London. Orlando. The American Film Market.
A lot has changed since the previous entry. I felt like blogging a lot, but I didn’t have the energy. I needed to refuel, recharge, replenish my reserves and get up off the floor. It’s a daily battle. I don’t know that it ever ends. I’m not sure that it should because it’s from those trials that I have the range of emotions that allow me to create truthful art.
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London. I’d never been to London before. Even now, it still feels like snapshots of a place rather than actually having been. Air travel now feels like teleportation to me since I’m now able to sleep on flights. That’s pretty cool. But, it really doesn’t let the fact that I traveled 6,000+ miles and saw 3 oceans within a single 15hr period, all of that distance is lost.
And then there’s the time difference. The earth is round, which means that the sun hits different parts of it at different times of the day. 6,000+ miles east means 7hrs difference on the clock. I tried to transition on the first day. That lasted about half of the first day. Then I gave up and just decided I’d stay on California time. That didn’t go as I might have hoped, but it was a lot less work, so I was at least able to relax a little.
ALGORITHM screened. There were about 50 people. Most of them stayed through the Q&A afterwards. I’d say about 80% of the people stayed. When I told Adrian (the convention organizer) he said those were really good numbers.
Adrian saw ALGORITHM on our 2014/7/14 premiere and loved it and asked if I’d come. They paid for half the flight and all the hotel. If they hadn’t I wouldn’t have gone because I couldn’t have afforded it.
When I got there, Adrian told me 44CON wasn’t a hacker convention. It was an information security convention. Up until that point I hadn’t really made the distinction. After the conference, let me tell you, there’s a BIG difference. One is for people who are good with computers and want to make stuff. Think of hackers as a regular army. Skilled at what they do beyond the normal person. The InfoSec people are the special forces. They have natural talents that have been cultivated into near super-human abilities.
I’d like to say I was intimidated by the people, but alas, my understanding of their ability is so elementary that I didn’t know enough to be intimidated. I know now.
I met some great people at 44CON, people with whom I’d like to keep a conversation going. I don’t know if that will happen. Cons are like parties. You see people, you bond, you say you’ll keep in touch, and then you return to your normal life and slowly slip back into the preexisting habits.
I woke up at 6:00am one morning and couldn’t sleep. I decided to walk to the British Museum. It’s like the Smithsonian, with some very major differences. 1) England predates the U.S. by over 1k years. 2) For a good portion of that time, England was an empire and had a sense of moral superiority that allowed them to justify taking the nice stuff from all over the world.
In fact, it’s that latter part that brought me to the British Museum in the first place. I wanted to see the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone is a large rock with the same text written in three different languages, one of which we knew. It’s the key that allowed us to understand many of the previously untranslatable ancient artifacts. It’s a big deal. And I saw it with my eyes.
It’s such a big deal that there are two of them at the British Museum. One of them’s a fake that you can touch and rub and do whatever you want, within reason. The other is behind thick plexiglass. Near the fake one, there’s a bunch of ancient Egyptian artifacts, like 4,000 BC. Old. Old on a scale that’s hard to grasp. And I’m pretty good at grasping abstract things.
And slowly the enormity of the moment sunk in on me. How many millions of people have come and gone in the intervening 6,000 years since those sculptures were made? How many people were important and are now totally lost to history? I will almost certainly be forgotten. Even if I make the most important movie in the history of humanity, in 6,000 years, it’s doubtful people have ever heard of movies, let alone any given filmmaker.
I left the British Museum feeling very small, very insignificant. Rather depressed. The trip to London was great because of the people I met. It was a great opportunity to be flown to different country because of my art. But the nagging feeling of my insignificance and failure still hung over my head.
* * *
Orlando. I screened ALGORITHM for the cast and crew at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles. That opportunity was made possible because of my friend Nic Baisley. When the screening was over, Nic suggested I submit ALGORITHM to the Orlando Film Festival. I told him I didn’t have the budget to just submit it to festivals all over the country. He told me he’d get me a waiver. He did. ALGORITHM was accepted.
And so I went to Orlando.
I’d been resting a lot in the time since London. I’d begun to, if not feel good, at least feel much less bad. I was recovering.
When I landed in Orlando, I didn’t know how I was going to get to the hotel. I chose the bus. It cost $2 instead of the $50 for a cab. On the bus I met Steve. He just got in from New York, where he was testing out a girlfriend. She didn’t work out. So, he came back home to Orlando. And, he was on the bus with me. He was returning to his job where he cleans carpets. I used to clean carpets so I talked to him about how hard the 150 pound carpet cleaning machines are to work with.
