MIX Film Festival 1998
My First Time as an Exhibiting Filmmaker
I was extremely excited to get down to the MIX NYC Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film/Video festival to show my video G*I*J*O. Monté was accompanying me, which made me even more excited. He had to travel by himself the day after I did, though. I'd spent so much time making sure he'd be prepared that I neglected to prepare myself. I spent my last night in town packing all my own stuff.
My weekend got off to an early start. I was going to put in a half day of work and hop on the bus to New York City at noon. But I got called to model for an art class that morning, so it was practically like having the whole day off. The modeling was nothing too exciting. The kids were only to paint the upper half of my body, so they let me keep my pants on (or, more accurately, they *made* me keep my pants on). The experience was lacking the subtle energy I feel sitting naked in a room full of people studying my nude body, but it was still nice to just sit still for 3 hours. I was experiencing a fair amount of anxiety about the trip. Not only was there the typical frantic activities of planning and packing, but I become somewhat of a basket case when I travel to NYC. Beyond that, this was the first time that I'd actually shown a video to a paying audience, and I was a little nervous about it. One video in particular had the potential to be quite controversial. Sitting still and meditating for 3 hours went a long way to calming me down.
Soon the class was over and I walked the short distance to the bus stop. I was typically early and had to stand in the cold for a while, but the bus was more or less on time. In the past I was woefully unprepared for the 5+ hour ride to NYC, and I would be terminally bored as I sat and stared out the window. But now I bring books and magazines, CDs, and snacks to eat. I also now bring headphones so I can listen to the movie. I don't know why I bother, though, because the movies are generally really, really bad. This time it was "Bogus," starring Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu, and some snot-nosed kid. I watched it all the way through. The second movie was some Emilia Erhart story with Bruce Dern playing her husband. It was a very stressful and anxiety-ridden tale, and I basically can't bare to look at Bruce Dern, so I plugged my headphones into my CD player and spaced out to music.
The bus was approaching the city right around rush hour, so traffic was backed up and we were running behind. At one point the driver took us off on New Jersey side streets and I was really wondering what was going on. Eventually we wound up at Lincoln Tunnel from the opposite direction that the bus normally approaches it, and I assumed that the driver just took an alternate route in a vain attempt to miss traffic. I was to meet Howard for the 6PM program. The bus was already running well past its scheduled arrival time of 5:55PM, so I'd given up on any hope of making the curtain. Once I got off the bus it still took me a while to get a cab, and it was a long ride down to the theater at 2nd & 2nd. The good news was that there were no crowds in the theater at the time I walked in. I went to the front desk and introduced myself as one of the "filmmakers." That was a cool moment. I had attended the year before as an ordinary spectator, but this year I was proud to be presenting my work. They gave me the VIP treatment, handed me a packet of stuff, and gave me my artists badge to wear for the weekend. The main purpose of the badge was to get me into all the screenings for free. I snuck into the upstairs theater and watched the last 15 minutes of the program that was playing.
Parked directly outside the theater was an old Dodge Dart with the number 12 painted on the side like it was some kind of race car.
I used a picture from my skinhead phase. It looked like me in my video, but not a lot like me in person. I especially liked the red yarn that they provided so I could hang it around my neck.
In the pack of stuff they gave me was the official festival catalog
Howard and I met up immediately afterwards, ran out for a bite to eat, and got back in time for the next program. It was pretty good. I'm still coming to grips with what is meant by "experimental" film and video. Basically it means whatever the artist wants it to mean, but the result is generally that entertainment value takes a back seat to artistic value. As an artist I should be able to appreciate this, but I've been corrupted by the MTV Generation enough to find many of the films to be rather slow-paced. This particular program was about as engaging as I could hope for.
