Thursday, April 16, 2009

The VFF Wrap-Up

Those in the know know that VFF stands for Vail Film Festival. Now you're in the know. Feels pretty great, right? Of course it does.
Vail Film Festival (VFF)
As you surely remember, the last entry I posted on here was a preamble to my attending the festival. This is a postamble (assumed word) of the time I actually ambled (too far? Yes!) at the festival. The other weekend. April 3-5, 2009. The VFF ran from April 2-5, 2009, but I only made it for three days. I'll tell you this now (and I'll remind you later), you really should go to this film festival next year (2010). I have no idea who will be there, or what films they'll screen, but I do know it will be well worth it for you. Mark my words and don't make new regrets by not heeding them.

Some of you probably read the Twitter updates ( I posted from the festival, but don't worry, there will be new info here. You won't be bored (maybe). Some of my twits (tweets) vanished after the fest, which is weird, so that just goes to show you should be following my every move live, or else you may just miss out (on a couple twitpics of random things).

Our plan was to drive to Vail on Saturday morning, but a blizzard threatened to hit us hard that day, so we came in Friday afternoon. The roads were perfectly clear and the decision was sound. We checked into the Vail Cascade Resort (the headquarter hotel for the festival) and I made a few quick stops at the Hospitality Lounge and the theater lobby to familiarize myself with the layout. I saw Ashley Jensen (from "Ugly Betty" and "Extras") with her husband, Terence Beesley (at the festival with his short film "Pussyfooting"), in the Hospitality Lounge relaxing on one of the couches near the stage (musicians played for most of the weekend). Right after, in the theater lobby, I saw Giancarlo Esposito (there presenting his film "Gospel Hill"). Pretty great start to the weekend. I did not take any of their portroids, as they were otherwise occupied. Later for that.
View from the balcony of our room at the Vail Cascade Resort

