Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ron to the rescue

On a hunch, I emailed Ron last night about the A/C situation I mentioned in a previous post (Stupid Things I Did).

Ron is an engineer in my department at the university. He can pretty much fix anything, and I've had many conversations with him about work he's done on his own home (i.e., replacing hot water heaters, and other things I could never do on my own).

Ron got my email this morning and offered to come right over. After an hour of the two of us shopping for the right part (surprisingly hard to find, given that one would assume Home Depot and Lowes would carry this sort of thing), Ron had it installed in about 15 minutes.

And the cool winds are a-blowin'. The A/C is running again, and man, does it feel good!

So good that I actually felt like braving the heat to go into my office and preparing some packages of DVDs to mailed to reviewers, distribution contacts, independent theaters, and film festivals.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Coming Soon: the fall semester

The academic fall semester is almost upon me, and I still have plenty of work to do to get my classes ready. I had a faculty development summer program all through June, and then I took a much-needed extended family vacation, so now that I'm back, I really need to get to work.

This fall, I'm teaching Postproduction, Screenwriting, and Directing. I love teaching these courses. These are three things I love to do AND to talk about (not that teaching is just "talking about" something -- far from it. In fact, designing a course so that students actually get an active learning experience is a unique and complex task.)

So, I have three weeks to get all that ready. That seems like enough time, as I've taught all these courses before. Even with my planned changes and updates, it's just a matter of buckling down and getting some uninterrupted time in the office.

As far as film stuff, my July travels started out with me anticipating answers from three different fests. Within a week and a half (and nearly obsessive email checking by yours truly), I was rejected by all three (interesting, to me anyway, that I said that "I" was rejected, when it was my film that was rejected -- what does that say about my approach to these things?)

So I was down, and I was a little whiny about it (according to my wife). I was trying to let it go, and I finally did, in fact, let it go, thanks to a lot of prayer and a realization of how futile it is to worry about it. I mean, the film is the film. I like it. If people don't, there's not a whole lot I can do about it (and contrary to my normal practice, worrying and whining are not "doing something about it").

Well, shortly after I "let it go," I heard from the Virginia Film Festival. Getting to screen at a festival with such a strong reputation created an amazing sense of confidence. Then, a day later, the film gets invited to screen at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival -- a smaller fest, of course, but in my hometown. And I was pleased by both of these acceptances.

And then, I also got invited to screen it in Hollywood (see my previous post about FAIF Int'l Film Festival).

Three fests in a little over a week. Those three invitations have filled me with a lot of confidence. Where previously I was thinking I'd self-distribute just to make some money back, suddenly my perspective has changed. People like the film. Why shouldn't it get distributed?

Now, the truth is that these three invitations do not, in themselves, mean anything. Three people (or three groups of people) liked the film. When it was rejected, three people (or groups of people) didn't like the film (or didn't like it enough). That's all it means.

But it's amazing how much those people (or groups of people) can affect my confidence. Right now, I feel like the master of my domain (and not, you know, in the Seinfeld sense). But I could get a rejection from a smaller fest right now, and it would totally bum me out.

Then again, maybe not.

But I do tend to focus more on the rejections and on the people who don't like the film. There was an episode of Frasier where Frasier had to submit his show to focus group testing. He worried about it and decried the awful process -- and then everyone loved his show.

Well, not everyone. One guy, a newsstand owner played by Tony Shalhoub, hated it. Frasier obsessed over this guy, eventually trying to talk to him to determine why he didn't like the show. He couldn't be satisfied with 11 out of 12 people loving the show. He needed all 12 to embrace him.

I feel like Frasier sometimes. Not that 11 out of 12 fests have loved my film. But the film has now been selected for 8 festivals (9, if you count the one that selected us and then had to cancel the event for lack of funding), and several of the fests that rejected it contacted me to tell me how great the film was but that it didn't fit with their programming needs for various reasons.

So I may not have 11 of 12 loving it. But I have a good number of people really liking my work. I'm trying to learn to enjoy that.

And I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to make it to all these fall fests. In October, I'm already going to be traveling at least 3 out of 4 weekends, plus there are several fests in September that I'm waiting to hear from...

Nice to have an abundance of opportunities rather than a dearth. But I can always find something about which to complain ;-)

Stupid Things I Did

The title of this post indicates that this could become a regular feature of my blog. I do stupid things, and then I smack myself on the head and wish I hadn't been so stupid.

Today's stupid thing: The lawn was a total mess. I'd been out of town for 3.5 weeks, and though a neighbor graciously mowed my front yard in the middle of my travels, the whole thing needed a serious clean up. So after edging for an hour, I got out the weed-whacker. This is a tool that makes one feel very masculine -- the roar of the engine (yes, it's a gas-powered tool) right there in your hands -- and I somwetimes get a bit carried away.

So there I am, whacking the weeds (and my lawn tends to have a lot of them, since I know exactly two things about lawncare). And I'm working around the A/C unit, where the weeds had gotten particularly thick. And WHAM -- the weed whacker siezes up and stops. And I see something has gotten itself wrapped around the "whacking" part of the tool.

Turns out it was the electrical line running from the A/C unit to the thermostat in the house. Yikes. My neighbor, Steve (whose wife was the one who mowed our lawn), came over to take a look. You know those two things I know about lawncare? I don't even know that much about electricity. It goes on. It goes off. That's all I know. Oh yeah, I also know it can KILL YOU.