When it was over Howard and I went outside to wait for Tery. The following program was the Gong Show, and I had brought a video to toss into the competition. Tery had confirmed that he would be able to attend. We waited and waited, but he was distinctly overdue. I was actually rather nervous about this video, more so than I was for my actual festival submission. First of all it was designed to be shocking, and thus had the potential to be rather controversial, and there was also the fact that I really wanted to win the Gong Show prize. The rest of the festival didn't involve judging and prizes, so there wasn't the same pressure with my actual festival tape.
I entered a video in the Gong Show the previous year and placed Third. The film that won First Place, "Slurpee Headache," was very clever, and I was happy to place behind it. The tape that got Second, though, was not terribly witty beyond its title of "Jon Benet Ramsey goes to Nazi Germany." I really felt that I deserved Second Place. Having now experienced the Gong Show once I had a much better idea of what made for a winning video. I planned my piece very carefully around the perceived criteria, and I came to win.
Fortunately they were late in seating people for the Gong Show program, and Tery showed up in time. It turned out that rather than going to 32 Second St at Second Ave, he went to Thirty-second street. As we were standing in the lobby, someone from my email list came up and introduced himself. He was Vincent (Vhayley@aol.com), an older, distinguished-looking gentleman.
Finally they allowed people to enter the theater. Howard, Tery, and I sat down, and soon the mistress of ceremonies Linda Simpson came out and introduced the "celebrity" panel. There were four judges this year, and they were instructed to either gong the videos, or rate them on a scale of 1 to 5. The first few videos got gonged. Generally the filmmakers ignored the principle that Gong Show videos have to get out to a quick start and move briskly. If a video doesn't immediately grasp the audience's attention, or if it gets repetitive, there's a very good chance that it will get gonged. One video made it all the way through, but only got mediocre scores.
Eventually Linda Simpson introduced some video, but mine was the one that started playing. I wasn't quite sure what to do. I was concerned mostly in that I had wanted to tape the screening on my palmcorder so that I could capture audience reaction to the shocking images. I decided to sit stoically and watch. But before my video got to the first good part, they pulled it and played the video that Linda had actually introduced.
Expecting mine to be next, I got my palmcorder fired up and ready. Sure enough, she introduced "Network News 2000," and mine began to roll. It was a mock news broadcast from the same date in the year 2000. The crowd was silent as my image introduced the first story: that the Reform Party had won landslide elections across the country. When it went to the taped story, images of Pro Westlers were displayed. The crowd giggled and laughed. Then my image introduced the second story, that Kenneth Starr began his first day of video taped testimony into possible criminal wrong-doing during the time he harassed and entrapped President Clinton. When it went to the taped story, images of extreme male genital torture were displayed. The crowd erupted. The theater was echoing with screams, shouts, and laughter for the duration of the video. The judges gave it a perfect score right down the line.
The remainder of the videos were either gonged or received a perfect score. One of them was a so-so video that involved a black drag queen and a dog sleeping on a bed. I could see why it wasn't gonged, but I didn't think it deserved anywhere near a perfect score. The other was quite clever. It involved stop-frame animation of two toy action figures in a typical porn scenario (air conditioning repair) that culminated in a sexual encounter. I didn't think it was as clever as mine, but it clearly required a tremendous amount of effort to create, and the audience reaction was very good.
