THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH: SURVIVING TWISTED NIGHTMARE WEEKEND

SATURDAY
It started well. Good night’s sleep, free breakfast buffet, I was showered, shaved, clean and pressed. And I was having a great hair day. Amy looked nice, too.
The doors opened, and the paying guests began to pour in. It felt like a pour, anyway. A steady stream at any rate. There had been moderate, obligatory grumblings from some of the usual suspects, but otherwise it was shaping up to be a pretty cool day.
Nic hit traffic on his way from where he was staying in Kent with friends, so the projector was late. I got into a fight with the director whose movie was first when he glanced around the room and announced in front of the patiently-waiting six spectators “It’s not like there’s anyone here!” At any show, the indie filmmaker should be grateful for an audience of any size. One person should be treated like a king for deigning to watch your no-budget magnum opus. That pissed me off. His attitude had been pretty deplorable the day before as well, when he refused to help anyone out. Note: if you ever need any kind of assistance at a convention and Eric Spudic’s around, your problems will soon be solved. Spudic’s just that kind of guy.
Incensed, I left said crumb to his own devices. I think he lost two of his six spectators. Now, I’d made myself a promise on Friday: I would be polite twice. If you continue to push me after two promises/kow-towings/and shows of diplomacy, I was going to tell you what I was really thinking. This rule was tested early with a vendor who got in my face and demanded wall space. “This is ridiculous,” she said. “I’ve never been to a show like this.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure yet what spaces are reserved. I’ll see what I can do.”
“You’d better take care of this situation right now.”
“I will do my best, I promise.”
“I can’t believe this!”
“Ma’am, life is fucking unfair. Go stand over there, get out of my face, and I will call you when I know what’s happening. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear another word out of you! Do we understand each other?”
We understood each other. (Hey, it wasn’t my con. What do I care if I further piss off an irascible vendor? I know, lousy attitude, but see how far you like to be pushed some time.)
Weirder things started happening throughout the day. Robyn was unable to have printed programs, so we had Carolyn Oliver of Secret Scroll Digest announcing each screening and Q&A. Without naming names, again, I’ll just say that one of my usual suspects stormed out of her Q&A because no one had come to listen to her. She screamed that it hadn’t been announced. Carolyn had actually announced it three times in twenty minutes. Loudly. Was it our fault nobody cared to listen to this “celebrity”?
There was another guy, a paying (we think) attendee who was harassing people and stealing from the guests. I was willing to kick the guy out on general principal, but the designated security wanted to wait to catch him. Finally, he wised up that he was being followed and ducked out on his own.
There was a weird vibe, too. Not bad, despite my bitching. Just odd. Subdued is a good word. People were generally polite, but quiet, too. The room didn’t have the “Chiller” roar of thousands of people. While there were at least a few hundred in the room at all times, there was more of a tentative muttering filling the air. Even the Troma table was generally soft-spoken. Aside from Lloyd, the incomparable Jonathan, a poor lackey and a couple of moderately sleazy Tromettes, Troma was actually under-represented at this show. Usually, chaos spills over the table, out into the aisles, and rampages practically into people’s private residences. Uncle Lloyd was enthusiastic and exuberant, but hardly the “destroyer of worlds” I was used to. He was actually sitting down at one point. I’ve never seen Lloyd Kaufman sit down! I didn’t even think he had a pelvis capable of such movement!
The one highlight, at least for our crew, was the screenings of Project: Valkyrie and “Severe Injuries”, our company’s latest movie, directed by Amy and starring Robyn. “Valkyrie” actually had an impressive audience, particularly compared to some of the other screenings. But “Severe Injuries” packed the house. Granted, half of the guests are also in the movie, and they all brought friends, but still, there were a lot of unfamiliar faces in that room. Upon seeing the crowd, my first thought was “Wow, we’re dead.” The movie at this point was unfinished – hell, you could still hear Amy’s voice directing on some shots. I just hadn’t had the time to properly finish it, there were still scenes to cut in; the color correction hadn’t been completed properly. But we still thought it was a good idea to sneak preview the thing here. For some reason. And even if it had been finished, I’d have felt uneasy – that’s just the kind of guy I am. Indie film fans are cruel. They don’t hesitate to tear you limb from limb over the smallest things. I was fully expecting laptops to be whipped out and message boards to be posted to right in the middle of the movie.
But folks seemed to enjoy it. There was unashamed laughter – in the right places! Jasi watched her part through her fingers, as she usually does. Lilith even smiled a couple of times (I wish I’d had my camera). There was applause and questions at the end. Now, I had faith in Amy’s direction and unyielding faith in the cast she’d assembled. I was reasonably confident in my editing skills, and I would have just been happy to get out of the room alive. But people were actually praising us at the end! That made all the bickering and annoyances of Friday all worth it, and I felt pretty happy.
That’s when Robyn dropped the latest bomb: the hotel changed their minds about letting the screening room stay open past the closing of the dealer’s room at 6 PM. As it turns out, the screening rooms don’t lock, so there would be no way of preventing people from entering the dealer’s room and potentially robbing the tables blind. The hotel assumed no liability – it would all be on Robyn’s head. Now, as I’d already scheduled two additional screenings – one helmed by ungracious creeps I couldn’t care less about, and “Black Sun” by the wonderful and talented Andy Copp. There was no way I was going to let Andy down. So I volunteered to barricade the inside doors to prevent re-entry and keep an eye on the dealer’s room for the next four hours. Amy rounded up some other folks – producer Dave Szymusiak of Reel Gold Anthology and his crew, the great Mike Shiley and Happy Cloud’s own Jim Steinhoff. So inside we sat for the next four hours, spending quality time together while defending the dealer’s room from any encroachers.
When “Black Sun” finished to applause and freaked-out twitching, we gathered ourselves up and headed over to the VIP party. Saturday was actually Brinke Stevens’ birthday, so Robyn and Keith had arranged for a cake to be delivered when the party was in mid-swing. The High Priestess of Horror and our reigning majesty Scream Queen was serenaded by Tromette Livinia who, it turns out, is a professional semi-naked harp player. The other VIPs weren’t allowed to participate in the “Happy Birthday” song – as it turns out, a room full of people will drown out a harp – who knew? We put this law of aural physics to the test when Livinia spontaneously burst out with the theme song to the still-to-be-released “Tales from the Crapper”. At that point, even Lloyd looked like he wanted to get on with the show, presenting Brinke and Robyn with coveted “Troma Diplomas” and various other Troma-inspired goodies. It was one of the nicest moments I’d been privy to in a long time. I’ve written a great deal about the “low budget and indie community”, but this was the first time I really felt like we were not only a community, but a real family. Gigi Bannister was dancing with “23 Hours” director Eric Thornett; Jasi and Lilith were working hard to get J.R. Bookwalter drunk (it doesn’t take much, apparently); a bottle of cognac was making its way around the room, shared among folks who’d had international attention and folks whose only fans were in that room right then. Maybe it was the great quantity of alcohol affecting my affections, but it truly was a wonderful night.
The story continues in part four of THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH: SURVIVING TWISTED NIGHTMARE WEEKEND>>>




Posted on October 22, 2003 in Features by
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