It's the worst nightmare of both filmmaker and film festival organizer: you're all set to go, you've put your faith in the system, and suddenly…the thing won't play.
Or maybe the filmmaker withdraws the movie. The first annual Downtown LA Film Fest was unlucky enough to be hit by a perfect storm on day two.
But let us not focus on the negative. The grand opening, at the Orpheum theater downtown, was very nearly a full house, and managed to please the masses with — gasp — a black and white romantic comedy!
To be fair, calling IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS a romantic comedy is a bit like saying CLERKS 2 is as well — technically correct, but I was ill-prepared from the trailer for the sheer number of hilariously dirty jokes in a film compared in the festival program to ONCE. ONCE would never, ever, at any stage, have had a scene involving the use of Photoshop to create the perfect masturbation image of a best friend's girl. I'm pretty sure about that.
BEFORE SUNRISE is a better comparison — two people talking, and talking, and all the while you wonder if they'll get it on by the end. Except both of them, while entertaining, seem slightly annoying as human beings, she especially with her chain-smoking and ruthless serial-dating tactics. I'd have given up on her early on. But the film itself…not annoying. And makes great scenic use of downtown LA, so it's perfect for this fest.
The after-party, at the penthouse loft of Pacific Electric, was even more packed than the screening, with a line that apparently stretched so far around the block that it interfered with the crowd for an adjacent party held by Robert De Niro. It's awesome when so many people come out, but it was crowded in there, and the food servers would often avoid you. I think I only got hold of a shrimp once, but boy, there were plenty of sliced beet & ricotta hors d'hoeuvres to go around!
The biggest celeb I saw at the party was THE RINGER director Barry Blaustein, currently at work on a new documentary project. And the evening ended with me and festival programmer Roger Mayer drinking Jack-and-Coke in some Japanese bar where off-key Michael Jackson was the karaoke hit of the night. I don't remember much after that.
On day 2, I discovered one of the catches of this festival — the venues aren't all near each other. You can break a real sweat walking from the Orpheum to the Laemmle Grande, and I did, though it wasn't even exactly worth it because I didn't end up seeing anything at the Laemmle Grande, because that was when the dreaded technical difficulties hit. After waiting an hour, I couldn't take another “Thank you for your patience,” as I had none of it left to give. So, walked back to the Los Angeles Theater, through many streets that smelled vaguely human waste-ish. (One could of course drive, but then you'd have to pay each new time you park.)
Back there, AUDIE AND THE WOLF — a horror-comedy about a docile wolf who turns into a bloodthirsty man when the moon is full — was just starting, but I'd already seen it, and the auditorium looked crowded. Every time a gory act of violence occurred onscreen, one or two people would walk out, which was funny.
Me, I ended up hanging with this dude, Paul “Fig” Fegen, an attorney and magician wo did some card tricks. I like his fashion sense.
For whatever reason, the follow-up film, THIS IS THE LIFE, a music documentary directed by publicist-turned-filmmaker Ava DuVernay, didn't end up screening. But there was a wild after-party at the Barker Block lofts, with three different rooms full of differing beverage options, among them a Thai beer called Phuket. I guess you can get Phuk'd up quickly on that stuff. Which ought to be their advertising slogan.
The Downtown LA Film Fest continues through Sunday at various venues, and glitches aside, it's a great scene. Come check it out.
But don't walk as much as I did, or you'll suffer the chafes and arrows of outrageous fortune — or something.