I was called up to the front of the theater along with the other two finalists. Unprepared for this eventuality, Linda Simpson decided on the spot that each judge would cast one vote for his or her favorite video. Since there were three finalists and four judges, there would be no chance of a tie. The first judge promptly voted for the so-so video because it contained "a French, uncut dick." The second judge, a light-skinned black guy, said that all three were good. He tried to pass the mike so that they could come back to him after he'd made up his mind. The audience boo'd this and he was forced to decide. I was rather disillusioned with him, since he clearly had plenty of time to make a selection but was still entirely unprepared. Completely devoid of any decision-making ability, he chose the so-so video because it had a black man in it and he's a black man. My heart sank. Not only was I pissed at him for making such a lame and racially motivated selection, but having cast a second vote for the so-so video he all but clinched its victory. The guy was totally unaware of what he was doing and the ramifications of his actions. The third judge, the only one who had been a judge the previous year, cast her vote for the animated video. I was not entirely disappointed because it was a good video, and this stopped the so-so one from walking away with the prize. The fourth judge was now in a predicament. She seemed to be the only one of the group who had a grasp on the fact that she was doing more than making jokes, that there was a competition at stake and that the competitors might give a shit about the outcome. She was faced with a dilemma. She could cast her vote for me and give me a grain of recognition, but that would mean that the undeserving video would win. Instead she cast a second vote for the animated video, and created another tie. At this point I wasn't sure what to do. I was totally out of the running, but Linda Simpson was rather ignoring me. I started to back away, and Linda noticed and asked for a big round of applause. I graciously bowed to the appreciative crowd, and took my seat. Linda then called for audience applause to determine the finalist. She asked for applause for the so-so video and there was a fair amount of clapping. Then she asked for applause for the animated video and the theater erupted. There was no mistaking it.
I tried to mitigate my disappointment. The goal of this program, after all, was not a serious evaluation of videos to select that most deserving of a prize. The goal was to goof off, be entertaining, and have a good time. But I was still left with the gnawing curiosity of what might have been. First of all I was still pissed at the second judge for being such a foofoo-head. He could have been witty, entertaining, and still had at least a vestige of a clue. But I was also wondering how things would have turned out if they'd gone for an applause vote for all three finalists. I am fairly confident that the topical nature of my piece coupled with the shocking imagery would have garnered me the prize. Alas, I shall never know.
Howard went home because he still had to go into the office the next day. Tery and I headed off to wards his apartment where I would be staying. He immediately whipped out a cigarette. I had been free of nicotine and alcohol for some time before this weekend, but I was in the mood to cut loose a little. A cigarette is also good therapy for the frustrated and pissed, which I still was at the time. I bummed a smoke and regained the ranks of nicotine consumers. We walked part of the way back to his building and took a cab the rest of the way. His lover Tom was in bed asleep. He had a wisdom tooth extracted earlier in the week and was still in a lot of pain. Tery and I went out for a few drinks and then came back and went to bed. I slept on a futon on the floor.
Tery and Tom and I all got up about the same time. Tom had to go to the doctor to find out why he was still in so much pain. Tery and I headed out to wander around Greenwich Village and do a little shopping. I also took lots of pictures. We stopped in a couple of leather stores. I saw a pair of rubber briefs that I really wanted, but they cost almost $100. There were other items of interest, but I didn't want to spend any money at the time.
Soon Tery called Tom to check in and see what the doctor said. It wasn't good news. Tom had developed a massive infection in his jaw and he had to check into the hospital for the night. We hopped in a cab and went directly back to the apartment. Tom was in bad shape. His spirits were better than mine would have been, but he was clearly experiencing a high degree of discomfort, and he was stressing about getting admitted to the hospital. He was constantly on the phone talking to doctors, relatives, and hospital administrators. Finally he got the green light from the hospital and he and Tery left. I took the opportunity to kick back and relax. I took some nude pix of myself in their apartment, and then I took a nap for a while.
Soon it was time to meet Howard at the theater for the 6:00 program. I was able to find my way there without difficulty. Just a year before I would have been terrified to be out on my own in New York City, but by now my metrophobia had all but vanished. Howard was running a little late, but the program was running even later. Soon we sat down and the program began. It was pretty good. The overriding theme was that of persecution and protest. One video, "Gay Shame '98" was about the rejection of main-stream gay identity, gay "pride," and the commercialization of gay culture. They were tearing up issues of XY Magazine and trashing Billy dolls. I'm not one to impugn one's right to protest, but it just seems to me that homophobia and discrimination should be stamped out before we start turning on ourselves.
