Resident Filmmaker

Somehow I’ve been adopted as the filmmaker in residence at the Michigan Theater. Apart from the obvious blagging my way into film screenings and running Cinema Slam, I’ve discovered it gives me unprecedented access to the national filmmaking community. Which is, of course, a Good Thing.

This afternoon, for example, I went to see a preview of Imelda, a documentary about Imelda Marcos, wife of the former Filipino dictator. Now I have to say, I’m not big on documentaries and this one was no exception. Imelda won the prize for Best Cinematography at Sundance this year. Imelda taught me a lot about the Filipines. It was kind of interesting, it was kind of pretty. The subject was clearly on another planet but, what can you do? Many people will like this film. I still nodded off a couple of times. Three, in fact. I just don’t care that much about barking mad rich people and Imelda didn’t make me care.

The reason I went, however, was because there was a Q&A after with the award-winning cinematographer, Ferne Perlstein. And that actually was worth it. Ferne was far more interesting than the film, in my not-so-humble opinion. Directors of photography have lots of interesting stories and Ferne was no exception. I introduced her to Mike Williamson, a local DP who has shot two features in the past year. Mike has helped me shoot the latest Ascalon Films short, Serial Dating, which we’re currently in the process of editing. All in all, the after-film bit was better than the film.

Last week I was at the Michigan to see a special student preview of Mr 3000. Both the screenwriters and the executive producer were University of Michigan graduates (or alumni, in the local vernacular). Mr 3000 was pretty cool, especially as I now understand most of the rules of baseball. And, as with Imelda, the screenwriters and producer stood up afterwards and took questions, which was very insightful. For example, they said you need friends who don’t all say nice things about your script, but who say honest things. And they said Hollywood is the centre of the film universe.

Afterwards, Lee the theater marketing director gave me bags of goodies to give to them as a thank you for coming. Bear in mind, I should have been canvassing for my next career move and this was a gift of an opportunity. So I went up to each of them in turn. First the producer… He’s talking to a student who’s clearly a family friend. Then I recognize a student behind him who I know has made a really cool film. “Do you want to get past?” he asks and I think, “Shit, I’ve blown it.” Nothing clever to say, I just do the decent thing and hand over the goodies.

It wasn’t the same story a few weeks ago, though. Lee emailed to say a new film was premiering at the Michigan and to ask if I would mind coming down to take a few pictures of the producer. There would be free drinks. I emailed yes immediately. Then I looked up imdb to check out the career of the producer in question. Tom Hulce. Yes, the artiste formerly known as Amadeus. I ran off a copy of a film treatment and a DVD of The Car. Two large gins and very good screening later, I put both of my offerings things in his hand.

Hey, who knows if he ever looked at either of them. It’s Tom Hulce, you know? I remember meeting Ridley Scott years ago after a screening of Black Rain which I was reviewing for the Watford Observer. I’ve always kicked myself for not just throwing in the journalism shtick and asking for an unpaid internship. You know, it’s Ridley Scott. How often do you get to meet Ridley Scott? “Hi! I’m a really big fan of your work. I’d just like to say, thank you. Thank you for setting a standard.” He shook my hand. “Thanks.” Oh, good grief. But the ground didn’t open up and swallow me, so here I am.

Here I am. And right now I’ve got a stack of scripts and films to watch sitting right here on my desk. No doubt the creators of these things are wondering if they’re ever going to be watched. And, no, generally I’ve just been too busy to take a look. Much like Mr Hulce, I suspect. But honestly, I meant to look really. And I will. If you keep putting stuff out there, keep meeting the right people, keep working at it, as long as what you’ve got is good, then eventually the law of averages has to work in your favour. Or favor, as they say here.

You know what I mean.