It’s really awesome when your experience of a film is able to transcend your reaction to its director. It is also pretty spectacular when during a little impromptu pitch session with the exec producer, there’s a drunken dreadlock being bodyslammed at your feet by an equally boisterous bouncer. This past weekend, I had a very interesting experience with a project which, at the end of the day, is going to see me jumping and yelling in Sabina park at the next opportunity to support W’Indies cricket…. So in true Caribbean ‘suss’ style, allow me to share my story about Fire in Babylon and I promise at the end I will post the trailer, so bear with me until we get to the visual goodies…It’s story time…(*I di Krik?…Krak!)
Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock I was part of a smattering of people in the JAMPRO training room attending this documentary film panel put on by the Ministry of Culture. On the panel were five British dudes, the production team behind this new documentary Fire in Babylon, and the lone Rastafari in the midst of it all was Carlo Less, part of the team behind Rise Up, one of the more recent documentaries to come out of JA. For me the panel was magnificent. It was an opportunity to check out the mechanics behind a project which was quite similar to one I am trying to get funded and more interestingly, two of the guys behind the project had actually been recommended to me by a friend in the business. The gods were definitely smiling on me that afternoon. By the end of the session, the film’s exec producer promised to give me an ear at the film’s reception after its premiere that night. I left JAMPRO in a state of terror, exhilaration and anticipation. Tonight was the night! I had to get prepped and get my material together. I was going to do my first real afterparty pitch…oohhh weeee!
7:55 pm…I get to the event venue too late for cocktails but right on time for the screening. I grab an apple martini and head into the screening room at the Courtleigh auditorium for the premier of the film. After a marathon of speeches, and an apology by Viv Richards for being in absentia, the fire in babylon finally started to blaze and by the end of its run, it had incinerated everybody in the room. The film received a standing ovation. A couple of technical glitches aside, which certainly must have made the production team cringe, the experience was aesthetically, emotionally and historically awesome. The only question left in my mind was how was I going to convince this production team to do a project which they had clearly already done, except my subject matter wasn’t a cricket team, but an athletic one. What would be the unique angle for my story when the themes were already so similar. I was mulling this over when I set out to find the exec producer… he had promised me my 5 minutes, I was out to collect.
11 pm or so, unexpected detour. Right in front of me was the film’s director, whom I had asked a question earlier on in the panel that he had misunderstood, but that was history. This was now and whether he thought I was a doofus or not, I needed to try rope him in to my pitch. Now, I will admit that in retrospect, I should have probably planned an exit strategy. I am admitting right now that I honestly and quite foolishly was not prepared for him to tell me no. The thought had never crossed my mind (!!) But what ensued after my request that he join me and the exec producer for a quick 3 minute view of my promo on my i-pad was an exercise in backpedalling that left my head spinning. In the midst of the tornado of rejection,” umm no no I am really not the best person to help you with that ..” I spotted the exec producer and managed to eject my bruised little ego from the engagement. In all fairness, el director had actually offered his email address but my brain had moved on to landing the second conquest. This ‘conquest’ would culminate in an untimely body slam, but before we get to that particular wrestling match, allow me to share a couple of really interesting lessons I learnt from my run in with rejection:
1) directors are tired little creatures just like any other who are perfectly entitled to not want to talk about work at an afterparty for their screening (for Christ’s sake, there’s liquor around and you want to TALK!)
2) I will in future be very very very careful about how I react to any aspiring artist who ever has the balls to approach me to ask my help or opinion on anything related to anything even when I dont want to because I am now painfully very aware of how fragile and easily bruised our stupid little artist egos are. If I hadn’t spotted the exec prod at that exact moment, I might have started to cry. No joke. But back to the story.
Now it’s approaching midnight and my gracious guest, el exec producer is sitting with me in the foyer/red carpet entrance, a small distance away from the action going on inside. Just like this afternoon, he is charming and gracious and genuinely listening to me and to prove it, he actually remembered another question I had asked about transmedia and viral marketing earlier in the panel. Smiling, the gods are, smiling I say. I whip out my i-pad and even though the music is still loud, this is going to happen. If my run in with rejection inside hadn’t been signal enough that the night was doomed to disaster, maybe the fact that now I wasn’t picking up wifi should have set off an alarm bell. But just as his magical appearance in the midst of torture fuelled me to round 2, the sudden appearance of the Spanish Court wifi pumped up my litte machine and the figures came alive on my little screen. We were cooking on gas! Just as we got to the part about Jamaican Independence, I heard a little scuffle to my right. I turned around just in time to see a bouncer literally physically separate a guy from the glass door handle he was holding on to and body slam him to the ground. The bouncer’s body soon followed and landed with a thud on the guy’s back, helping him get a real close up of the red carpet that he had obviously been longing for. I valiantly VALIANTLY tried to press on and pretend that this grappling, which was going on not more than 2 feet away from me was not happening, NOT HAPPENING!
I tried to press on. But that was it. Mannnnn. My time was up. Ofcourse my one person audience was a little freaked out by this impromptu rugby match and ofcourse it cut my little session short. BUT! At midnight when I left that little shindig, I had in my pocket, not one but two business cards from both of the exec producers of the project and a promise to set up a subsequent meeting. Both of these guys, the father and son exec producing duo, are heroes in my eyes simply for the grace with which they handled themselves that night. Me, I have a lot to learn and a newer thicker skin to grow and a truckload of ideas and ambition to manage…and a meeting on Thursday! Wish me luck.
(*Krik Krak is a tradition in French Creole story telling culture that marks the beginning of a story. Normally these stories are not so drawn out and a lot more entertaining than mine, but hey..here’s the trailer…)