Sunday, March 25, 2007

Free Preview Class - Standing Room Only!

Hong Kong has to be the most densely packed city on earth. Wall-to-wall sky scrapers with only inches in between. Streets so clogged with pedestrians that there is often a second layer of sidewalk - elevated. This is a city overflowing with people.

I wake up on Wednesday morning... and Richard is already gone. No instructions, no communication. I’m doing my 2 preview classes tonight, and that means I need to bring all of my (heavy) class materials. Plus, maybe my audio CDs for sale. Oh, and I’ll need my laptop if I’m going to check email and post these blog entries. Originally I was going to post "real time" but after finishing an entire blog entry... I lost my connection and lost all of that work. So I’m a bit behind.

Anyway, I decide to skip the CDs and just bring all of my heavy class material and my laptop - that’s two shoulder bags. Though I might have just pulled the portion of the class I plan to use for the preview, having that massive binder bursting at the seems with material is something that helps sell the class. You can see how much information is there for the weekend class. A massive amount.

Now, I’ve been in Hong Kong for 2 days, but I’m still groggy and jet lagged. My first stop after I get off the shuttle bus is a local Starbucks (Alexandra House) where they play the exact same music they play in the Starbucks in Studio City. It costs me $32 for my coffee, and I drink it and scan emails and message boards. I have an ad on Craigslist LA for my class in May that will run out some day while I’m here - and I check to see if today is that day. Nope.

I’m coughing a little bit - and I’m worried that I caught a cold due to lack of sleep. I don’t want to be sick for the 2 day class. After leaving Starbucks I buy a pack of cough drops at a Boots on my way to catch a taxi for the Convention Center.

My job today is to hang out and talk to people at the booth - get them to come to the free class. There are not many people, so I end up talking to the people in the other booths. Richard’s job is to hand out this huge stack of flyers about the free classes - and I can’t imagine him giving them all out in one day. And the flyers aren’t a half page - they are *multiple pages* who wants to carry that around for the rest of the day?


I was originally supposed to come in March, during the Film Festival and Market, but my visa hadn’t been approved in time, so I came in May. The idea of tying my class in to the Festival or Market was a great one - the reason why the class works so well during the Raindance Festival is that you have all of those people who love movies already there. When I was at the VSDA last year I talked to the person in charge of their seminars and panels about doing screenwriting classes this year as part of the event. They were excited by that idea. If you are putting on a festival any time someone can offer you a class or panel that you don’t have to organize yourself is a great thing. It’s something for nothing. So I’m glad this year my visa was approved in time so that my class could be part of FilMart...

Except it’s not.

When Richard returns at the end of the day without any of the flyers (fantastic!) I find out that the 2 free previews are not in any of the rooms at the massive convention center - it’s at some building we have to drive to. Richard thinks the 6pm class will be filled, because people will want to head out to dinner after that. That makes sense - but what if they want to head out to dinner at 6pm?

The event being away from the convention center means that people have to leave no matter what - and if they are going to go, why not go to dinner?

Hmm, maybe we should have done it in a bar?


So Richard and I go to his car... and once again he walks behind me. I have no idea where his car might be, so I *can’t* lead. Maybe he is behind me because I am walking too fast - I’m tall and have long legs. Maybe he is having trouble keeping up? I try slowing down... and he slows down. I try walking behind him, and *he* moves behind me. I had no idea my ass was that attractive! It’s crazy - but I somehow manage to lead us to his car, mostly by looking over my shoulder every few steps to see if he’s still there.

We get into his car and he asks if I would like dinner. That seems like an easy question, but I am exhausted and wonder if eating will put me to sleep. Last time I only had to do *one* free preview, this year I’m doing two - back-to-back. Can I stay awake? "Sure, but something light" is my answer. Seems there’s a café in the same building as the meeting room. He drives to a busy downtown area and parks in a garage... then we walk a couple of blocks to the venue. I’m dragging my shoulder bag - the laptop stays in the car. Will it get ripped off? I don’t know, but I’m not going to lug it anymore today.

The café is this multi-cultural cuisine place run by a woman who looks Indian. She brings a menu and I order a cup of iced coffee and a plate of open faced sandwiches. The coffee *comes with* sugar and cream already added - yes, this was a British Colony a decade ago. The sandwiches - are great! Garlic french bread, one with tuna salad, one with ham and cheese, one with smoked salmon. The garlic bread sold it. Delicious.

It also made me wonder if I had junk in my teeth. Last way to sell people on a class is to have food hanging from your teeth during the free preview.

I got another iced coffee to go and we went to the venue. No signs telling you this was the place, and a creepy elevator that takes you to whatever nosebleed floor it was on. No signs in the narrow hallway pointing to the correct door - and we went to the wrong door to begin with. The room itself was great - some sort of class room. All of the stuff you need to show film clips except a TV. I had brought my clips, just in case.

We wait - Richard at the door to keep people in the hallway from getting lost.

Kristy, Richard’s assistant, has a big stack of sign ups for the 2 day class - ready for the people who love the free preview and want to spend a few thousand HK dollars for the 2 day class.
6pm comes... and goes.

No students come.

Maybe it’s just traffic from the Convention Center.

Millions of people crammed on this little island... and we’re in an empty room.

By 6:30 Kristy gives up and decides to go shopping for an hour - we have her cell number in case someone shows up.

I walk up and down the creepy narrow hallway to stay awake.

At 7:30 we hear someone getting off the elevator! Kristy returning from shopping. She bought shampoo. Somehow, that’s seems like a bigger let down to me than no one showing up. Just shampoo?

A few minutes later we hear the elevator... as it moves past this floor heading elsewhere.
Richard’s phone rings. It’s a novelist who has taken courses at the Academy who is coming for the 8pm free preview - but she’s lost. Seems the street the venue is on is broken in the middle and has a North and South version that don’t meet - but have duplicate street numbers. 1107 South Broadway and 1107 North Broadway (only this street isn’t Broadway). I wonder how many people got lost on the way to the 6pm class? Probably nobody.

We end up with 4 people at 8:15, and 3 of them can’t come to the weekend class - other plans. I chug the rest of my iced coffee and give on hell of a free class to the 4 people in the room set up for 30. Somewhere out on the street there are 26 people smashed together on a crowded sidewalk who could be sitting in those chairs.

By the end, the three wish they didn’t already have plans, and the 4th guy is writing a check. I’m exhausted. Richard wants to know if I’m hungry...

- Bill


Anonymous said...

wow... but I gotta know, if the Starbucks was $32, how much was the cough drops?

just kidding, major bummer Bill

David CC Erickson said...

Do you love to teach? Otherwise I can't figure out what if any aspect of this experience you're enjoying.

wcmartell said...

I love *learning* - and a later entry may actually make sense of all of this.

But... um, the perks are travel.

- Bill

Anonymous said...

travel's good

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