The program ended at about quarter to eight. On the way out of the theater I bumped into the light-skinned judge from the night before. He told me how much he enjoyed my video. I was polite, but in my mind I was wondering why, if he liked it so much, he voted for the other one.
Monté was supposed to be getting in around 7:00. He also took a bus from Ithaca, but this was his first time in NYC and he was all on his own to get to the theater. I'd typed up instructions for him, to tell the cab driver to take him to 32 Second St at Second Ave. I also included phone numbers and xeroxed a map of lower Manhattan indicating the location of the Port Authority and the theater. There was no sign of him yet, but considering how late I got in the night before I wasn't surprised. Howard and I stepped out for a bite to eat.
We got back before the next program started, but there was still no sign of Monté. We went in and sat down. My plan was to check the lobby periodically. The only problem was that this program proved to be very popular and the theater was SRO. I knew that if I got up to check on him that I'd immediately lose my seat. I resisted the temptation to stress out over it. If he arrived at the theater he'd wait in the lobby as instructed, and if there was a problem I'd given him no fewer than 4 contingency plans to follow. I sat back and enjoyed the program of gay-themed animated shorts.
After a particularly clever piece called "Dirty Baby Does Fire Island," I decided to risk losing my seat and go see if Monté had shown up. Sure enough, there he was in the lobby waiting. He met me with a kiss and a big smile. He had misread the bold 36 point font that read "32 Second St at Second Ave," and told the cabbie to go to "Thirty-second Street at Second Ave." That didn't sound right to the cab driver, who knew that those two streets didn't intersect. Monté handed him the paper, but he misread it in exactly the same way that Monté had. He got Monté to Second Ave, and Monté followed the contingency plans by calling some of the numbers I provided. The first was to call Tom's cell phone. I found out later that they were forced to turn it off while inside the hospital. Monté called another number but there was also no answer. He decided to look at the map I provided. He saw that the theater was at 2nd and 2nd. He looked up at a street sign, and he was standing on the corner of 2nd and 2nd. He turned around and realized he was standing right in front of the theater. All's well that ends well. We went back into the screening room and watched the end of the animation program while standing in the back.
After the program we went back out so that Monté could get something to eat. The 10:00 program was running very late but finally they let us come in and sit down. The program was all work on 8mm or Super8 film. The curator, Stephen Kent Jursic, introduced the program while wearing a grass skirt made completely of 8mm film. It was an interesting concept for a program, but little of the work proved to catch my attention. I even wound up dozing during parts of it. I was actually rather glad when it ended so we could get up and move around.
We went straight back to Howard's apartment. His boyfriend Ross was in bed and sleeping. Howard and Monté and I went out to a place that served both food and cocktails. We stayed there for quite some time pigging out and getting a little drunk. It was after 3:00 in the morning when I got into a cab and went back to Tery's.
Fairly early that morning the phone rang. It was practically right next to my head, and I practically jumped out of my skin. I knew it was Tom calling from the hospital, but for some reason Tery wasn't answering it. Soon the machine picked up and I fell back asleep. A while later the phone rang again, I jumped out of my skin, and Tery wasn't picking up. I fell back asleep once more. A little later the phone rang yet again. This time I got up and answered it. As expected, it was Tom, and he was asking for Tery. I said he was still in bed. Tom asked if I would wake him up. I went into the bedroom, and there was Tery awake with the phone right by his bed. He picked it up. I went back to bed, and after a while fell back asleep. The phone rang a few more times that morning, and I did my best to sleep through it. When I finally decided that I wouldn't be sleeping any more, it was not much later than 9:30. I was going on precious little sleep.
Tery and I hung out for a while. I called Howard's apartment around 11:00. They had just gotten up themselves. I envied them the additional few hours of sleep that they got. Tery took off to pick up Tom from the hospital, and I hoofed it over to Howard's apartment. Ross was at work. Howard and Monté took showers and got dressed, and we went out for brunch.
