Zach here. I hope that no one thought I was about to present back-to-back European/U.S. premieres and not blog about it. It took me two weeks to recover from the experience and to come up with an effective format for communicating exactly what happened. Since Brad and I spent the entire trip in uncomfortably close proximity, I felt it was only fitting that he have a hand in its retelling. So, we interviewed each other over the weekend.
But before we move on, I’d like to officially deliver some holy shit news that hasn’t been blogged thus far.
The International Sign for Choking will screen next month as part of BAMcinemaFest. In spite of the awkward name, this truly is a super elite, first class program and a major, unexpected honor for everyone involved with TISFC. It’s going to be a big boost for the movie, and “totally stoked” would be a feebly insufficient descriptor of my feelings about the whole thing.
And now, the interview:
ZACH: First things first. How hard was it to find weed in each city?
BRAD: At the start of our BAFICI to IndieLisboa to Maryland Film Festival run I was asked to work on “producing that chronic.” As a producer, I take my job very seriously.
I wanna back up a bit though. Pre-trip considerations…please describe the process and influences that informed your clothing and hair style choices in preparation for the trip?
ZACH: Anytime you go somewhere for less than a week, your physical appearance is crucial (unless you’re going here (sorry)). I’m not saying that you have to give a shit – because not giving a shit is an effective approach as well – but the fact is that really getting to know someone in such a short time is impossible, and so a big part of the impression that you make on people is gonna come from they way you look and carry yourself. With this in mind, I decided to shoot for the “new kid on the block” look. In one sense, I haven’t been doing this movie thing for very long and sometimes I feel too young to be taken seriously, so I felt that my best option was to just own that: bright colors and wacky patterns express eccentricity and my weird haircut says that I’m artsy, and yet kind of a loose cannon. In another sense, I literally just wanted to look like a member of New Kids on the Block.
Hopefully you’re paying attention, Brad. I’d like to see some bolder choices from you next time around. But moving on. Please discuss which elements of the trip were unique from a single man’s perspective.
BRAD: When home in Los Angeles, the routines of each day often obscure my ability to appreciate the constant chance of falling in love. I think it is always there if you are open to it. The added bonus of being on an international trip of course, is being surrounded by a new and different kind of beauty in each place. The walk. The style. The face. The eyes. As Carl Sagan said, “just think of the possibilities.” Making eye contact with beautiful strangers in a new city is intoxicating. It’s so honest and potent. When traveling while a significant other is back home, the connection stops there. But when single, you can walk around and take it all in, without preset limits on where each possible momentary interaction may lead. This in and of itself perpetuates a state of freedom and exploration very conducive to experiencing every moment, which I personally believe is the key to traveling. Each woman that passes by could become someone special, and that is a thrilling way to live. I fell in love with each city and its people, but I think someone spiked the water down in Buenos Aires. To quote a wiser man, “…all these Italian and Spanish genes have been stewing for generations. It’s like a science experiment.”
Since you did have a lady holding down the fort back in the Northwest, I am wondering if you were somehow less distracted and got more out of the whole experience. Would you have any advice, or possibly describe your festival “strategy” in regards to how the average festival-goer could benefit from your experiences and pick from a busy program containing many worthwhile films?
ZACH: You know, I think that I could benefit much more from the average festival-goer’s strategy than they could benefit from mine. Mine is that I don’t have one. It’s just that catalogs can be so overwhelming. I’ll try to make a list ahead of time, but it usually gets left unfinished. So I take it day by day and will typically decide what I’m going to see as soon as I wake up. Also, I would say don’t feel obligated to see something just because you met the filmmaker. It’s a nice gesture and I do it as often as I can for good karma…but when movies have conflicting schedules, just go with the one that you straight up want to see more.
What about food though? Could you describe your favorite meal of the trip and the circumstances surrounding that meal?
BRAD: Oh man, so many good ones. One of my favorites that you already mentioned in your previous blog post was Julio’s, and another was my last night in Argentina. It was such a lovely home-cooked goodbye with some of my favorite people…I would be lying if I said that notions of blowing off the whole festival tour and just parking it in Buenos Aires weren’t swirling in my mind. But if I had to choose I am going to go with a low/high combo. Low: my day walking Lisboa for six hours when I had a delicious Ali Baba’s shwarma for lunch and dinner costing me a grand total of six euros. High: I found myself in NYC for a couple days post-MFF, so I met with Nandan who was in search of chocolate’s upper limits. If you know Nandan or myself, you can bet we went big. Did I mention there was ice cream on the menu? Over two $14 sundaes, we talked of about alternative methods of transportation, movie distribution, and an upcoming GRACEBUNKGINPOP/Newhard co-production. It left me so full I felt I was in danger of passing out from the sugar high, and so I walked from Max Brennan’s near Union Square all the way to Greenpoint. I made it thankfully, and was also able to take in the city on foot as a consequence, which of course made me also fall in love NYC. So cliche, I know.
