At Los Angeles Film Festival 2010

Everyone says you can’t live in LA without a car. Being the last person without a driver´s license on the planet, it was a bold move to take this trip, and ignore my producer´s advice to take driving lessons before.

north hollywood

The first time I had been here, I had discovered a website called something like,  “Who says you need a car in LA?”  which offered info on all the local public transportation
At the time I only stayed for a week and my friends got me covered so I didn´t need to resort to the info on the website.
This time is very different. I stayed for five weeks and I have my own agenda since I have work to do and meetings to attend. However, until I decided to attend the LA film festival, my friends rode me everywhere, from Long Beach to the Valley and from Hollywood to Santa Monica. There was just that one train ride I already wrote about here, which took me from Long Beach to North Hollywood station, where my life-saviour Veronica picked me up to take me back the cozy warmth of the Valley in June.

LA FILM FESTIVAL POSTER

For the LA Fest, it was a different deal. It was the weekend, father´s day on top of that, so no rides to speak of.  Veronica (a master at solving any kind of problem) logged on to the LA metro website and had me type in my destination, which happened to be LA Live, an entertainment complex in downtown LA. We got three alternative routes with an estimate of a minimum two hours to cover a distance that would take like 30 min in a car. I had time, I had my camera and, more importantly, my ipod, so I thought I would be fine.
I am not a bus-prone person. So, you may be wondering what compelled me to take a bus to Hollywood and a subway to downtown LA on a beautiful day when my friends had father´s day BBQs all over LA. Well, the answer is very simple. The fest had organized a DIY distribution symposium and I was about to launch a film. I simply had to be there.
This is LA, where the most successful films on the planet are made, and it is also the US, one of a handful of countries leading the world in all matters related to digital technology and new media.
It was anyways a tough choice to sign up for the seminar.
I had to have a DVD of my film ready to show a distributor by Monday afternoon, and the seminar would take most of sunday and half a day on Saturday. I still had about 30 plus minutes of film to cut, which, at my current rate would take about four days of working fulltime.
My salomonic decision was to attend only on saturday and edit on Sunday.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS BANNER IN DOWNTOWN LA

So, there I was, riding on the fast grey bus to North Hollywood. “Take only the grey one,” Veronica had said, and I knew better than to ignore her advice; she was quite simply ALWAYS right. When I got there, I took the red line to downtown LA. After the no hassle tube ride, I emerged on Figueroa st. It was a quiet, sunny saturday afternoon. The huge figure of one of the Lakers loomed over the modern buildings of the city, and it was fairly easy to find the entertainment complex where the Fest was being held.

Now, when I asked a guy wearing a Fest badge where I could get my pass, and he answered “over the garage,” I had a bad feeling about the whole operation.

My gut was not mistaken. After seeing the grandeur of the golden Lions in Venice and the “marches” of Cannes, this little tent set over a garage as a festival center did not impress me very much.

At Venice Film Fest 2008

The two young women standing behind a counter there told me that my pass was waiting for me at the Grammy Museum, where the symposium was being held. As I had seen golden records with grammy awardees’ names on the sidewalk, I figured the Grammy shouldn’t be far.

When I got there, surprise, they were over capacity, but movie production guru Ted Hope was speaking, and they hoped that some people would leave as soon as Hope left the room. Now, that is too much reliance on hope for one festival. I wasn’t happy. After two hours on public transportation, no amount of refund was going to satisfy me. Especially since I had given up my editing to come to this thing. I didn’t care if it was for Ted Hope or Johnny Depp; I wanted in.
A moment of the conference on Sunday. I didn´t skip the day, after all.
Film festivals are an interesting place to observe human behaviour. There are so many people trying to connect with people they perceive as powerful, directors mainly and writers and small producers looking for funding, distribution, a day job: whatever they can get. I find that the way that people try to stand out in that sea of creative souls who swarm around big shot producers and superstars after press conferences can tell you a lot about who they are. As I waited for the clueless  ticket office girls to figure out the situation, Ihad a chance to observe a couple of characters. There was the hot cocky producer with a wingman, namely, a guy who only responded to whatever he said, who was completely nondescript, as if put there to help the other guy stand out and look cool by comparison. This was a guy whose whole attitude and body language seemed to demand VIP treatment.
As we both stood out there, waiting for the end of Hope, I felt ignored by him in a deliberate way, as if he wanted me to look at him and think “what a cool guy.” We were finally herded in before Hope finished, luckily, as he had a lot of interesting things to say about indie distribution. The guy had practically produced the first features of ALL of the indie sensations of the last decade, to speak roughly, so, he should know.
When Hope finally left, there was a 10 minute break before the next speaker. As I had gone into the auditorium the first time, I had secured one of two or three available chairs in the packed room. When I returned after the break, who should I find sitting in my chair other than Mr. CALL-ME-VIP himself. Same cocky attitude, the last thing in his mind was to acknowledge my presence. When I said playfully, “that was my seat,” he sort of ignored me once more. I thought to myself, “chivalrous, indeed,” and sat on a chair behind him, knowing that someone might come back to claim it.
When the older black woman who had originally been sitting on my new chair came back, I just got up and let her take her seat. I had to sit on the floor next to the cocky guy. Man sitting on woman´s chair, woman sitting on the floor next to him, yeah, that was about right.
Luckily, both he and Sancho withdrew in the middle of the second session, and I was able to return to my seat.

Other than that unfriendly guy, I observed a woman invite a guy she had never met to lunch, with such confidence in her voice and manner that, had I been the guy, I thought I couldn´t have said no. She had just finished a movie, she knew someone this speaker worked with, and that was all she needed to address him in a manner that suggested a subtext like “I belong to your kind. We are in the same class; we can do lunch!” Judging from the guy´s perplexed look, my guess is that lunch never happened…
As for me, I did approach that same speaker, pitched him my film for half a second and exchanged cards with him. My attitude? Something like: I am from another country. I am not a hot shot of any kind, but I did this film with a heart and an interesting story, and I would love to look into working with you for online marketing and distribution.

I will tell you  how that went when I follow up on that connection…

All in all, the SEIZE THE POWER DIY DISTRIBUTION SYMPOSIUM at the LA Film Fest, was a breakthrough for me. Coming from Uruguay, I was not aware of which were the leading companies in online, VOD, and DVD distribution. I had no idea about the existence of kickstarter and indiegogo, and I was also unaware of the fact that you could actually make money in the US Festival circuit.

When I put all of that into practice for my movie RAUL, I will let you know how that went too. I´m excited about my film coming out in this fast-changing landscape of distribution. I got the message. Timing out. I am gonna go and seize the power.

In front of the Grammy Museum
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