¡Fo Reels, Yo! (...and for rants, and for other things too.)

One of the filmmakers, Rob, a Detroit native who was in town for the very first time, gave me another Borris story which made me feel as if I gotten off lucky.  He was supposed to screen two separate shorts the next day but they were both lost.  By chance he had brought an extra copy of one of the shorts with him, but wasn't 100% sure that it would play.  He did not have a copy of the second short and was a nervous mess.  To make matters worse, the female leads of the respective shorts (one of them, a teen named Lindsay who was in town with her entire family) were both showing up for the screenings.  Like Rob, both actresses were making their first ever trip to New York.  The other filmmaker, Dan, a young college kid from the Upper West Side who was only as familiar with Astoria as the Michigander, shook his head while hearing all of this.  Dan, one of the many who never got his all access pass, told us that the big closing night concert had been cancelled.  He also told me of an article he read online from the Queens Chronicle which painted Marie and QiFF in a not at all flattering manner.  My first reaction was "What the hell are you doing reading the online edition of the Queens Chronicle?"  After all I thought, I live in Queens and had never read that freebie boro paper.  He said that he was doing a QiFF search but it wasn't important, only that he had read bad things about Marie.  In fairness he didn't want to spread any rumors and told me to look it up myself if I had the time.  I nodded while keeping the Arnold Diaz news to myself.  Several drinks later I called it a night, exhausted.
Spending all of Friday holed up with coverage work, and then Saturday in and out of things which didn't go as planned while being circled with a level of general incompetence as well as rumors of corruption, I decided to wipe the slate clean for Sunday.

I woke up early and went back to Bizaare for my free breakfast.  The breakfast was to start at 9:30, but this was news to Bizaare which didn't even open their doors until 11:00 am.  I waited.  If the rather small but personable GIAA fest could provide filmmakers with a baseball cap and a frisbee, QiFF could at least take care of one friggin breakfast.  Other filmmakers came and went.  All were angry for one reason or another.  One group had hung around at Bizaare most of Friday night, not knowing that the QiFF party (again, no free drinks) was actually taking place at a nearby night club called Island instead.  Another group was disappointed that they couldn't screen at the FSSA and instead wasted their world premiere inside a teeny-tiny conference room at a Holiday Inn in Nowhere'sville, Long Island City.  Yet another group had said they hung around waiting for breakfast on Saturday but when Bizarre finally opened they knew nothing about any free meals for filmmakers.  By the time Bizaare opened on this morning, most had gone and I was only left with a small group consisting of two guys from LA (Sam and Doug) and two girls (Philippa and Shireen) from Ireland.  The two couples had actually met during the opening night party but having been blasted with obnoxiously loud thumping club beats, it was as if they were meeting again for the first time.  Again the Bizaare manager acted as if he knew nothing about any free breakfasts.  I realized he probably wasn't acting.  Sam had seen enough.  He stormed across the street to the FSSA, yelled at Marie and got her to come inside the cafe to take care of what we were promised.