Can we get regional for a sec? All this international talk…I heard a new gem from you on this trip, and it seems Olympia folk like yourself use some pretty wild slang. Define and relate your most relevant experiences to the following: swoop, disre, nut.
ZACH: That’s interesting because in the perfect scenario, all of those words would apply. If you’re swooping on some food in a restaurant then you’re automatically getting disre, and then post-swoop you’re obviously gonna get that grub nut. But I’ve gotta say, there was almost no swooping on this trip due to the amount of free food that was constantly being thrown at us. Actually, the only great swoop in recent memory was at BAFICI when I came up on that huge bag of discarded chinese food sitting next to the garbage in the hallway of the hotel. But the best instance of getting disre was clearly when we snuck a fifth of whiskey into that club in Lisbon, got caught drinking from it right out in the open, and then hid from the huge bald doorman when he came to 86 us. And this actually ties in with a great nut that we got. When the club closed we wandered outside and got separated. After a quick drink with a couple of colleagues at another bar, I wound up taking a cab to the wrong Holiday Inn (not realizing the mistake until going all the way up to “my” room) and then walking back to the right one. I had been in bed for just five minutes before you came pounding on the door and insisting that we go down to the free breakfast since it was 7:00am already. And of course that turned out to be an amazing decision because the lox were still just flowing at that point and boom: we got our lox nut. Must’ve killed like a half a pound each.
So, Brad, Did you even try to see any movies during all of this? If so, relate some of your standout cinematic experiences (movies, scenes, moments, anything).
BRAD: Best audience experience: watching Compliance at MFF and being unable to contain my laughter as parts of the audience audibly groaned and exhaled forcefully like a Swiss fucking watch every five minutes. The level of effect that the film had was really impressive, and afterward the conversation regarding the film roiled in all directions. Job well done if people can’t stop discussing the work.
Best audience experience (close 2nd): Yo, I don’t know if you guys know this or have seen a film in Lisbon, but whoever designed their theater seats needs to get a goddamn raise. I go to sit down for the first time and the thing starts descending, not rocking, not tilting, but a controlled fall like an actively deflating air mattress (popularized by Tiny Furniture, but enjoyed by all), and just as I am about to stand up because the chair has dropped about 10 inches by this point, and I am thinking it’s broken, it settles oh so nicely. It was so fun I stood up and did it again immediately.
Best nap: one thing people never told me about hitting the festival tour is how utterly exhausting it is to see 3-4 movies a day and drink all night. As you can imagine, this seemingly amazing combo of activities morphs into an unquenchable beast after consecutive weeks and eventually you have to pay the reaper. IndieLisboa was doing this cool retrospective of the Viennale’s 50th year by showing films they programmed in the past (I was excited I got to see Daisies on the big screen), and each film started with a one minute ‘trailer’ commissioned by the Viennale and made by one cool director each year. Well, I am really sorry Fassbinder, I was asleep before the one minute trailer even ended, only to wake up to an unbelievably odd Ray Charles-backed scene at the very end.
Films I loved: Kid-Thing, Tabu, Bestaire, Tchoupitulous, The Color Wheel, seeing The Day He Arrives for the second time…each one of these films I plan to steal from wholeheartedly in one way or another.
Most fun I have had in a long time: enjoying V/H/S while passing a bottle of Jack between six people.
Zach, continental breakfast: how to tour the world for cheap. Explain.
ZACH: Wouldn’t have thought that this would require an explanation, but alright. I mean, it definitely depends on the quality of your continental breakfast. We were really lucky on this trip. Every morning in Lisbon I was able to make these great toasted turkey and cheese sandwiches, wrap them up in napkins, and then stash them in the room’s mini-fridge until I was hungry again. Actually, I stopped toasting them when the napkin got all stuck to the melted cheese and I had to eat little bits of paper. But this isn’t good advice because if you’re really trying to keep it cheap then you shouldn’t be in a hotel at all. I know that in many US hotels it’s very easy to walk right in off the street and enjoy a continental breakfast, so long as you’re discreet about it.
