Friday, July 3, 2009

Palm Springs part 2 (guest author)

Palm Springs, California...known for it's world class golf courses, it's intense heat, and it's film festival. I had the pleasure of experiencing two of these three things this past weekend along with fellow Tower 37 crew member Andrew Flanagan. It was 112 degrees in Palm Springs when we arrived, which is simply oppressive (I don't care about what anyone says about it being a dry heat, 112 degrees is 112 degrees any way you slice it). So what better way to spend the afternoon then inside an air conditioned theater?

We got our tickets, got our popcorn and got in line for the Amazing Animation shorts screening. The original plan was to come, see the film, and head back to Los Angeles, however while on line I received a call from a festival official asking if I was going to be attending the awards ceremony later that evening. To say this piqued my interest would be an understatement and I graciously accepted the two complimentary tickets to the event they offered to me. The line than began to move and we were let into the theater.

The theater itself was very nice, the screen was a little bit smaller than the one that I saw the film on in Newport Beach but no less nice. Within 10 minutes the theater was filled, not a single seat left empty and after some perfunctory opening remarks from a festival volunteer they dimmed the light and the projector came on. The first thing to come up was the festival introduction video, a whimsical piece about the filmmaking process that could only be described as video mixed media. Check it out here.

The Amazing Animation block of films contained some of the most impressive animated shorts I have ever seen and it was a real honor to be selected to screen alongside them. It was a very international screening, with the nine films screened representing seven countries: Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, France, England, Germany and the USA.

My favorite films of the series were "Alma" a CG animated modern fairy tale about a girl drawn to a mysterious doll that looks just like her (check out a clip here), the film was dark and atmospheric and genuinely creepy. Another great short was "Apple of My Eyes" a whimsical and sexy rotoscoped piece about a woman and the four inch tall man who lives in her apartment whom she is involved with romantically. Then there was "French Roast" (check out a clip here), a very fun short about a rich man at a coffee shop who forgets his wallet and the chaos that ensues as he tries to figure out how to pay. It was very well constructed, playing out almost entirely from the same angle.

Then, there was the screening of Tower 37, which went fantastic. Nothing is better than watching the film with an attentive audience. Laughs and giggles accompanied Operator's big reveal and the dud bomb exploding, they were transfixed as Leed swam around the pitcher, audible gasps could be heard as Operator slipped almost falling on Leed, and an eerie silence feel over the crowd as they watched the tower come down. A brief Q&A followed the screening and I talked about how the story evolved during production and talked about the benefits to having your composer be an active part of your production process long before picture is locked.

The closing night award ceremony started almost immediately after the end of our Q&A. We moved into a larger theater that was as packed as the one we had just left and Andrew and I found seats in the back right up against the wall. The ceremony started up and they got right to the first award, which just happened to be the Best Student Animation. They started by awarding the runner up, which went to "The Incredible Story of My Great Grandmother Olive," and then they announced the winner...


Boy, my heart was racing as I made my way down the theater and up to the stage. I know I made a thank you that Andrew would later tell me was very good...but I can't really remember what I said all that clearly...really, what I remember most of all was crossing the stage to the podium and repeating in my head over and over "don't trip, don't trip, don't trip!"

You can check out pictures of the awards ceremony on the Palm Springs ShortFest website. As Chris pointed out, according to the captions on the photos taken of me at the awards ceremony, the Fest seems to think I am Estephan Wagner, director of the Best Student Documentary. In most situations I would be somewhat annoyed by this, except I appear to be making really goofy faces in the photos, so let the public think that's Estephan.

The festival handed out around 25 more awards that night and screened a few more shorts, including the 25 minute animated film "Lost and Found" which is based on the children's book of the same name. The film tells the story of a little boy who attempts to return a seemingly lost penguin to the arctic. The film was really wonderful. Check out the trailer here.

After the ceremony, Andrew and I headed to the after party which was held poolside at the swanky Ace Hotel. A couple fish tacos later it was time for us to start the long drive back to Los Angeles. Even though I was only there for a few hours, my experience at the Palm Springs ShortFest was fantastic.


(by Daniel)

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