We wandered around Tompkins Square Park for a while. I saw a discarded syringe on the sidewalk that some junky must have left behind. Pretty soon it was about the time that Ross was to be back from work and we went to the apartment to pick him up. Within minutes we were back out the door and walking to SoHo. Monté needed a new pair of shoes, and Ross was all too happy to play shopping mentor. We must have hit every shoe store in SoHo. Normally this would have me in dire agony, but I had nothing better to do than wander around SoHo anyway, and I was generally in a very good mood so I didn't really care. We were able to hit a couple art galleries as well, and that kept me happy. One was showing the PAPERVEINS exhibit, which was associated with the MIX festival. I also had a copy of Juxtapoz magazine with me, which listed a number of galleries with art similar to that shown in the magazine. One of them sold nothing but animation cells and related art. The showroom displayed almost exclusively Disney and Bugs Bunny cells. I went up to the lady behind the front desk and asked if they had anything from Pink Floyd The Wall. "Yes," she said as she stood there smiling at me. I waited for some time, wondering if she had any intention of trying to make a sale. Just as I was about to say something she finally asked me if I'd like to see it.
"Very much," I said. She went into the back room, and several minutes later she emerged carrying the exquisite piece. It was from the famous flowers scene. It was not a cell, per se, but the actual color drawing that had been photographed for the film animation. Above it was a sketch from which the final drawing was done. It was a really, really, REALLY nice piece, but it was also very expensive. If it had been under $1,000 I probably would have bought it on the spot. But it wasn't, so I told her I'd think about it. I tried to take a picture of it, but she wouldn't let me.
For the first time in my life I saw an actual drawing that was used for the animation in Pink Floyd The Wall. Looking at the original colored pencil marks and beholding the work of art, one of hundreds that went into the final product, was almost a religious experience.
Eventually we stopped off for a beer, and then it was time to go to the theater. The 8:00 program was all gay punk themed works, and I was very excited about it. Surprisingly, Monté wasn't really that interested in it. He and Ross went off by themselves and Howard and I went to the theater. I was very happy with the pieces. One, "The Stars We Are," was particularly good. It was a short documentary about an HIV+, wheelchair-bound gay skinhead in Stockholm Sweden. Gay skinheads by and large are non-political and non-racist, but there was a definite mood of nihilism among this young man and his friends. There was talk of suicide and bleak futures. I found it quite gripping in it's authenticity.
When the program was over we went down to the lobby and found Monté waiting for us. Soon it was time for the next program to begin. It was called "Scared Stiff," and was about gay-oriented horror-themed shorts. By and large I thought they were very good. The final piece, a black and white film with professional-quality cinematography and dolby surround sound, was quite impressive. The story was a little cheezey, but it was so exquisite to watch and hear that I was enthralled none the less. When it was over, however, I discovered that Monté hated it as much as I loved it. He classified it as "a waste of money" (referring to the production costs). We decided to table the discussion, rather than get into an argument about it at that time.
This was it for screenings for the night, and we went back to Howard's apartment to pick up Ross. The plan was to go clubbing, specifically at The Roxy. At this point, however, I could barely keep my eyes open. I got precious little sleep the night before, I'd been on my feet all day, and it was now past midnight. I told them I'd love to get some drinks at a quiet bar where we could sit and talk, but that if they were going to a noisy, dark, crowded dance club that I was going back to Tery's to sleep. I think Ross was a little frustrated that we were deviating from the agreed-upon plan, but he was gracious about it and we all decided to go out for food and cocktails.
We all had a good meal, during which my drinking graduated from beer to wine to run & cokes. I was starting to get a little buzzed, and I was catching my second wind. When we left the restaurant we decided to check out a club that was listed in HX. It was called I.C. Guys, and we located it right away. But when we opened the door we found a teeny tiny little club with about a half-dozen patrons and two skinny boys behind the bar wearing only underwear. Having nowhere else to go we decided to stay for a while. We started talking with the guy who's table we essentially invaded. He was a New York City judge who'd lived in the city since 1977. He told us many stories of what it was like back then and how things had changed.