Clearly on a very tight budget.
My final question to you is, if you had to pick the one alcohol-related anecdote that most effectively conveys the tone of the trip, which one would you go with?
BRAD: The biggest drag after coming back to the States is how early the bars and liquor stores close up. So post-amazing-dance-party at the Lithuanian Culture Hall, Turner Ross took it upon himself to secure provisions for the entire group of festival guests who still had thirst. Before there was any debate, he took off running to beat the 2am cut-off. I figured it would be nice to help him carry it back, so Nandan, Zach, and I ventured after him. I should have taken the mounted cavalry police, empty and waiting paddy wagons, and multiple cops on each corner with riot helmets as a sign…but we passed the warnings and entered into a crush of hundreds, thousands maybe, drunk and standing around as if all the clubs decided to throw them out at the same time to encourage some sort of awful incident (a horrible side effect of closing all the alcohol-serving establishments at one specific time). We couldn’t find booze or Turner, and decided to head back to the hotel. Soon enough I find myself separated from Zach and Nandan. They call me…
Zach: Where are you?
Me: At the Mcdonald’s, where are you?
Zach: We’re one block away, but we can’t move. [I start walking in his direction.]
Me: Why can’t you move?
Zach: We can’t dude. There’s trouble…
Me: What, did the cops close down the area?
Zach: No, there’s trouble and it’s heading your way.
Right at this moment, as if it couldn’t be scripted better, I get punched (or maybe a was rock thrown) in the back of the head. I stumble to avoid falling, and as I regain my footing I hear laughing, and immediately remember from my peripheral vision that five people all wearing the same color shirts had just passed me. Not wanting to engage five possible gang members (and who knows, maybe with weapons), I swallow my pride and start walking really fast towards Nandan and Zach. They proceed to tell me that the very same people who hit me almost attacked Nandan. As a side note here, how anyone could possibly want to be violent toward Nandan is beyond comprehension, right? We started back to the hotel with equal parts fear and bafflement. I felt deflated; we didn’t find booze, Turner was nowhere to be found, and all I had was a lump on the back of my head to show for it. And just when I was about to surrender to the bummer-ness of it all, Turner goddamned Ross bursts from the sea of people carrying multiple six packs of beer! And maintaining quite a stride…it’s almost as if he trains jogging only with alcohol in tow. He had a gleam of crazy in his eye that infused us all with high spirits. We reconvened with the rest of the dance party, drinking merrily in the hotel lobby until late.
How this anecdote relates to the whole trip or gives some sort of advice on what to do or not do while making the most of a festival run no one can be sure, but I can tell you this…run, don’t walk to the Maryland Film Festival. It was an unbelievably great end to an already great trip. It’s run by an amazing staff, stocked with amazing films made by some really great people. That, and that all is well that ends well.
And make sure to stock up before closing time when in the States.
My last question to you is, what was the single most pleasurably odd yet noteworthy interaction of your travels?
ZACH: I can’t not give this one to Tim Morton’s lecture on time travel. It was in Baltimore on the last night of the entire trip, which was absolutely everything that a last night could and should be: enormously fun yet bittersweet in tone and with a few brief low points thrown in to keep it interesting. One such low point was at 3:00am in the crowded hotel lobby. The staff is forcing everyone out, and for a second it really feels like the night might be over. Suddenly there are whispers going around about taking it to the roof. Most of us aren’t even sure whether there is a roof, let alone how to get there, but things are desperate and everyone heads for the elevators. We get off on the 14th floor and it seems like a total bust. But then, after some searching, we find it. The air is the perfect temperature and the view is lovely. I thought I’d lost you, Brad, but there you are waiting for me with some booze. Turner Ross delivers a brief speech reflecting on the profundity of the weekend and what it’s meant to him, which really puts me in the perfect head-space. Later, I’m standing with a few others in a small circle. Tim is there, but he’s been quiet for a few minutes now. At an opportune lull, he launches unprompted into a time travel theory that I can only assume must’ve just occurred to him. Of course it’s hilarious, but during the talk I begin to feel as though I actually have uploaded the contents of my brain to timeless photon computers and projected them into the future…only to find out that everything is going to turn out just fine.
Tim “Photons Are Timeless” Morton waves goodnight.