Giant egos! PR snubs! It’s all in a day’s work on the film-festival circuit
11:56 a.m.: Depart Los Angeles for Santa Barbara, where today begins the 21st annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
It’s not Sundance, that’s for sure — but it is my first festival. Very excited.
1:44 p.m.: Arrive at Motel 6 some 10 miles outside of town. Check in at $48 a night, which seems expensive considering that there isn’t a microwave anywhere on the premises.
2:28 p.m.: Drive to the Hotel Santa Barbara for press check-in. It’s bedlam; at least 15 people are crammed into a room little bigger than my bedroom, along with eight tables and a half-dozen computers. Some genius has proposed all press sign up for every event they wish to participate in over the next four days, even though there are only four clip boards to do so. Chaos ensues.
7:42 p.m.: Arrive at the world premiere of Robert Towne’s Ask the Dust. Bedlam, again. This is an organizational nightmare. Salma Hayek steps out of her limo, but since she’s so short all I can see is the top of her head as she makes her way along the red carpet. Bump into Tim Matheson in the crowd, which is, sadly, more thrilling than a chick I’ve fantasized about seeing naked.
8:46 a.m.: Wander over to the gas station next door to the Motel 6. Burritos are $1.98 and there’s a microwave. Mmm, burritos.
1:15 p.m.: See C.R.A.Z.Y., the French-Canadian submission to the Academy Awards Foreign Language category. Hands down, one of the best five films I’ve seen in the past year. Hit on girl sitting next to me with no luck; she actually sighs when the conversation goes on for too long.
7:38 p.m.: Red carpet. Looking for celebs to interview. Clint Howard? Um, no. That guy who plays the token Arab in every movie he’s in? Don’t even know his name. Wait, who’s that blonde chick? Sigh. No one knows, but I’m sure my brother has masturbated to a picture of her.
8:14 p.m.: Leonard Maltin takes the stage for a retrospective of George Clooney’s career — a James Lipton sort of thing. Unfortunately, Maltin is not Lipton. Clooney is charming and self-effacing, delivers all the same jokes he’s been using for the last month, and blatantly campaigns for the vote of local Academy members as he tries not to act like he’s taking any of this too seriously. When the actor/screenwriter/director/producer/man-whore accepts his award from friend and producing partner Grant Heslov (who turns out to be the token Arab actor from the red carpet), he holds the award above his head. Award promptly falls into two pieces. Hmm, someone must have cut the award budget.
12:19 a.m.: The George Clooney after-party, which George doesn’t attend. Some dope decided to turn a parking garage into a rave-like hall for the event. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere, blue light, and bad techno music leave me staring at the silhouette of a hired dancer who is swiveling her hips behind a white screen.
At least there’s free food.
11 a.m.: Half-asleep, attend the “Directors on Directing” panel. The nightly parties combined with daytime screenings are burning me out. Luckily, the panel line-up is astounding: Paul Haggis (Crash), Duncan Tucker (Transamerica), Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now), Bennett Miller (Capote), and more. When I think of the films these guys have made that have moved me so much — well, not Haggis (hack) — it’s just an honor to hear them talk about filmmaking. But not Haggis (hack).
1:58 p.m.: After being told I could chat with Bennett Miller at the director’s luncheon that follows panel, then being told I can’t come into the restaurant, I wait for him outside on the street; Capote is a brilliant film and, hey, I did interview him. Why wouldn’t he want to meet me? When he comes out, I walk up to him and say, “Bennett. Cole Haddon. Interviewed you for the San Antonio Current.” Bennett, however, seems uncertain I’m not really a carjacker. “Oh. Oh, yeah. Nice to see you,” he says. Shakes hand and quickly drives away.
5:16 p.m.: Since no one wanted to watch the Super Bowl (apparently, filmmakers don’t like football), I’m watching the game in my hotel room. Alone. Attempts to lull a festival intern into “hanging out” with me an utter failure. How did I ever lose my virginity?
2 p.m.: Attend a screening of Mozart and the Whale starring Josh Hartnett. Yep, still hate Josh Hartnett.
8:11 p.m.: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams are ushered into the theater and placed in seats where they’ll wait until he’s invited onstage for his retrospective; Imperia Vodka is giving the Aussie a Breakthrough Performance of the Year award for Brokeback Mountain. When he does take the stage, he can’t sit still. I’ve never seen anyone more nervous than this guy; his leg kicks up and down and he confesses his manager told him to sit on his hands to keep from fidgeting. Feel bad for him.
10:58 p.m.: Standing around at Ledger’s after-party, but no Heath. Apparently, he had to go home to be with his newborn. God, I hate kids.
12:54 p.m.: Slip backstage after the “It Starts with a Script” writers panel, which drew some heavy-hitters, including the Academy Award-nominated screenwriters of Walk the Line, Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain. Run into Annie, a barista from the coffee shop I frequent in L.A. and it turns out that my attempts to hit on her failed because (amongst many reasons, I’m sure) she’s dating Josh Olson, the screenwriter of A History of Violence, who was on the panel and whom I often sit across from at the café while writing articles for the Current. At least she goes for guys with talent.
10 a.m.: So tired. So very, very, very tired. But I’ve shown up for this documentary about a 19-year-old who moves into an assisted-living community for 36 days to study the lives of forgotten senior citizens. It’s by two 19-year-old N.Y.U. students and called Andrew Jenks, Room 335. Better be good.
11:36 a.m.: I’m still crying. These kids are going to be famous one day, and I hope to know them when they are!
3:32 p.m.: Maria Bello is sitting about 10 feet from me answering questions from the audience about her role in A History of Violence, which I just screened for a third time. Keeps getting better, too. More importantly, I wonder how long it would take the non-present security to drag me off her if I bounded over the seats that divide us. God, I need to get laid.
12:14 a.m.: Climb into my car with two Monster energy drinks to help keep me awake during the 90-minute drive down the coast to L.A. My first film festival is finally over. Back to the real world now, and sleep. •
By Cole Haddon
John DeFore’s guide to the SXSW Film Festival, which begins March 10, can be found at sacurrent.com.