(Continuing advice and lessons learned for the benefit of those who travel to further their creativity at conventions and festivals.)
10) Toss Your Expectations Aside
When you’re traveling for your creativity, you may get closer to your creator (as I did in Part I of this blog trilogy- can’t wait until they make four films out of this), but you may also find yourself in places you’ve never been before. Some might expect to experience an Emerald City like the one in Oz; I expected a bit of the Wild West from my trip to Houston. Mostly, I experienced gray skies and grayish buildings and roads that looked too much like Route 17 in Bergen County, NJ. Hmmmm….
11) Give Peeps a Chance
I started my time in Houston inside Bush International Airport. George was not around but his airport was clean and huge and generic and full of helpful people who advised against spending $65 on a cab and put in a shuttle van with a very nice young Southern belle with very definite plans to become a funeral director.
I will admit, as I left the airport I expected to see 10 gallon hat’s and sagebrush and the wild West. What I saw looks suspiciously like Route 17 in Bergen County New Jersey. Commerce has marginalized large swaths of the United States, especially population centers, so Houston, Texas has staples, and McDonald’s, and even an Olive Garden.
But they do have places that are uniquely Houston’s….
13) Weird Things Will Happen
When I got to the hotel, I went to sign-in for the festival, and found myself at the welcome desk for a convention of… funeral directors. That inspired three quick questions: Does the nice girl from the shuttle know about this? Am I in the wrong hotel? Why do I keep running into funeral directors?
14) Find One Sane Person
Luckily, I discovered the WorldFest sign-in was housed in a guest services booth just 13 steps away. I recognized that makeshift closet with a window as being allocated for WorldFest Houston because postcards advertising various movies were displayed all along the front of it. Inside was the glorious Elease Jenkins, who would prove to be the sane center of a truly interesting few days.
Elease’s first question was whether my wife Tina was with me as she had come to understand. First the airline thought I had a baby with me, now WorldFest thought I had Tina with me, apparently no one trusted me to be on my own.
15) Make Your Room a Sanctuary
Conventions and festivals can be intense. Make sure you have a place to mellow out and regroup. Your hotel room can be perfect for this.
My room was generic hotel room nice, which is about the best you can hope for when traveling for your creativity. One time I got a hotel room that was clearly designed for a swinging single guy; that really disoriented me. This room was quiet and sedate just like I wanted it.
The view below, however, held promises of lovely young starlets-to-be lounging in the southern sun. All I got was gray skies and rain, and one day when the sky cleared for thirteen minutes, two Italian guys in Speedo’s. Not what I was hoping for….
In fact, the only cool thing that happened around the pool was this underwater Roomba which cleaned it every day. Sort of R2D2 meets Aqualad.
16) In This World, You’re on Your Own
Once you are all settled in, you will need a plan. Cons and festivals are designed to overwhelm, providing too many choices. No way can anyone attend every event, so decisions must be made. There I was, all on my own, at a truly international film festival. They were movies from China, Russia, Italy, and more, all right here in Texas. What would I choose to see?
I chose a Western, Five Grand, which has Eric Roberts in it for a little while.
Actually, it was a good reason to choose this film. We used Tom Sizemore in our film Clandestine, in much the same way. Actors of some reputation attract international distributors. I wanted to see how they use Roberts and then compare it to what we did with Sizemore.
17) At an Event, You Always Represent
Right before Five Grand started one of the hosts mistook me for a producer of the film and asked me to say a few words. Not wanting to insult or embarrass anybody, I said, “I’m here as a producer of Clandestine which is showing tomorrow at 9 PM right here in this theater. Tonight’s movie is a western; ours is more of an eastern.”
18) ASOF- Always Scope Out Food
Free tip for conference or festival newbies: always check out what food is available before you are hungry. If you don’t you’ll get on the first line you see, and survive on a passable breakfast, when a beautiful, affordable breakfast buffet is available just 25 steps away.
19) Learn What You Can From Every Opportunity
I go to as many classes as possible whenever I am at a convention or a festival, always looking to learn something new. Worldfest Houston was an uneven education. From a veteran screenwriter I learned the need to make sure information is current as I watched her demonstrate how to layout a script page, apparently unaware that Final Draft, etc., exist. From another, I learned to quadruple test the selling point of any presentation when I sat through a class on filming with drones and the drone didn’t work.
Two other classes stayed with me, however. The first flipped on me later in the fest. Nick Nicholson, a Houston Broadcast film critic, did a master class on screenwriting, with a focus on making the film work. Honestly, the opening threw me; Nick showed clips from his movie review show, wherein he trashed about twenty films (many of which I agreed were problematic) and a few he liked (his Deadpool review was a welcome relief). Nick’s point was basically screenwriting and acting and filmmaking are difficult, and when any area of this art form fails, it makes his job as a reviewer that much more difficult.
At first, I thought he just hated movies, but eventually I got his point; Nick Nicholson loves cinema to the point where he becomes angry when he has to sit through faulty work. It was ultimately a lasting reminder that people will be watching and excited to enjoy our work, and letting them down isn’t right. There are so many ways for creativity to go off the rails –a producer with an agenda, a director ignoring the source material, an actor mailing it in– that creatives have to really fight to make every second the best it can be.
This applies to novels, art, music, anything creative. People want to be transported and if we do not diligently weave all the elements needed to get them there, we’re not doing our job.
20) Every Once in Awhile You Hit the Motherlode
The other class that knocked me out was this guy from NASA who humbly came to us to show us gorgeous footage shot in space, and then tell us NASA had hours and hours and hours of it, and was offering it to us as fair usage.
The NASA guy said it would be fair to use the footage in our films, but it wouldn’t be fair to use it, then cut to a box of laundry detergent and say, “NASA endorses Washy Suds!” Fair enough.
Here are the links:
for more information on NASA media usage: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html
21) More Weird Stuff Might happen, Roll With it
21) As Weird as it Gets, There’s Always Stranger Places to Go
I thought the time travel was as odd as it would get. Amazing how wrong I was….