Thursday, January 31, 2008

Southern Circuit 6: Columbia, S.C. ROCKS!

What day is it? I’m writing all these entries in the early hours of the next morning, and Blogger doesn’t honor the idea that the day before and the day after are distinguished by my having gone to bed. Technically today is Friday, February 1, 2008, and yesterday, or earlier tonight, was the screening of my film at the Nickelodeon.

Think of the Athens screening as having taken place among the sarcophagi in the museum, and Columbia as the middle-of-the-night show when the dead are raised and the liquor comes out. My first screening with beer in hand! Public screening, anyway. (There was free Dewars in New York, but only after the screening.)

So much laughter, so much connection, such great questions afterward, and such good sales at the Bar Nothing Boutique, where several people ordered fully illustrated copies of Oh My God. After all the all-nighters and the relentless, monumental stress of turning that thing from idea to book between Thanksgiving and Southern Circuit, I couldn’t have been happier if Knopf came up to me after the show and offered me a half a mil for my novel (which doesn't mean I would turn it down).

Afterward I had a terrific time with my Nickelodeon hosts, despite the fact that my guardian angel art yenta Laura had to skip out early with a migraine.

Like John Mitchell and Harold Bloom,
Laura got a headache from
Apparition of the Eternal Church

The rest of us went to some fabulous underground tavern and then to the Strom Thurmond memorial and then to the Art Bar and then the Nickelodeon’s Andy Smith--

--who, it turns out, went to Swarthmore with my boyfriend James—took me to the old theater, now a beauty shop, that they bought and are raising money to restore. Here are pictures:

Sorry no time for more detail or captions (this one is "ghost theater")—it’s well past 2 in the morning and I have to drive three hours tomorrow before reporting to Beaufort High School by lunch hour. Caffeine is my friend.

Columbia, S.C. ROCKS!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Southern Circuit 5: I feel like I'm in a museum

ATHENS, GA--I was bored in my own screening tonight so I took pictures of the screen with people’s heads silhouetted at the bottom (as always, remember to click on these images for full size):

I was bored because I thought the audience was. The crowd at the M. Smith Griffith Auditorium at the Georgia Museum of Art was so reserved I wasn’t always sure they were actually there. Just shy of 40 people spread themselves out equidistantly in the 200-person theater, and I was so insecure after their display of silence, especially on the heels of the laugh-riot in the Burgiss Theater at Furman, that I actually asked them, from the stage, “Did you like the film?” Almost as though I had some baroque punch line I was building up to, like Hedwig’s routine about what poor animal hadda die so that she could wear that fur (her Aunt Trude). But I had no routine and no punch line, I only had a more than slightly pathetic question. Miraculously, in the reading, in the Q&A and in the conversations that followed afterward it seemed that most of them did like the film. They were just very, very quiet about it. Was it because they were in a museum? Maybe they were afraid if they laughed, a docent would come over and smack them. Maybe--this is a terrible thought--it was an elaborate art installation and they were in fact a representation of an audience. Oddly, the biggest laugh of the night came during the reading from Oh My God, in the part where I recall the time, after the New York premiere at St. Bartholomew's Church, when someone came up and said it was the first time he'd heard the word "blowjob" in church. "And if this film achieves nothing else..." (Note to self: Georgia audiences like blowjobs-in-church humor.) Lo and behold, after the show the Bar Nothing Boutique was down one e-book.

Southern Circuit cruise director Allen Bell has posted the podcast of the interview we did by phone a few days ago, after I’d slept two hours following an Oh My God editing all-nighter (here's a page with the MP3 file). Allen is a good interviewer, and an ace radio editor. He took a junkyard of stunned pauses, conversational U-turns, yawns and stuttering to make me sound half human, even occasionally awake. When I listened to the final product I was relieved, but then felt sheepish about my closing remarks, urging believers to come out and see the film even though it was a pack of atheists cracking jokes about their lord and savior. Why did I feel the need to pander? But sure enough, after the film, guess who made a point of coming up and saying how much they liked the film--two church choir members, a church organist, and a devout Catholic. My audience! Does the Vatican have, like, a film series?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Southern Circuit: Flushers, waffles, detours, loops, wheels, work

ATHENS, GA--One reason we had such a good turnout at the Furman screening last night wasthe CLP requirement. Another was the flusher (click on this for bigger image):

I'm so relieved my movie is being marketed in this way! Although I do think there’s something wrong with my own messaging when someone uses their free hand to slash Hillary and Barack's faces and Apparition of the Eternal Church is left unscathed. After the show, officers of the Furman Independent Film Society took me to the Oliver Garden—a first!

