Sunday, February 29, 2004


I called Stephen Purvis on Wednesday morning to let him know I was almost in Santa Monica - it took me an hour and a half because of the rain and its effect on the typical LA driver. He told me they lost their visitor's pass for the day, but that's okay, they would sneak me in.

"Come around the back of the hotel and you can just climb over the fence." I was feeling like a real VIP with all this red carpet treatment.

In the end I didn't have to climb any fences, but I did have to sneak in through the emergency exit door, under the cold but apparently indifferent gaze of a security camera.

The AFM is held in the Lowes hotel in downtown Santa Monica, and all the vendors rent out hotel rooms for the week that are converted into "offices". They still look pretty much like a hotel room, but without the bed. Our office had laminated posters of all the films, including "Buttleman", on the walls, and three different TV's playing trailers of the films. And a cheese plate.

To walk around the market you need a pass, and there are security stations at each floor in several spots. After some discussion I was given the badge of the Brazos employee who most resembled me - a guy with short black hair. I have rather scruffy light brown hair. The picture on the badge looked nothing like me, but I was told just to wear it turned around and no one would bother me.

The first thing we did was go up to visit my friend (and co-producer) Maile Baird (or Hicks, or Baird-Hicks, I'm not sure). She called me Wednesday morning to tell me the first thing she saw when she got to the market was our poster in the elevator. Apparently this was money well spent - I also got a call from my friend Evan, who produced "Cabin Fever", saying "You got good placement, Frank."

So, Maile works for Syndicate Films. They were on the front page of Variety that morning because they were taken over by indie mogul Bob Yari. Going up to visit her, I began to feel like a third-class passenger on the Titanic. Our office is located down in the bowels of the hotel, in one of the lower catacombs, and her company is up on the top floor in some area called the "Escondido", looking down into the main atrium. The carpet in the room was covered or replaced with a thick rug that has "Syndicate Films" woven into it. Pictures of Bruce Willis, Ralph Feinnes, Orlando Bloom and Robin Williams adorn the walls - the stars of the films they're selling. We chatted with Maile for as long as we could keep her from her job, she showed us a couple trailers and then I left to go wandering around.

I visited the Troma booth, picked up a flyer for a film called "Ghost Cat" ("It would have been the prrrrfect crime,") and ate some Macadamia nuts being given out by the "Film in scenic Hawaii" people. I passed a vending machine filled with DVD's. "Hang on, just gotta pick up a 'Freaky Friday', got any change?"

Stephen gave me a bunch of flyers to hand out to any buyers who had that "I need an arthouse comedy with no stars" look in their eyes. After a while of trying to approach buyers, I began to feel like a guy at a singles bar. A lesbian singles bar.

I ran into our B-girl Tonie in the lobby. By the way, I finally learned the definition of "B-girl": shills paid by bar management to come on to the customers, pretending they are just a lonely girl who'd like a drink; they encourage the customer to buy them expensive drinks (which are really just water or coke) and the management kicks back a small portion of their profit to them. (Thanks, Mom.)

(No, my mom was not a B-girl.)

Tonie, with an 'e' because "it's supposed to be good numerology", and I chatted with two other girls stumping for a company making mega-budget historical pics. One of the girls was named Misty ("Like the weather outside...") and the other was named Elody.


"Without the M."

"Oh. Elody."

Yes, a lot of actresses have weird names. They showed me flyers for "Gilgamesh" and "Mata Hari", and I felt vaguely stupid for not really remembering who or what either of those names are. They were all saying how Mata Hari is the dream role for an actress, and I nodded sagely.

Later, I was stopped by a security officer. "Would you turn your badge around, sir?"

"Oh, sure." I immediately complied, deftly flipping the badge as I had rehearsed in our office: with my thumb firmly planted over the photo. Then I strode past with an important and confident air.

"Wait... Could you show me that one more time, please?"

"Um... Sure." Busted. My brain flashed through all the possibilities (fake a seizure?) and I quickly realized there was no way out. I held the badge up, right in front of my face, clear as day. She stared at the badge, then at my face, then squinted at the badge again.

"Okay. Thank you."

Go figure.

As I walked back to our office, I passed a room with a poster for a movie called "Star Party", spelled out over a night shot of the sky with a canopy of stars. The film's executive producer, Romarino, told me that it was a pre-sale on a horror film about a group of astronomers who go on a star party and are killed off one at a time by a shapeshifting alien.

"Oh, that's cool..." I said, looking for a recongnizable constellation on their poster. "Kind of like 'Predator'."

"Yeah... No! It's not like 'Predator' AT ALL. It's like NOTHING YOU'VE EVER SEEN."

I nodded quickly, meaning no offense. He showed me the trailer, which consisted of several shots sweeping across a forest floor at night, a few shots of a girl running away in slow motion, and a close-up of a girl screaming "WHAT IS IT???!!!!" Cut to: Title card.

I assured him that it seemed wholly original. I read some of his promo material, which referred to the antagonist as a "terror of horrors." He said he was confident it would sell because his kids said they like horror movies.

I guess the gonzo journalist thing to do, seeing as the buyers weren't so warm to being approached with flyers waving, would be to go around to guys like this acting like I was some buyer extremely interested in their movie. Adopt a fake accent, and claim I was from some made-up Scandinavian country, and ask them all sorts of weird questions like "Your women in the movie... Do they pierce the nipples? We like very much the pierced nipples."

But I couldn't do it. A: Because I'm a very bad liar, and B: Because I'm not an asshole. After all, there was nothing really different between this guy and me. We're all just trying to find an audience and make some money making movies. So, good luck Romarino. I hope you sell the hell outta that terror of horrors.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?