Wednesday, October 3, 2012

INSTALL invades the Camden International Film Festival

Q&A after INSTALL screening
For the past few years I've been sporadically filming with Craig Colorusso for the short film INSTALL, and this past Sunday in Maine was the payoff.  A packed-house for the premier at the Camden International Film Festival alongside 4 other incredible short films which all dealt with the artistic process.

It's hard to describe the feeling of sitting in a theater at a film festival waiting for your film to begin.  For me it's one of the most stressful situations I can think of.  Every insecurity surfaces because the audiences don't tend to be casual movie-goers.  These are people watching film after film for days on end and they're coming into your screening with their critique guns set for kill, or at least that's the way I was perceiving it in the midst of my pre-screening paranoia.  Not to mention that a significant percentage of the crowds are filmmakers themselves who always seem to know how your film could have been better.  So I sit there in nervous anticipation trying my best to converse normally with the people around me, but all I can think about is the guy behind me holding a bag of sunflower seeds and I'm convinced he'll wait until my film begins to try and wrestle the bag open for five minutes.  Or the woman with a cough that I can only imagine is pneumonia due to the uncontrollable volume with which she hacks up her left lung from the balcony.  Or the immediate hatred I'm feeling towards the people talking through the ads and bumper because there's no way they'll know enough to shut up when the movie starts.  It's as if I've never experienced being in a theater before and all these noises and distractions are somehow unique to this day, this theater, this screening.  A week ago I felt great about this film, the first one in my 10 years of working on documentaries that I've directed.  But as the screening time nears I'm not so sure.  I was starting to feel an overwhelming urge to yell "Stop!  I need to fix an edit!", but it's too late.  The lights are dimming and I no longer have any control over the situation.  It's the same feeling I get when the safety bar goes down on a roller coaster and it begins to move forward.  As you roll past the summer-job-kid with braces who just checked your safety belt, you look at him with the best "help me" face you can muster but it's too late and your stomach tightens over the anticipation of that first drop that's going to make you scream like an 8-year-old girl in a haunted house.  So with no other choice, I sit there and watch the film.

Now I'm not sure if there's any such thing as a "conscious blackout", but if there is I think I experienced it.  I remember seeing some images and I also remember hearing some dialogue, but somehow in the middle of it all I exited...mentally anyway.  I imagined where I would be in life if I had just gotten a proper job.  I imagined my college life being completely different, playing sports and hanging out with kids who had parents who had boats and summer homes in Cape Cod.  I imagined being promoted at a young age as a company with offices in places like Hong Kong and Moscow groomed me for future greatness.  I imagined trading in my '99 Honda for a Mercedes and my 1-bedroom condo in the city for a 5-bedroom house in the suburbs.  But then the sound of a crinkling bag of sunflower seeds broke the spell like smelling salt in the 10th round.  So I refocused my attention to the screen and returned to my real self;  a 40-year-old documentary filmmaker who was having a mild out-of-body breakdown over a 20-minute film about an installation artist and wishing death upon an old man for eating a healthy snack.  As the final few minutes rolled off the screen I waited, and to my relief, applause.  And they felt genuine.  Not the overly enthusiastic kind where people can hardly contain themselves over the genius that they've just witnessed, but definitely not the politely awkward kind where people stare at each other for a cue as to when they've applauded enough to be respectful.  There was a sort of "hey that was pretty good!" vibe to the applause.  And with that, my directorial debut was over.  With my film firmly in the rear view mirror I sat back and enjoyed the other films slated in the block which, by the way, were incredible.  There were so many amazing films and filmmakers at this year's festival that you find yourself in a constant state of awe and envy.
Sun Boxes on the Camden Village Green

Screening aside, the best part about my experience at CIFF was that Craig was with me as well toting two of the installations that the film highlights:  Sun Boxes and CUBEMUSIC.  While the film was the vehicle by which the installations found their way to Maine, I'm happy to say that Craig's work stole the show.  It rained Friday through Sunday, and with Sun Boxes being a solar-powered installation, Thursday was the only day that we could display them.  So we set them up in the park opposite the check-in center for the festival and they had an immediate impact.  Craig often describes the Pied Piper effect that Sun Boxes seems to create and it was in full swing at Camden.  Folks walking to the park from blocks away following the ethereal sounds of the Boxes gathered in the late afternoon sunlight to experience Craig's work.  For the better part of three hours, Craig fielded questions from numerous onlookers.  In the film he talks about how he never liked the separation between audience and performer back when he was playing in punk rock bands.  I'm not sure how the rest of the art world operates, but he's definitely a guy who makes himself accessible when it comes to his work.

CUBEMUSIC in Rockland, ME at the Saturday night party
CUBEMUSIC also made an appearance.  On Saturday night there was a party in Rockland at an old empty warehouse.  Many of the rooms had been transformed for various functions.  Sculptures, video projections and artfully designed lighting were all used in breathing a club-like atmosphere into a previously deserted space.  And in one of those rooms, CUBEMUSIC.  The reaction was incredible, although some people thought they were just some very clever tables setup by the festival and proceeded to rest their drinks on them while they ate.  With everything else at the event having a sort of fantastical element to it, it's really not that surprising that people could make this mistake.  The crowd there really took to CUBEMUSIC and at times there were as many as 30 people walking amongst the Cubes.  Craig again was on hand and we seized the opportunity to promote the screening the next day.

Overall CIFF was amazing and Craig and I are hoping to bring this same experience to other film festivals in the upcoming year.  And now that the premier is out of the way, I think I'll enjoy future screenings a lot more.

1 comment:

  1. I have those moments all the time--like, what if I'd taken that job at Commercial Sewing, or gone to law school and moved to Manhattan, or settled down in Germany and married B____, or all of the above?! What if I hadn't been this short story writer calling home from the South Pacific to check in on my rejection letters...?? It's a fun game. Anyway, I love your blogs. Keep 'em coming. And let me know next time you're premiering in Maine--I might just be here!

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