I had more beer and more wine and my buzz was increasing. It was also getting later and later and the crowd was thinning. Eventually we started calling for one of the bare-chested boys to get up and give us a go-go dance. One of the boys was a blond white kid, and the other was Asian. The Asian guy got up on the tiny little stage by the front window and gave a so-so performance. He was an okay go-go boy, but he was casually talking with the customers at the same time, somewhat mitigating the erotic value of his efforts. My friends and the judge started egging me to get up and dance. Part of me wanted to, but I was also shy. "Well," I rationalized, "I can't get up there until he's done anyway..."
"No," the boy said. "It's okay. C'mon up."
That was enough of an endorsement for me. If the kid didn't mind then who was I to say no. I got up there and I started dancing with him as he removed my clothes. At this point there was only my group, the judge, and about two other patrons. Very quickly I was bare-chested. He started undoing my pants. Having done amateur strip at Ithaca's local gay bar on an occasion or two, I knew that there is no dignified graceful way to remove one's shoes while dancing. When my pants got down to my ankles I stopped dancing and called out, "I'm going to need a volunteer from the audience!" The judge ran right up to the stage, removed my shoes, and pulled my jeans over my feet.
The kid whispered in my ear, "Do you want to go for fake erections or real ones?"
I had no idea what he was talking about, so I said, "Well, I'm getting a real one right now. You can do whatever you want."
He reached around and started squeezing my dick through my underwear. I could tell he was surprised with my size right away. He even called out to the other boy, "Hey, this guy's got a real porn star cock on him." I turned around to find that the kid had a real semi going himself, although he was a little on the small side. I started feeling him up through his 2x-ist underwear, as he felt me up through my dirty Hanes briefs. He started tugging my underwear down. I was totally in the mood to bear it all, but I knew that New York State law forbid genital exposure in establishments where alcohol is served. I told the kid I was into it, but I didn't want to break the law. By this time it was practically last call anyway, so the other kid came out from behind the bar and locked the front door. It was now a private show, and we could do anything we wanted to.
As soon as the front door was secured my jockey shorts were history and my big fat boner was flapping all over the place. The go-go boy was also soon naked and hard. I was stroking him as he was stroking me. I got down on my knees and teased a blow job. I was acting like I was about to do it, but I didn't actually make any oral contact. I didn't know if the kid would want me to. He didn't seem to be resisting, but I had no idea where his cock had been and didn't really want it in my mouth. So I just put on a show.
Before long the Asian kid was calling for the blond guy to get up too, and he quickly obliged. He was wearing long, baggy gym shorts. He started to get a bit of a bulge in the front. I was really curious what his cock was like. Soon he was naked and his dick was rapidly growing. He turned out to have a pretty impressive tool. He wasn't as thick as I am, but he was almost as long, and I wasn't complaining. At one point he had his back to my chest, we were dancing together, and I was wagging his hard cock all over the place. At another point I was on my knees between the two boys stroking their hard cocks and slapping myself on either side of the face with them. I really wanted to be sucking them, especially the blond kid, but I still held back.
There was one other patron whom everyone was calling upon to join in. He wasn't bad looking, but he was being a real prima donna about it. It was as if he wanted to see how much he could get people to beg him. Finally he got down to his underwear. He had a decent body with nice chest hair, but I was really turned off by the way he was so full of himself. That might be an odd criticism coming from a narcissistic exhibitionist like myself, but I was joining in the party and giving freely of myself while this guy was acting like we weren't worthy of seeing him naked. Finally I got sick of him, snuck up behind, and yanked his shorts to his ankles. The crowd burst out laughing. I expected him to be furious with me, but he took the joke well.