So Steve re-splices the wire I screwed up, and tests the power lines in the A/C unit and into the house, and everything is fine. But the system still isn't running. Well, to make an already-too-long story shorter, it turns out that my little accident blew out the little transformer that runs to the thermostat. So we have to replace that. On a Saturday.

Yeah, like I have THAT kind of money. Did I mention that I live in Texas. And I thought it was hot last week in Florida.

We're sitting here in the dark with every ceiling fan running, eating ice cream and drinking cold drinks, and praying for a break in the heat wave.

Until Monday, when I can get this thing fixed, and then I can have all the artificially-cooled air I want.

(sound of Chris smacking his head)...

Updated Blogroll

Well, after way too long, I've finally updated my blogroll with all the blogs I visit on a regular basis. This is one of those things that was long overdue. So check out the blogroll on the left, with all the nifty new links!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hollywood, here we come!

The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah will make its Hollywood premiere at Mann's Chinese Theatre, at the FAIF International Film Festival, October 5-14th. I am very excited to be screening in the heart of Hollywood at such a respected fest.

Getting Back to Work

Well, extended vacation is ending, and I'm going to be getting back to work next week, prepping fall classes and doing stuff around the house that's been needing to be done for quite some time. So, as vacation ends, a list:

  • Books read: about 4.5 (I'm partway through number 5). These include Douglas Coupland's JPod, Chuck Palahniuk's Stranger Than Fiction, Michael Modine's Full Metal Jacket Diary, a Spider Man graphic novel (birthday gift from my big brother -- thanks, Jim), and Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down.
  • Movies seen: 5. Superman Returns, M:I 3, Lady in the Water, Cars, and Clerks II.
  • Still Haven't Seen: A Scanner Darkly (it got to Atlanta the day before I left there, and hasn't come to the town in Florida where I've been for the past week-and-a-half.)
  • Migraines experienced: I kind of lost count, but it was at least a dozen.
  • Film Festivals Rejected From: three
  • Film Festivals Invited To: three (just call me "even Steven")
  • Film Screenings: one (Sujewa's Capital City Microcinema Screening Series)
  • Screenplay Drafts Completed: one (Conclusions, an indie drama I'm thinking of directing myself if I can pull together enough funding).

That's about it. Tomorrow morning, I'm on the road for two days of driving, from Florida to Texas.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another Day, Another Festival

Well, hey, just when it seemed like rejections were my destiny, I get accepted to another festival, the second one in as many days.

The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah will be screening at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival, August 23-27th.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Finally, some good news...

I had a few festival rejections last week (you'll notice I kept those to myself), but the good news tonight seriously overwhelmed the bad: THE PROPER CARE & FEEDING OF AN AMERICAN MESSIAH was just invited into the prestigious Virginia Film Festival. Their theme this year is "REVELATIONS: Finding God at the Movies" -- so AMERICAN MESSIAH is a great fit.

They're working on some great guests and fascinating films. You can check out the fest director's blog at and the festival site at

Unless scheduling is a problem, I'll be in Charlottesville in late October -- if anyone is around, hope to see you there!


We're on iFilm. I was contacted by the head of the INDIE section on iFilm, to feature the trailer for The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah. Check us out on there at:

And hey, if you're there anyway, leave some nice comments about the film, the trailer, or whatever.

Monday, July 10, 2006

AMERICAN MESSIAH at the Capitol City Microcinema

I’ve been pretty lousy at blogging of late. I was waiting for news to report, but there simply hasn’t been any. It seems THE PROPER CARE & FEEDING… won Best Feature at Film Expo Texas, but I wasn’t there to see this for sure and haven’t been able to get the organizers on the phone for full confirmation.

I attended a screening and Q&A of the film at Sujewa Ekanayake’s Capitol City Microcinema, a cool little venue in Kensington, MD. Sujewa, an indie filmmaker and indie film cheerleader (and blogger) showed AMERICAN MESSIAH, and is a very gracious host.

I was actually on vacation in the Virginia Beach area (where I lived for 11 years), visiting friends and generally re-connecting with people, and Sujewa graciously organized the screening for when I was going to be on the east coast.

So I drove up to the beltway area, a three hour jaunt (in a rental car, as the family vehicle had some trouble on the trip out from Texas), and met up with Sujewa for some Chinese food (thanks, Suj, for dinner).

The Capitol City Microcinema is a screening series that uses the Kensington Row Bookshop. They basically shut down the store, cover the windows, put up some chairs and a screen, and project the movie. As a booklover myself, it seemed like the perfect marriage of my own interests and sensibilities.

Taking a cue from David Lowery’s experience, I didn’t sit and watch the whole movie, but rather browsed some shelves in the back of the store while I listened to the movie unfold. It was a pleasant experience, and so much less pressure than watching it myself with the audience. I got to hear their chuckles and laughs (and thank goodness for a young lady named Amanda, who laughed so much that it made me feel as though I’d made the movie just for her!).

After the movie, I chatted with Tom and Ed, two screenwriters from the DC area, who I know from a screenwriting email list. Great guys who I’d never met in person. All in all, the trip was a great experience. The only thing that would have made it better is if I could have stayed longer. Since my poor wife was stuck in a small-ish hotel room with all three kids, I didn’t feel it was fair to take up Sujewa on his offer to crash at his place for the night. So at almost 11pm, I started the drive back to Va Beach. Thank goodness for my iPod. Helped me get through those three hours.

At about 2am, I pulled into the hotel and settled into bed, having enjoyed the opportunity to show my film to an appreciative audience of film lovers.