Aside from that one bit of anger, Sam, his friend, and both girls were pretty casual.  We all just sort of laughed off the many festival fuck ups.  One story was about the cancelled concert.  The LA guys told us that through a friend in the music business they had learned that Kris Kristofferson was never paid for the concert he was supposed to perform with Levon Helm of The Band.  He flew in anyway but when he got to JFK no one from QiFF had arranged to pick him up.  He waited and waited until finally getting in touch with the concert promoter.  The show was cancelled and Kristofferson was left stranded at the airport.  He eventually found a way to Helm's house in Upstate, Woodstock.  The two resolved to go ahead with the concert up there (perhaps not so ironically I later found that Marie also lives in Woodstock) and without any QiFF involvement.  Another story was about Francisco Quinn, Anthony's son. Francisco was supposed to be flown in from LA and given some QiFF honor.  When QiFF didn't pay for his flight, Quinn decided to stay home.  His decision however came after his manager had already flown to NY, thinking she would be reimbursed.  We never learned how that turned out.
After breakfast I decided to have a talk with Marie.  If she could stiff Kris Kristofferson and Francisco Quinn, how would I ever get paid?  I have to admit, she was really nice and promised to take care of me as soon as all of the other issues were sorted out.  All I could do was hope for the best and expect the worst.  By expecting the worst I later walked over to my mom's house and looked up the Queens Chronicle article.  Wow!  First of all, the Chronicle seemed like a real paper, even more real than citywide freebies like Metro or AM New York.  Second of all, the writer, Willow Belden, pulled no punches.  She was out to expose Marie in much the same way that popular tabloid reporters like Juan Gonzalez, Jim Dwyer, and before them Pete Hamill and Jack Newfield had done for years.
I went back to the festival and bumped into Rob from Detroit.  His back up dvd ran just fine and he was saved some embarrassment.  Then, thanks to the tireless help of a volunteer named Dan McCabe (there were lots of "Dans" at QiFF) they had figured out a way to screen Rob's second short.  This Dan, a tall, outdoorsy type had spent several years alone backpacking through war torn areas of Africa while working as a freelance photographer.  A computer wiz, he had often sent back film and video from the jungles and knew that he could screen Rob's movie if he could get access into Rob's computer back home.  Through a friend in Detroit, Dan did just that.  The movie was screened in Queens off of Rob's computer in Detroit.  Sarah, the bubbly female lead Rob had fly over with her husband never knew about the backstage hustling Dan had to do, or the tension that poker faced Rob was experiencing.  Neither did anyone else in the crowd.  In the end it all went off without a hitch.  The same could not be said about 8 films which according to Willow Belden's follow up article, were lost and never screened.
The same could also not be said about the concert.  After a few other screenings I overheard Borris (while giving the money back) lying to random ticket goers about the show being cancelled due to Levon Helm falling ill.  I wanted to tell them that actually Levon is perfectly fine and will be jamming shortly with Kris Kristofferson up in Woodstock.  But at the time that info was simply a rumor.  Later I ran into Willow Belden who was working on her follow up.  Maybe she wasn't tackling the "big story" that the late Mike McAlary used to, but she was definitely better looking than Mike or any of my other favorite journalists.   Willow was snooping around for dirt and I slipped her my card while saying that I might have some for her after the festival.  

I figured I'd give Marie a few days to pay me and verify the respective Kristofferson/Quinn stories before adding to the rumors.  Besides, I didn't know who was around me.  I didn't want a screenwriter overhearing me.  I didn't want any of them finding out that I was the one doing coverage on some of their scripts, a random friend of mine was doing coverage on two others, while two more went completely unread.  This was indeed shady.  Standing next to Belden while wondering to myself what the writers would think if they knew, I realized that I was a part of the shadiness.

Despite the odd fact that Marie wasn't at her own awards ceremony, the event ran smoothly.  Francisco Quinn was honored although he "couldn't" make it.  Astoria native and head of Cavu pictures (the distribution company which bought Shih-Ching's film) Michael "Game 6" Sergio was there.  He never mentioned that Take Out didn't get a screening and instead talked about growing up in Queens' coolest nabe.  Martin Kove of Karate Kid fame was honored too and gave an inspiring speech about the struggles of "making it" in show business.  Meltem Cumbul, a smoking hot Turkish actress (unquestionably attached to the Turkish production company which sponsored several events) won a couple of awards.  From the way she fixed up, just about every male there was grateful that she got to go up on stage more than once.
Taso Makedon, also a QiFF sponsor, won an award too but by now most know that ALL of these award ceremonies are at least somewhat political.  That said I was very happy to see that Jim Grieco won the best feature screenplay award for his historic sci-fi script, Five Thousand Years.  Five Thousand was one of the scripts I was assigned to and thought it was clearly the best feature. 


In between the many other speeches I stepped out.  The two LA guys were hanging in the lobby and we shared more stories.