At this point I put my underwear back on again. I wasn't ready to quit. On the contrary, I had a new show planned. The briefs I was wearing were a little on the ragged side, and I knew a tear was starting around the waist band. I turned my back to the audience and started tearing away the back of my shorts to reveal my butt. When I got a little past half-way, I started tearing vertically to reveal my butt crack. I danced over to the judge and started giving him a private show. I tore the back of the shorts totally off the waste band. He grabbed them and started tugging, bringing the front tight against my fat cock. I kept writhing my body. He pulled me closer to him and started spanking my bare butt. I'm not too much into that kind of thing, but I was definitely enjoying it in this instance. He gave me a couple more good swats and I kept tearing away at my shorts until I had nothing on but the waste band alone.
The kids were still dancing on the stage, and I was hanging out naked except the waste band of my shorts which I was now wearing around my head. My dick was still pretty fat, but it wasn't hard anymore, and I didn't think I'd be able to get it hard again. I was also starting to come down off my buzz. Eventually the party lost its energy and the boys said that it was time to close up so they could go home. I got my clothes on and we headed out. Howard poured me into the back of a cab and I was on my way back to Tery's. When I got in I promptly passed out cold on the futon.
The next morning I slept as late as my body would let me, which is to say a little after 10:00. I felt far less hung over than I expected to. Tom was feeling much better than he had been before his hospital stay. He was even eating solid food for the first time since the wisdom teeth came out almost a week before. Despite the fact that this was the "big day" of my video premiere, I was feeling kind of blah and not wanting to do much of anything. Monté called asking what was up. I told him that he and Howard and Ross might as well head out and do something together because I'd had about enough walking around NYC for one weekend. Tery wanted to go Christmas shopping, and Tom was going over to a friend's house to use his Internet access. On his way out Tom took me to the local video store so that I could rent "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" John Waters cited it as the single biggest inspiration of his film making career, and I'd wanted to see it for a long time.
While I was in the video store I was feeling light-headed, edgy, and basically wanting to be back in the privacy of the apartment. These symptoms were all indicative that I was hung over worse than I'd realized. As soon as I got back to the apartment I took a nap. I slept surprisingly long and soundly. When I awoke I was feeling much better. I put in the movie. It was good, but not great. The characters, dialogue, and acting were all as trashy as I had hoped for, but the plot was pretty thin. John Waters' plots are always very complex and detailed, even in the films that I don't much care for. I reconciled this in my mind in that John Waters improved upon the films that inspired him.
By the time the film was over Tom and Tery were back. Before long Howard, Ross, and Monté came by. This was the first time all weekend that all six of us were together in the same place at the same time. Tery poured some cocktails as we got ready to head out for my big debut. When it was time to go Tom decided to stay behind and Ross wound up going off on his own, leaving me, Howard, Tery, and Monté to attend my screening.
We got to the theater and found the judge from the night before in the lobby. I'd forgotten that we'd invited him to attend the screening. After we all got our tickets we found that the program was going to be delayed by at least a half hour. This was no big deal except that Monté had to get to the Port Authority to catch the late bus at 11:00. Things were going to be tight as it was, and this was going to make it even tighter. To kill time we walked up the street to get some coffee. I'm generally not a coffee drinker, but I decided to join in this time. We all got our drinks to go and headed directly back to the theater. As soon as I took the first sip I got a mouth full of scalding hot coffee that instantly burned my tongue. As it cooled I continued to sip it, however.
Monté and me right before my big debut.
We got back to the theater and still had to wait a while before they'd seat us. The previous program was *still* running over, so they decided to use the alternate theater for this program. This was fine, except that it was a smaller theater, and it was filling up fast. It turned out that we couldn't even all sit together. I was getting quite the caffeine buzz at this point. I knew that I would likely be saying a few words before the program started. This alone would usually have me quite nervous, and the caffeine buzz should have exacerbated that significantly, but I was uncharacteristically calm. Perhaps it was the cocktails that we had at Tery's...