When I checked into A Loft hotel, it was easily the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, other than the timeshare my wife and I stayed in on our honeymoon. The room was so big, it might actually be bigger than my apartment. The view was beautiful. It was only 6 stories high, but Downtown Orlando isn’t like New York. The tallest building can’t be more than 20 stories.
I got to the Orlando Film Festival a day early. I had no choice since I had to book my hotel and my flight before they released the dates of ALGORITHM’s screenings. So, I just decided I’d stay for the entire festival. Hence, the day early.
Again, the people were awesome. I got a chance to sit down with and get to know quite a few of the filmmakers. It was strange, meeting people who are trying to do what I’m trying to do. In Hollywood, it’s big budgets and movie stars. The Orlando Film Festival is not a top-tier festival. It’s probably not even a second-tier festival. Most people would see that as a negative. Instead, it dispensed with much of the pretense of the major festivals. There isn’t a sense of competition as much as a sense of camaraderie. Almost everyone is operating with about the same budget range and with unknown actors, unknown writers, unknown directors. In other words, it’s all about the art.
The movies were hit and miss. Some were painful and I had to endure the screening so as not to break the heart of the filmmaker. Others brought tears to my eyes and inspired be to do better in my own work. One of the best blocks for me was the Experimental section. It was pure exploration, almost like Terrance Malick meets DMT. I loved every moment of it.
And then Saturday evening came. The awards ceremony. I didn’t expect anything. I mean, we always hope to win everything and become billionaires and famous and not have any limits on our next project, like Christopher Nolan. But, realistically, I didn’t expect anything.
Nevertheless, ALGORITHM was nominated for 3 awards: Best Cinematography for Satsuki Murashige; Best Supporting Actor for Angela Gulner; Best Picture, I guess that would be for me. We didn’t win anything, but no one else was nominated for more than one award. And, there were quite a few movies that weren’t nominated at all. So, it’s a pretty big deal for me. ALGORITHM’s first film festival, and we were nominated for 3 awards.
I was much happier at Orlando than I was in London. It has nothing to do with London or the people. Both were great. In fact, London had much better food, and the people were really fascinating to talk to. It was entirely the emotional baggage I brought that made the difference. Even Memi could hear the difference in my voice, over the phone.
* * *
AFM. After London I got it in my head that I needed distribution. I tried cold-calling studios. It turns out, they don’t take unsolicited calls. You need an agent. So, I went to IMDB and looked up who Danny Boyle’s agent is. I called the agent, and got the agent’s assistant, and got no where. It seems they too don’t accept unsolicited calls. To talk to the agent, I needed a manager. So, I called an acquaintance, a family friend. I’ve yet to hear back from her.
The next day, I called Mandi Reno and asked her if she was interested in being ALGORITHM’s Producer’s Rep. She said yes. Then, she said something, almost off-handedly that really made my day? She asked if I needed contract because she didn’t. She knows me to be a man of my word. You don’t get that kind of trust in Hollywood, ever. It means a lot that Mandi gives it to me.
Mandi is very business minded. She hasn’t mentioned a desire to write or direct or edit. She wants to produce. She’s focused and good at it. And now she’s working for me again.
At the end of that same conversation, Mandi told me that she’d basically been hired by a sales agency (those are the people who take movies to the various distributors), almost as an intern. It was perfect. That agency had paid the $15k to rent a room at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica for the American Film Market. AFM is where the world comes to buy movies made in the U.S.
AFM is not the place for artists. It’s not that we can’t go. It’s that there really isn’t anything for us to do there. Instead, it’s a place for business, not art. It’s where money and cogs change hands, or at least the discussion for such exchanges are begun there.
It’s almost impossible to get a deal at AFM without a sales agent, which is basically what Mandi will be there. Even if you do find a deal there, it’s likely that the deal will be very bad for the artist. Again, AFM is the special forces of the movie business. You need one of the elite on your side or you’ll almost certainly get burned, bad.
But wait. There’s more.
I spoke with Mandi today and she told me the sales agency that she’s working with has repeatedly asked her about “the hacker movie.” They may want to represent ALGORITHM. Not just Mandi, who is awesome in her own right. But, the whole agency. It’s a reputable agency. If it wasn’t Mandi wouldn’t be there. The fact that they’re interested in ALGORITHM is a big deal, maybe as big as those 3 award nominations in OFF, maybe even bigger.
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In case it isn’t clear. I don’t feel like a failure today. I feel pretty good. In fact, that feeling pretty good thing is slowly returning. I like it. This artist’s life thing is a real roller coaster. It’s not about the high. It’s about not stopping because there’s not a single aspect of it that stays the same.