A Week at the Festival

Even though there is a computer and DSL connection upstairs in the Festival’s on-theatre office, getting there for long enough to do a weblog entry has been a challenge.  So to recap the interesting events of the past week:

Dinner with Ryan and Sabrina

Last Tuesday or Wednesday, so long ago now I can’t remember, I was able to meet up with Ryan (the high school friend with whom I went to Viet Nam a week before coming to San Francisco) and his girlfriend Sabrina.  Ryan picked me up at the Film Festival’s office on Ninth Street and then we met Sabrina at the restaurant, the Cuban tapas restaurant Cha Cha Cha.  Cuban food is one of those “not in Khrungthep” sort of things, so as many trips as I can make there this week, I will.  Sabrina is just really fantastic and it was so nice to meet her.  No pictures to post, unfortunately, but I think they’ll be attending the closing night so I’ll take some then.

Lunch with Bruce and Howie and Paul

On Sunday (or Saturday, perhaps?) Paul and I drove over to Fremont to meet up with Bruce and Howie at one of my favorite Malaysian restaurants, Red Kwali.  “Kwali” is the Malay word for wok and the restaurant specialises in authentic hawker-style food.  In Malaysia and Singapore, there are food courts called hawker centers where each individual stand is owned by a different vendor and his/her family.

The food was good, despite the third or fourth ownership change in the past two years, and it was especially nice to visit with Bruce and Howie. 

They’ve been incredibly busy, Bruce completing his MBA and Howie has finally received his green card!  Yeah, he can now leave the US on vacation with relative ease.  They’re talking about a trip over to Taiwan to visit Howie’s parents and then on to Bangkok this Summer.  It would be so fun to have them visit, so Tawn and I will keep our fringers crossed and hope to see them soon.


Slide Projector Stands

The week before the Festival, I was assigned the task of building stands for the slide projectors.  We use these projectors to show slides of sponsors’ logos and names prior to the start of the show.  Previously, the movie theatre where we operate used slides for their pre-show entertainment, so we could just put our own slide carosel on screen, instead. 

However, AMC went to an all digital pre-show program and the old slide projectors are gone.  The new digital projectors are bolted into place so we can’t move them, and the costs of going digital this late in the game were too high for the Festival.  So this necessitated finding a way to mount our rented slide projectors so they could shoot through the port window in the projection booth.

Digging back into my drafting roots from junior high and high school (thanks, Mr. Geraci!) I came up with a design and after pricing it out, worked with two volunteers to purchase and construct the stands.  The finished product is a bit rickety – I had to buy some additional 1×2’s to add structural support to the stands that are 5 feet tall – but overall they work just fine.

Opening Night

This year’s opening night film was Eric Byler’s “Americanese“, adapted from the novel “American Knees” by Shawn Wong.  Eric did last year’s indie success “Charlotte Sometimes” and is a promising young director.

The Festival uses the charming and historic Castro Theatre for our opening night film along with several spotlight presentations over the opening weekend.  It’s majestic 1500-seat auditorium complete with Wurlitzer organ is a great setting for big events.

My responsibility was to handle crowd control outside the building.  Opening night was sold out and we had a rush line outside (people waiting to see if any seats open up at showtime) and we also had some of the most torrential rain that I have ever seen in San Francisco.  It even hailed for about half a minute.  Yikes!  It turns out that the gorgeous canopy that hangs over the sidewalk, leaks.  A lot.  

In my nice suit with a radio and a secret service style headset, I worked the crowd, getting people inside in a timely fashion and starting the movie only a few minutes late.  And by the end of it, I was soaked.  My jacket was completely soaked, my shoes and socks and the lower half of my legs were soaked.  Wet, wet, wet.

Before heading out to the opening night party I stopped by Anita’s house (thankfully I was staying only a few blocks away) to change into dry clothes.  Otherwise, given the frightfully cold night, I think I might have caugh pneumonia. 

The party itself, held at the Asian Art Museum, was a grand affair spread between all levels of the building.  The galleries were open, so it was a nice opportunity to take in some art in between bites of food and sips of wine.  Housed in the former public library, a Beaux Arts-style building that graces the civic center plaza, the meseum is one of the most beautiful cultural treasures in the city.  Tired and exhausted, I didn’t feel very chatty and so chose to wrap up the evening pretty early.  Especailly since Tawn was back in Khrungthep.  Parties aren’t as fun without a loved one to share them with.

Interesting Festival Events

The Festival has run smoothly with a few interesting events.  Director Abraham Lim, who I got to know a few years ago when his film “Roads and Bridges” played at our festival, was back with his follow-up, “The Achievers“.  Abe’s in post-production, still tweaking this film.  So we had a Friday evening show at a few hours before we didn’t have a copy of the film.  At first, Abe was going to drive up from LA.  Then one of his producers had a backup copy on video that he was going to get to us.  Finally, three or four of his cast members pitched in and bought Abe a plane ticket, and he arrived about 15 minutes before the show with the copy of the film we were to show.

After the show, Abe went back down to LA and spent Saturday tweaking the audio soundtrack, not satisfied with various minor details that appeared very noticable to him but which I think the audience probably wouldn’t notice.  By Saturday evening I was on the phone with him, answering questions about ways we could potentially hook his iMac laptop directly into the video projection system and run a parallel audio soundtrack.

Sunday morning about 5 am, Abe left LA and drove back up to San Francisco, arriving at the theatre about 11.  He met with our video projectionist, discussed some more options, and then spend the next eight hours in one of the offices continuing to tweak and edit the soundtrack.  Our projectionist was getting a bit worried about trying something radically different without the opportunity to actually test it out.  So about thirty minutes before the second showing, Abe finally decided that we’d stick with the tape that was used Friday night.

No Sleep Til Shanghai

One of the more popular films was a documentary by director Todd Angkasuwan about rapper Jin Au-Yueng, perhaps the most popular Asian-American rapper, and his eight-city tour of Asia.  The crowd of young fans was disappointed that the rapper himself wasn’t able to attend, but during the post-movie question and answer session, Todd called Jin on his mobile phone and held the microphone up to the phone so everyone in the audience could hear.  And thus, Jin was able to be there for Q&A.

Don’t Book the Bangladesh Film Festival!

Last night we had a show of “Gaijin 2” an epic Brazillian film about the Japanese-Brazillian experience early in the 20th Century.  The print had been sent to us from the Bangladesh Intenrational Film Festival and didn’t clear customs until yesterday morning.  Upon building up the seven-reel film, another of our projectionists discovered that reels 5 and 6 were from other films.  Yes, not only did they mix reels (which as a former projectionist I can tell you takes a bit of effort) but those two wrong reels were from two different movies! 

Momentary panic ensued but by the time I arrived some sense of calm had been restored, as we had a VHS copy of the movie as a preview tape.  The decision was made to screen the film on VHS and explain beforehand that the quality was not as high as we wanted.  People were offered refunds or the opportunity to watch other films.  In the end, I think that nobody took that offer and everyone stayed and enjoyed this great movie. 

Tawn to Macau

In his first business trip in several months, Tawn arrived in Macau today for an HP press event, acting as chaperone for several members of the Thai media.  He reports that it is cool and overcast and that Macau doesn’t appear to have anything to see or do other than go to casinos.  Smartly, he booked to fly into and out of Hong Kong, which will give him almost a full day on Thursday to shop and sightsee.


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