend Iain. I know him from the Wordplay boards. Iain is now a professional comic book writer - check out Event Horizon #2 - as well as a screenwriter. Raindance gives me some expense money for meals, and because I’m low maintenance, I never spend all of it. So I always buy Iain a dinner (on Raindance) - it’s tradition. One year, we went to some fancy Chinese place and I decided to order enough food so that Iain could take home a bunch of stuff and eat off Raindance for about a week. Great plan... but they don’t “doggie bag” in England. What you don’t eat gets scraped into the trash... and probably ends up at that awful upstairs buffet on tomorrow’s menu... the barker describing it as fresh and delicious.

We meet at the British Museum (mummyland) and walk across town to this Italian restaurant Iain wants to try in Covent Garden (where Hitchcock’s FRENZY takes place). A small, family restaurant. We get there just before the dinner hour, and the place is almost empty - the wait-staff is actually having dinner at a table together. I tell Iain he can order anything - Raindance is paying. I also order anything - who cares about the price? I order a couple of beers and some garlic cheese bread as an appetizer. Our waiter brings us bread and a plate of olives and pickles. Delicious. The garlic cheese bread arrives... and it’s a pizza. Like a medium cheese pizza with garlic. Um, okay. I have a slice or two. The waiter takes away the olives and real bread... too bad, because those olives were tasty. Our entrees come, and the waiter takes away the pizza. The food is great - more meat and vegetables than pasta (though there is pasta). The waiter keeps trying to take away our plates while we’re eating... he’s hovering. Iain tells me about his new comic book - his creation. Sounds cool. It’s great when people I know have success - and Iain deserves it. He works hard.

The waiter hangs around, waiting for either of us to put down our forks so that he can steal our plates like he stole the pizza and olives. When we finally finish he takes the plates... and then disappears. When we’re ready to leave, we have to bill to pay. No sign of our waiter. Eventually (maybe a half hour later!) he surfaces and brings the bill. Over $100!!!!! There was a charge for the olives, and a charge just for sitting down (glass of water). Hey, that’s not a lot of money for a meal, but this was kind of a small family restaurant... not some fancy place. Doesn’t really matter - it was on Raindance.

(The stranger thing about this is that I've dropped $200 on DVDs without thinking. So maybe this is about being responsible with other people's money? I guarentee, no one else Raindance brings over thinks twice before dropping $200 on dinner.)


I have a meeting with a couple of screenwriters who took my class a few years ago. We’re going to have coffee and discuss their new project. We meet in a movie theater bar (yes, you can do shooters of tequila, then see a movie in London) and talk about their script and scripts in general. I get my 9th punch on my Café Nero card on the way to the meeting - just one more coffee and I get a free large mocha absolutely free!

Tomorrow I have to teach my big 2 day class. Even with the crappy publicity, there are a bunch of sign ups. This is the first time I’ve ever done the Character First version in London, and I’ve tried to use as many British films s examples as possible. HISTORY BOYS just opened, so I’ve decided to see it - maybe there will be some good class examples. I go to a cinema in Leicester Square, where the ticket costs me L13... which is about $26 American. I also buy a soft drink and some sweet popcorn... almost $20! That great Italian meal from last night is seeming a lot less expensive.

I walk home after the movie and prepare for my class... two days of non-stop talking.


Walking from the production office to the class venue I pass no Café Neros. None. There’s a little coffee and sandwich shop that provides me with the drugs I need to get through the day. The class goes well, one of the students who signed up after one of my Film Fest classes is the son of the editor of the first 3 STAR WARS movies (cool) and asks all kinds of great questions. He knows about movies. He even corrects me once when I use a British example and get something wrong (haven’t seen that movie in decades - not available on DVD in the USA, but easy to find here). I break my rule and have lunch with him and some other students at a vegetarian Indian place. I try *not* to have lunch with students because I’ll just talk the whole time and I need to save my voice for the class.

Sunday, the coffee and sandwich shop is closed... I end up drinking McDonald’s coffee. Still one stamp short of a free coffee at Café Nero. Class goes well, with one exception - the DVD player is Region 2, and I have a US DVD that won’t play in it. My clips DVD is Region 0 - so that isn’t a problem, but I have a cool new class thing where we read a scene from a script, then see what it looks like in the film. Except, we can’t see what it looks like in the film. Oops.

I eat lunch alone in another Indian veggie place - my voice is really raw.

That night I see DEPARTED and hit the sofa. Next morning I get my 10th stamp at Café Nero... my next coffee (any size, any type) is free. I head to the Raindance office to collect my check... but there’s a snafu and they’ll have to mail me the check. Crap. The good news is - Raindance is good about actually paying me. But it’s always nice to have that check in my pocket when I leave.

My flight is Tuesday... and to get to Heathrow 4 hours early (international) and allow for the tube ride and waking up and... well, I’m going to have to leave early. No time to stop by Café Nero to get my free coffee. I fly home with the card with all 10 stamps in my pocket. Maybe next time...

Because we’re following the sun, it’s a really long Tuesday. I arrive at LAX, have some issues with the FlyAway airport bus that will eventually pop up in an earlier blog entry, and get home early Wednesday morning. On Thursday, I’m at the Screenwriter’s Expo back at LAX and I don’t have any clean clothes.... but I have a full bag of CDs to sell.

- Bill


Anonymous said...

Bill the condom... I love it.


Anonymous said...

did you cut and paste this part:
"Free beers. After a couple I was really feeling it - which is strange. I'm a big guy and not a lightweight. Last year at this time I was in Austin (another fest) and we often began drinking early in the day - I have no idea how many drinks I'd have in a day, there - but *many*. So two or three beers shouldn't have had me wobbly. That's when I realized I hadn't eaten at all that day... and hadn't had much to eat the day before."
from a previous entry? Just wondering. Great stories! So what was the alarm system doing there, protecting the couch?

none said...

Tottencourt Road?

You were tired!

(eating vegetarian is no joke in this country, unless you like quiche)

wcmartell said...

The Cut & Paste Q: Yes, from the previous short version of the post. Does it really stand out that much?

Condoms: I was originally gonna have "And the condoms." as the very last line of the post, but thought it would make me sound like a horn dog.

- Bill

Cunningham said...

Are you equipped with a spermicidal reservoir tip?


I don't wanna know...

Anonymous said...

Well no offense... You did sound a little horny in that post. LOL.

That's okay though... A screenwriter has NEEDS.


English Dave said...

I remember going the wrong way down Holborn Tube and having 'An American Werewolf in London' moment.

The rest is a happy blur! It was great seeing you agin.

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