My South Carolina premiere is followed
by my first time at the Oliver Garden. Here I am in
the parking lot with Furman Independent Film Society
artistic director and hospitality czar Jeff Heinzl

Breakfast was at the Waffle House. The signage was so getto that I was sure I had chosen a local favorite, but I wasn’t ten minutes in my cream-colored PT Cruiser (the gayest car in South Carolina and George combined!) when I saw another, and then another, and soon I realized that I had breakfasted at the iHOP of the south.

I took the scenic route--it’s actually called that on the map, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway--and took one or two detours to sightsee and urinate. The scenery was very pretty, though surely only a glimmer of the green spectacle that’s coming in a few months.

Before the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, actually--a billboard in or near Spartanburg, which reads, "It's not complicated. One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism. God (Jesus). Ephesians 4:5." It does spiritual battle with the billboard for the Penthouse strip club just down the road. According to my hosts, the strip club burned, mysteriously, after a court ruled that Christian activists couldn't post patrons' license plates to the Internet. The strip club rebuilt and took the opportunity to expand, God love 'em.

The sign on Bob's Place said open, but there was nobody there but these chickens.

It's not illegal to be a biker--yet.

I spun around the Athens loop a few times, but finally found my way to Hill Street where a friend of Laura Kissel--MacDowell sister and the guardian angel of my Southern Circuit experience, since she told me to apply--is putting me up in a guest apartment. I spoke on the phone to my host, who is out of town, and she gave me directions to downtown and the combo to the bike parked outside the apartment, which were all that I lacked for perfect happiness. After lugging my things upstairs and briefly checking my email over the unsecured wireless (now that is what I call southern hospitality) I was rolling through a balmy Georgia winter night toward the university and downtown and a fabulous costume/kitsch shop called the Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, where I found the perfect complements (mirrored helmet and feather boa) to my Mardi Gras drag (mirrored codpiece and fly-eye goggles), and then a Thai restaurant where I had first-rate masaman chicken curry while I puzzled through an Italian reporter’s questions ("8. Descartes asserted in his famous aphorism: 'Cogito ergo sum' (I think then I am), personally I think that it was substituted for first by Coito ergo sum (I have sex then I am) and after, during our contemporary times by the aphorism I apparel then I am. Therefore sex, primary explication of joy of life and communication with the other by the body, became just only an instrument for mirroring to the self, a soliloquy. Is it that a sign of the supreme and unhappy growing of the contemporary narcissistic loneliness of individuals?") I couldn’t be happier in this cute little apartment in a sleepy college town, alone with my work and well fed, with not even a hint of tinnitus ringing in my ears or anxiety about tomorrow’s tasks. I do have a massive amount of work to do correcting Oh My God so that I have books waiting for me when I get home from tour.

But before I turn to that I have to confess this guilty pleasure—I love driving. I don’t do it much, I’m too seized with horror and guilt over what’s happening to the ice—but when I have to drive these long distances, it is such a great pleasure, so great to not be wired, not be typing, daydreaming more than thinking, and catching ideas and putting them into my new M-Audio Microtrack II, which I got so that I could record my Q&A sessions and possibly turn them into a radio essay, but at least to work on my act. Naturally I didn’t turn it on properly last night, but I did record the interview portion of the movie and that is amusing, possibly worth posting to the Website, since it was such a responsive audience. And on the drive I made a dozen audio notes about how to promote the movie, how to fix the novel, what to add to Oh My God. None of my notes are useful on the subject of how to stop procrastinating and start doing that work. Now it's ten past one in the morning.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Southern Circuit: The youth of America, or, why I am never satisified

These Furman University students seem happy--but
have they fulfilled their CLP credit for the semester?