When they got the crowd sat down the curator of the program got up and introduced the filmmakers. I was the first one on the list. She indeed invited me to say a few words.
"I'd like to say two quick things," I said. "First of all," I said as I turned to the theater full of people, "I'd like to encourage everyone here to make films and videos for themselves. This piece I did required very little work, and it's an unbelievably fulfilling experience to show it to an audience. Second," I said turning back to the curator and extending a hand, "I want to say God bless the organizers of MIX for giving me and people like me the opportunity to show our work." This garnered a great round of applause from the whole audience.
I sat back down and was rather oblivious to all the other filmmakers as they each spoke briefly in turn. I had gotten the hard part out of the way and there was nothing left to do but relax and watch the show. Soon they dimmed the lights and the program began.
Mine was the first video. As soon as it started and I saw the scene in my living room, my first thought was not embarrassment that all these people were about to watch me pulling my pud, but that they were all seeing what my living room looks like. It was an odd thought. But as soon as the monologue began people started laughing and giggling in all the right places. I was afraid that the video would drag towards the end, but the laughs continued and remained consistent throughout. At the point when my cat unexpectedly came into the shot and walked right under my crotch the crowd went wild. When it was over I got a generous round of applause.
The rest of the program was very good. One piece interviewed a number of black and Latino go-go dancers, which I found very interesting. Another had the *cutest* young man crawling around the floor like a cat. It wasn't' much of a video, but I could have watched that kid for hours.
When it got to be 10:00, Monté decided that he'd better get going. I was nervous that he would not make his bus, considering he had to get back to Howard's and pick up his bag, but there was no real stress. The worst was that he'd go home with me the next day and have to miss a day's work. The toughest part was that I had to give him cab fare, and I couldn't see my bills in the dark theater. Finally I handed him a 20 and he took off.
The program ended a mere fifteen minutes later. The judge complimented me on my acting ability. I was flattered, but not quite sure why he was *so* surprised that I could act. He encouraged me to do some stage work, but I would never have the nerve. Video suits me fine because if I screw up I can just do another take.
The judge said goodbye and Howard and Tery and I went to Howard's apartment to make sure that Monté got off all right. Ross said that he made it there, got his bag, and got into a cab with enough time to spare. Howard and Tery and I went out for a couple quick drinks. At first I was tired and bored, but I quickly perked up. Alas, it was soon time to go back to our respective apartments to go to bed. When Tery and I got back to his place, Tom had just gone to bed. He got back up briefly to hear how it went. But very soon we all turned in. I was still buzzing on the caffeine, so I lay awake for quite some time. This was fine with me, though, as it gave me a chance to reflect on the weekend. On the surface it was nothing more than a fun weekend. But on a deeper level I felt as if I was a new person. I was now a bona fide filmmaker who had shown his work to a public audience. Beyond that, my work was very well received. I felt good. After an hour or so I drifted off to sleep.
I had hoped to take the early bus home the next day, but considering I didn't get up until about five minutes before it was to leave, I was content to take the noon bus. I had a little breakfast and packed up all my gear. Tery and Tom saw me into a cab and I was off. I got there in plenty of time, which was just fine with me.
I had a seat all to myself the whole ride home. The first movie was "Spice World." I actually found it far less stupid and offensive than I expected it to be. The second movie was some tripe that was written by, produced by, directed by, and starring Warren Beatty. I've got nothing against the guy, but I think he over-stepped his ability on this one. About a half-hour into the flat, bland love story I still found absolutely nothing about it worth watching. I put on a CD and tuned out.
I was getting pretty restless by the time we finally pulled into Ithaca. As soon as I got off the bus I went straight to my car and drove directly home. The moment I walked in the door my cat ran up to greet me. I picked her up and told her that she was a tremendous hit, and that I looked forward to her as my leading lady again in the future. I went to bed early that night.