The first bit of shady to sneak back into my thoughts was when finding out that the festival was promoting a closing night rock concert that filmmakers had to pay extra for. Of all the festivals to accept my work, only AOF in Pasadena had ever charged extra for a special event. AOF was called out for it on a few online forums, but nobody seemed to mind that QiFF was charging their own filmmakers for the concert. I did mind. Still, when I found that Kris Kristofferson (one of my mom's faves) was going to be the main act, I conceded. When would Kris Kristofferson play just three blocks from my mom's house again? That's when Dan told me that he had heard that QiFF was looking for volunteers to do coverage on screenplays as part of their screenwriting contest. I wrote Marie again. This time to not only remind her about my film's newer version but also to ask if I could do some work as a reader in exchange for two free tickets to the concert.
Marie wrote back immediately. She was very nice, gave me a mailing address, and agreed to my proposal. I didn't hear back from QiFF for a few more days until the Monday before the festival. Three days before opening ceremonies and six days before closing ceremonies. Tara Call, a volunteer, wrote to send the scripts that Marie wanted me to read and do coverage for. I figured she'd want me to work on 3 or 4 scripts. Tara sent 14! 14 scripts was about 1/3 of all the scripts that were in competition.
On opening night I went down to the Bizaare Cafe to pick up my credentials and meet Marie. The laminated all access pass looked cooler than ones given at other fests, although I later found that many who came after me never got their own passes. Bizaare, one of the trendy spots popping up in what once was a warehouse district (but decades before that was home to Paramount Studios) also seemed like as cool a spot as any to meet other filmmakers. Marie greeted me with a small hug and sigh of relief. It was kind of hard letting her down with the news that there would be no way to bang out all 14 scripts. Politely I told her that I had already done 6 and could maybe get to 8, but 14 was out of the question. Her look of relief turned to desperation and she begged me to finish them all. She promised that on top of the free tickets, she'd pay me a "couple of hundred" dollars for my work. I wasn't sure if a couple meant two or three. I knew it didn't mean 14 hundred. Still, I was feeling bad so despite knowing it would be nearly impossible, I agreed. Mom better still like Kris Kristofferson, I thought.
Aside from telling Dan about the Arnold Diaz incident, I kept that info to myself. Almost every single festival director I've ever met looks shady, so who knows why Diaz was going after this particular one. I figured as long as Marie threw some good parties, screened as few clunkers as possible, hooked me up with free tickets and money for my time, I'd have her back. If anything, the sight of Diaz, easily a foot taller than Marie, ambushing and chasing her down a street to nowhere, made her a more sympathetic figure to me.
My plan was to get shit faced at the party, then spend the next day reading and doing coverage on every remaining script. Neither concept really worked out. The party took place in the heart of Long Island City. On the rooftop patio of the Ravel Hotel located just south of the Queens Bridge Projects. I guess it too is an up and coming area but even at this one time crack motel, there is still much more up and coming to do. I couldn't get shit faced because QiFF wasn't paying for the drinks. In fairness they did offer a free Turkish spread, (apparently some Turkish production company was co-sponsoring the event) but not even getting a single free round was disappointing. I met a lot of cool filmmakers although the loud club music blaring away all night long made it difficult to talk to anyone inside the patio area. Hanging at the outdoor deck was annoying too as it was a chilly night and the hotel staff was strict about its mandatory coat check policy. This policy probably stems from the "old" Long Island City, gun hiding, Plaxico Burress type of thinking. Either way, I couldn't really blame QiFF. I wasn't sure who to blame for the non-festival related wedding goers at the opening night ceremonies but apparently a rooftop wedding reception had ended just as the QiFF party was starting. The bride, in her gown, groom, in his tux, and a few others stuck around. Too bad I never got to meet them because I heard they were still drinking for free. Too bad they weren't filmmakers because that would have made for a great promotional stunt.
In the end I met a good batch of people from exotic places like Osaka, Japan, and Kings Park, Long Island, so I couldn't complain too much. Steve, a Chicago based producer who had a room at the hotel, hooked our group up with free wine so that was very generous. Only half drunk, I made it home for a short sleep and lots of reading.
On Friday I did coverage on four more scripts. I asked a reliable guy named Mike (Marie suggested that if I couldn't finish them all to ask a friend for help) to help out with the other four, then crashed. I stayed asleep until just an hour before my own Saturday afternoon screening. The crowd was great and I was surprised by the large amount of acquaintances who came out for me. This never really happened to me before. Good sign, I thought. Another positive was that the two shorts which came on before mine were both very good. Too good as I felt "Sodom" couldn't really compete with the hilarious dark comedy, Jenny Got a Boob Job. Especially not the older, unpolished version of "Sodom" which popped on the screen!
Immediately I rushed over to the projectionist, a young kid who looked like he was a student at Frank Sinatra. Nervously the kid walked me out of the screening room to meet with program director, Borris Bazelais. Before speaking a single word it was obvious that Borris, in his flat ironed hair and light, Middle Eastern styled scarf, was an asshole. Arrogantly, he played the "I never received any new dvd" card while looking at me as if I was crazy. Only when Marie overheard us arguing did his demeanor change. She assured me that they had received the exhibition copy and told him to look through the stacks of dvds inside cardboard boxes located behind his own desk at the front lobby.
Magically, my dvd was found. Marie walked away to tend to another problem and Borris' smug attitude returned as he said "OK, well what do you want me to do now?" Just as smugly I responded "How about getting in a time machine and setting up the proper copy before the crowd arrives?" Without missing a beat he rolled his eyes and replied "OK, I'll do just that." We exchanged a few more words then he gave me back the "good" copy.
I returned home, pissed but at least partially content in Marie for defending me. Had she not said anything I never would have known about the boxes behind Borris' desk and would have doubted whether that copy had ever truly gotten to him.
Mike was able to work on two more scripts for me. I forwarded them to Marie and told her that although we couldn't get all 14 done, 12 was pretty close. She agreed. Later I went back to the festival and planned on seeing Take Out, co-directed by Shih-Ching Tsou. I hadn't seen Shih-Ching (who just 6 months ago was interviewed by this website) in a while and was hoping to bump into her. At the time I didn't know that she was already in Taiwan for preproduction on a new project. That night however I found out her screening had been cancelled. Apparently the festival's schedule was running late and the school was about to shut down for the night so they sent everyone home without showing her award winning film. And I thought I had it bad!
The big after party took place across the street, back at Cafe Bizaare. Free drinks and grub were going around but only for the cast and crew of one of the feature films. Obviously not Shih-Ching's. Instead of hanging around the outskirts of the cool kid's party (the film's director was literally rocking a gold velvet tuxedo jacket while snapping his fingers at the Bizaare staff) I decided to leave. I took a pair of non-gold velvet sporting filmmakers with me and introduced them to one of the local haunts that I already spend too much time at.