GREENVILLE, SC -- Tonight’s screening at Furman was a qualified success. On the one hand, it was a room full of laughers, and that’s the most immediately gratifying response available to a filmmaker or performer. Pin-drop silence is a finer gratification, but I’m happy to make do with guffaws, which proliferated throughout the Burgiss Theater almost the whole way through (Elizabeth Povinelli's remark that "There's a whole creepy side to Catholicism--which I experience in the south, actually--" got an especially nice laugh). And the auditorium, which seats 150, was perhaps 2/3 full. Furman has a handy program called CLP--the Cultural Life Program--handy for visiting filmmakers, that is, because students get credit for attending gallery exhibits and oddball experimental documentaries about how coastal homosexuals, Jewish intellectuals, and drag queens respond to French-Catholic organ music. After the show, in the lobby, there were two tables set up, one with Apparition-related merchandise and the other where the audience got its CLP ticket validated, like a parking chit. One of these tables was mobbed by cinephiles.

My only real disappointment was that the 30-inch extravaganza in the Sunday Arts section of the Greenville News didn’t appear to have convinced many people to brave the balmy evening to see the show. Were there even ten people there who weren’t Furman students or faculty? I really am being such a whiner for pointing this out, because it was a very good and good-sized audience, but there’s just this feeling of—exactly what kind of press do you need to fill a theater? Thirty inches above the fold on the front page of the sports section? The crime blotter? If thirty inches doesn't cut it in this town, exactly what kind of organ--but now I sound bitter.

The day was good. Lunch with long-lost Liz Lopez, Lowell '88, now Liz Lopez Anderson with a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old and a husband who teaches religious studies at nearby Wofford College. Perhaps Apparition has a future in Greenville. Shouldn't the film that introduced the word "blow-job" to church screen at BJU? With a Google News alert that the Mobile Register had posted their story, I felt justified in taking an hour to finally design a press page for It has three—count them!--features, and zero reviews. I’m looking forward to seeing what became of my interview with the Beaufort Island Packet, which I enjoyed doing, and with any luck I’ll pick up some more ink over the next ten days. Meanwhile, I have to thank Thomas Harrison at the Register for this line in particular:

"Festa, based in San Francisco, has put together 31 colorful interview subjects that likely would chase Ken Burns off the premises."

And if this film achieves nothing else...

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Southern Circuit: Media frenzy in Greenville, SC

Let's face it--the people of Greenville, S.C., are tired of politics. They are ready for art. And so, in today's (Sunday) edition of The Greenville News, on page 9D of the Lifestyle Arts section, there is a half-page above-the-fold feature about Apparition of the Eternal Church with a color shot of blue Eisa Davis yowling, a greenish Harold Bloom scowling, and me looking too serious by half in that black-and-white Greg Gorman shot I ungallantly cropped James out of. The online version lacks the pictures of the others (so I put them above) but it includes a video clip from the opening which works pretty well as a G-rated trailer (by contrast to the one I have on the film Website).

The story is really well done. I'm a pretty autistic interview, but Greenville News arts writer Ann Hicks cleaned up my quotes. She also rounded out the piece talking to a Furman University organ prof about the music itself, which I thought was a nice touch.

Ann didn't reveal too much of her opinion of the movie in the story, but she did to me privately, and with her permission I've added her luminously flattering comment to the praise page. I love this page--it's one of my favorite destinations on the Internet. I turn to it when my spirits ebb and alcohol and easy sex are not readily available. I get a warm feeling in my heart to think that, when they are put down in the inferno, all the dozens of film festival adjudicators who turned down this movie will be forced to stand at a flaming chalkboard and write down these comments for all eternity while listening, on headphones, to Messiaen's Organ Book.

After picking me up at the airport holding a sign that said "PAUL FESTA" (my first!), Furman University junior Jeff Heinzl, who runs the school's Independent Film Society and his classmate and film society colleague Jonathan, along with another film society officer and a faculty sponsor, took me to a sushi dinner. It felt a little like breakfast sushi, since I spent the day sleeping on the plane, having pulled yet another all-nighter, this one panicky, trying to get myself onto that 6:10 a.m. plane with everything required by ten screenings in nine cities plus Mardi Gras (I found a suitable outfit but will need to do some grommeting before showing up in New Orleans).