After dinner (shuttled into Vail proper) with my wife, Erica, and friend, Michael, we relaxed in the hot tub (yes, the Vail Cascade has two outdoor heated pools and a couple outdoor fireside hot tubs). I, of course, was not satisfied having not yet taken a few portroids, so I absented myself briefly when we returned to the room with the goal of getting two new Polaroids before bed. Straight away upon arriving at the Hospitality Lounge, I saw Kaitlin Olson (from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", and at the VFF with her new movie, "Weather Girl") talking to a few staffers. As soon as she concluded, I asked if I could get a quick photo and she kindly obliged.
Portroid of Kaitlin Olson at the Vail Film Festival
A few minutes thereafter, they herded us out and directed us toward the after-party. I saw Ashley and Terence again and had a chance to stop Ashley to ask if I could take a photo. She was talking to a man who worked with the festival. They were having a very interesting conversation about "Extras" and about Ricky Gervais's tendency to try to throw off each scene by either laughing himself or making his co-stars laugh (and Stephen Merchant having to remind him that it was his own project he was throwing off). She agreed to a photo.
Portroid of Ashley Jensen at the Vail Film Festival
I mentioned that I had met Ricky Gervais previously and she wanted to make sure he had been nice to me. I assured her he had. I thanked her and headed off to bed, successful in my goal.
The next day, Erica and Michael went skiing and snowboarding respectively, and I studied the schedule for the day's events to determine how best to occupy my time. I don't ski. I've had a few too many bad experiences which would be too entertaining (for you) for me to describe here.
2009 Vail Film Festival schedule
I decided on the documentary "Garbage Dreams" at noon, followed by the tail end of the Screenplay Competition reading of the 1st Place winner's screenplay ("Chasing Echoes" by Bill Schreiber) in the Hospitality Lounge, and then the Shorts Program D at 2PM (with Jason Biggs listed as "in attendance" (spoiler alert - he was not "in attendance" due to a filming conflict)), then the Award Ceremony at 5PM, and the Closing Night Film "Weather Girl" at 8. I was going to leave the Closing Night Party as an option if I should decide later.
"Garbage Dreams" was an excellent documentary about the lower class citizens in Egypt called the Zaballeen. They are the trash people who collect all the refuse of the cities and return it to their "garbage village" for sorting and recycling. This is not a paid position, but something they are born into. They make their living by recycling 80% of the waste and selling the raw materials. The crux of the film centers around a foreign collector being hired to collect the garbage and how the Zaballeen respond to having their livlihood stolen from them. The documentary follows the path of three teenage boys for four years and how they progress with the changes and their decisions in the new world. I highly recommend this film. See it in a theater if you can, or rent/buy it on DVD when released. You probably won't be sorry (unless you hate to be made aware of how nice your life really is, in a feel-good way).
Next, as promised, I stopped by the Hospitality Lounge. I only caught the Q&A portion of the Screenplay Contest winner's screenplay reading. It would be great if these contests resulted in the film being produced. That, as I said, would be great. You should make that happen, Mystery Eccentric Philantropist.
Shorts Program D. I am a fan of short films. Maybe I'm oblivious (please tell me if I am), but there needs to be a venue to see Shorts on a regular basis. Perhaps before feature films at every movie theater? You should make that happen. Anyway, the Shorts Program D did not fail me. It was an excellent mix of styles and subjects, as you'd want in a Shorts program. I only wish I would've had time to see Shorts Programs A-C.
As previously mentioned, Jason Biggs was touted as being in attendance, but the program came and went and he was not to be found. Upon investigation I discovered he had to cancel due to other obligations (some film or something). Maybe some other time, Biggs. May be.
I did stop and chat with Terence Beesley after the Shorts and got this portroid:
Portroid of Terence Beesley at the Vail Film Festival
He, as you'd expect, was very nice. Ashley came up as I was leaving and said hi. That was the last I interacted with them, so I hope you're not expecting more stories about the Beesley/Jensens, because you will not get that from me. My deepest apologies.
Before the Award Ceremony, I returned to the Hospitality Lounge. It was as good a place as any (probably better than most) to have as a home base. They had a number (4 or more) of musical acts that played in turn throughout the festival. I caught Buddy, Laura Jansen, Holly Conlan, and Cary Brothers at various times. Throughout the musical performances, this guy was painting pictures. It was live art. Here's a still capture of the art in progress:
A painter painting at the Vail Film Festival
Cary Brothers on stage at the Hospitality Lounge at the Vail Film Festival
I had the chance to talk to Cary Brothers for a few minutes and take a portroid. We spoke about the demise and potential resurrection (Impossible Project) of Polaroid film. He summed it up well by saying, "F%&king digital cameras."
Portroid of Cary Brothers at the Vail Film Festival
You may recall from the beginning of this epic entry I mentioned a potential blizzard. Well, it sort of came in on Saturday as predicted, and therefore caused a delay in the arrival of Kevin Smith, which in turn delayed the start of the Award Ceremony. No big deal, really. It was like less than an hour delay, and we, as an audience, were very forgiving. It also gave me the opportunity to have some interesting conversations with the media handlers and publicity crew working the festival. I took portroids of them later in the night, but I will show them to you now (why wait?).
Portroids of Sam Chafos, Deborah Park, and Heather Boyle-Noland at the Vail Film Festival
At the Award Ceremony, awards were given out. I have a list of the winners, but wouldn't it be more fun for you to go to and read about them there? Sure it would. "Weather Girl" won Best Film. There, are you happy? Michelle Monaghan received the Excellence in Acting Award. "Garbage Dreams", Best Documentary. OK? Kevin Smith - Renegade Award. Discover the rest on the VFF website, like I already told you.
Kevin came up and accepted his award and told a tale of toilet traumas. I think you can find it on YouTube. I won't spoil the ending. It was very funny. The woman next to me was fancily dressed and perhaps in her 70s. She simultaneously laughed uncontrollably and showed surprised indignation (though not enough to not be greatly amused) at Kevin's abject honesty and unyielding grasp of language.
Kevin Smith accepting the 2009 Renegade Award at the Vail Film Festival
Next was a Q&A with Kevin Smith conducted by IFC's Matt Singer. Kevin wasn't comfortable sitting down for the interview, so he and Matt cosied up on stage, first with arms slung around each other and then holding hands. It was beautiful.
Kevin Smith being interviewed by Matt Singer at Vail Film Festival
Kevin Smith and Matt Singer holding hands during Q&A at Vail Film Festival
Due to the late start, they decided to do the red carpet photos after the Award Ceremony. Because of the nature of the photos I take, I was granted access to Kevin Smith in the theater "staging area" prior to his media walk. He and his wife, actress Jen Schwalbach, both posed for their portroids and were really friendly and easy to talk to. I'd always heard that about Kevin, but it's great to experience it first hand.
Portroids of Kevin Smith and Jen Schwalbach at the Vail Film Festival
Just off the red carpet I was able to talk to and get portroids of Matt Singer, Michelle Monaghan, and Tricia O'Kelley (there for the film "Weather Girl"). I also talked briefly to Kaitlin Olson about "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and she warned Tricia that I'd get right in her face with my camera (that's the nature of the Polaroid). Here are those shots:
Portroid of Matt Singer at the Vail Film Festival
Portroid of Michelle Monaghan at the Vail Film Festival
Portroid of Tricia O'Kelley at the Vail Film Festival
And, well, my friends, that's about it. I did not go to the Closing Night party and I did not go see Weather Girl (because it was sold out and Erica and Michael couldn't get in, so I went to see the action sport film "Life As A Movie" which was great). I hope it gets wide distribution, because I'd love to see it.
I also got portroids of the founders of the feast (unfair Scrooge reference, I just like the saying), the Vail Film Festival co-founders and directors, Scott Cross and Sean Cross.
Portroids of VFF co-founders Scott Cross and Sean Cross at the Vail Film Festival
The weekend was incredibly fun and I recommend you attend next year. You'll see me there. Say hi, or just wave awkwardly from across the room so I can squint at you and say to myself, "who the hell is that?" I'll wave back, even if it turns out you were really waving to someone else. How embarrassing!
See you there!