I should point out that this Greenville date isn't technically part of Southern Circuit--Jeff saw the Southern Circuit line-up and invited me to Furman beforehand, and the Southern Arts guys were very accommodating about getting me here a little early and a little out of the way of the tour. After Southern Circuit, the movie will screen in Knoxville, but I won't attend that one, the first time the movie has played without me since the Park City Film Music Festival screened the film--and awarded it a Gold Medal for Excellence--quite without my knowledge (a Google search turned up the information months later). Film festivals!

I'm not sure I'd ever heard of Greenville before Jeff contacted me and then there I was waiting for my flight at SFO and reading Lawrence Wright's story in the Jan 21 New Yorker and learned that Mike McConnell, the director of National Intelligence, America's chief spy, is not only from Greenville but went to Furman. This follows on the other confluence of Greenville energy, the fact that my high school and middle school classmate Liz Anderson, nee Lopez, is a copyeditor for the Greenville News, a fact I learned just a week ago on the Lowell '88 reunion site. Any suggestion that today's media frenzy in Greenville was the result of some sort of Lowell 88 backroom nepotism is simply inaccurate. Everyone knows it's because the Jews control the media.

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Southern Circuit: miles to go before I sleep

(originally posted to Saturday, January 26, 2008)
The tour approaches and I feel like I'm in the fourth quarter of a season of 24. I remember looking at the clock today at about 4PM and thinking, that's it, twelve hours left, with 20 hours of shit left to do. I've been jamming ever since, and James has been good enough to take some of my errands off my hands despite having just had his wisdom teeth pulled and being in the middle of his own dissertation deadlines. But there's something hard and fast about a 3:55 a.m. shuttle pick-up and he took pity on me so I didn't have to do the laundry or walk the dog or wash him when he came back mostly black from the mud pit formerly known as Dolores Park. Last night's storm was of Biblical proportions so it was a miracle the Berkeley screening was so well attended. This reminds me I should print out the 10-day forecast for Greenville/Athens/Columbia/Beaufort South Carolina/Orangeburg area. Oh good, another errand. What else I did today: Voted (undecided until I marked my ballot--and then--sorry Barack), deposited checks, abortive pharmacy trip, abortive AAA visit for maps (they are closed Saturday because...), tested audio recorder, packed DVDs, paperbacks, t-shirts, e-books, started detailed itinerary, got audiobooks from library (Hemingway, Hammett, Sean Wilsey), fielded emails and phone calls, fed myself, lost my compact flash card, bought another one, made lists. I would list what remains to do before 3:55 a.m. but unfortunately I am pressed for time.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bay Area premiere of my movie--THIS FRIDAY

Apparition of the Eternal Church

a film by Paul Festa

Harold Bloom, Squeaky Blonde, Wayne Koestenbaum, Jackie Beat, Eisa Davis, John Cameron Mitchell, Manoel and Richard Felciano, Ana Matronic, Ricky Ian Gordon, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Marga Gomez, Sandi Dubowski, Albert Fuller,
and Justin Bond as Kiki DuRane

Friday, Jan 25 at 7PM
Wheeler Hall auditorium, UC Berkeley
10 minute walk from the Downtown Berkeley BART stop

(click for larger image)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Copybitch: Times for a verb

You have to be a real bitch to nitpick about a death notice, but...
Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28
The housekeeper had been in the apartment for some time before Mr. Ledger’s body was discovered, and she let the masseuse in when she at the apartment for a 3:31 p.m. appointment with Mr. Ledger, the police said.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh My God revised pages

For someone with a proven, no, stellar record of workaholism, not a lot impresses me, but what I have done since Thanksgiving week and the present moment in order to get this book finished in time for Jan 25 surpasses prior experience, even imagination. Everything hurts. I have seen the sun rise--and not because I got up early--every morning for the past week. Which I've enjoyed, actually--a time comes when the email stops arriving in the inbox and the city goes deadly silent and it's just me and the project, and the subsequent hours fall away so fast it's genuinely surreal. Last night I was out on the deck for a fresh air break and was just gazing up at the eastern sky and a meteor appeared like a giant lamp going on. Not a streak, just a slow-moving fireball, the biggest and brightest I've seen except the time Juliette and I drove through the night from Salt Lake to Dinosaur 15 years ago and saw something that lit up the landscape and looked like it was on track to incinerate a nearby trailer park.

In any case, I just interrupted my own complaining. I am not at my most coherent. I leave for LA tomorrow and the 117 imperfect pages of "Oh My God: Heaven and Hell in the Ear of the Unbeliever" (James thinks it should be simply, "Oh My God, That's Such a Big Organ!") are as good as they're going to get for this first complete printing. I'll order two or three and show them off at screenings, let people put in an order. I'm having a devil of a time with color correction--the 20-page test I got from Lulu was a major disappointment. I've tried to adjust a few things--everything tends to look great on the computer and lousy on paper. Blacks are dirty and mottled, so I've way reduced the black in the background. Could Lulu be the issue? I am rambling. Here are the images--the same ones I posted last time, revised, resized and with director's commentary, but I've skipped around so the commentary will be, like this blog post, a little bit random. Oh--remember to click on these images to read the fine print.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

LA premiere postponed

Drag superstar Jackie Beat reacting to the postponement of the LA premiere of Paul Festa's film Apparition of the Eternal Church, in which she stars

On Sunday, I got a call from the organizers of the LA screening saying it had been moved back a day, from Saturday the 19th to Sunday the 20th. Monday came profoundly depressing email: Bill Viola would not be involved (this was presented as a scheduling conflict but it turns out he decided he just didn't have that much to say about the movie). This morning brought a third adjustment in the plan, which is that the screening is postponed indefinitely.

Having already gone through a half dozen stages of grief over the Viola news, I was more relieved than anything else by this morning's call. This whole event came about since the Jacaranda people got wind of the movie from Alex Ross's blog mention, in late September. We haven't had time to organize the event and publicize it properly, and I've been tearing my hair out and pulling all-nighters trying to finish the book in time. I'll still go down to LA and we'll have a small screening for people we'd like to involve in the project, and I'll bring my fiddle so pianist Mark Robson and I can take a first whack at the Fantaisie. My friend Billy Burgess invited me to this party Sunday night. Otherwise, I'm free in LA for most of five days. Let me know if you want to hang out.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Messiaen movie, Bill Viola, and new trailer


Even as I'm breathless trying to create the book companion to the movie in time for upcoming screenings, plans for those screenings are consuming precious hours out of every day. The great news is that the LA date is confirmed, and the Berkeley Cal Performances date--Jan 25, 7:30 at Wheeler Hall on the UC campus--looks solid too. LA (with Bill Viola!) info below--but let me first post links to the above revised trailer, and the YouTube link for those of you who have trouble with QuickTime:

QuickTime trailer

YouTube trailer (I would appreciate it if you would rate and favorite the trailer!)

LA info:
Saturday, Jan. 19th, 11AM
Apparition of the Eternal Church
a film by Paul Festa
Laemmle Monica 4-Plex: 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica

1PM, same day
panel discussion (with art world superstar Bill Viola) and mini-concert, in which I will give the West Coast premiere of Messiaen's long-lost 1933 violin and piano piece "Fantaisie"
First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica: 1220 2nd St., Santa Monica

FPC Courtyard food service (vendor to be announced) available Noon to I:00 PM

TICKETS: Screening/Mini-concert/Panel $25 general/$10 student

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Copybitch: CNN vs. "Guiliani"

I have this bad habit of sending in corrections to online publications. Sometimes I get a thank-you email, sometimes I don't. Often I have to search around the site to find the email of someone in a position of copy responsibility. No more.

Introducing Copybitch, a new feature of this blog that will attempt to raise awareness of proper grammar and correct spelling while covertly hoping one of these publications will start offering me copy bounties to keep these things quiet.

Note to CNN: In Italian, g before the vowels a, o, or u is a hard g, as in "gumba." To make a soft "j" sound, as in "Giuliani," you need to add an i to soften it, but BEFORE the u. Conversely, to harden a g before i or e, add an h, as in "Ghirardelli."

Dying Iowa voter grills candidates on health care

Stangl says she's been disappointed by many of the Republican ideas on this issue. In fact, she says Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney "blew her off" when she approached them about it.

"Guiliani said to me that health care is good, everybody likes good health and health care is good -- some variation of that I've played over and over again in my mind, without giving me any specifics," she told CNN.

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