Why is this here?

I'm a filmmaker currently touring the DIY Feature A Genesis Found around the campuses of colleges and universities across the Southeast. This is the personal account, for better or worse, of its successes and failures.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Hiatus!

Just so you all know-- the 2010-11 Southeastern Campus Tour for A Genesis Found is pausing for a month or so, now, to coincide with school closings and the holiday season.  We'll be back up and running by late January.

I know I'm not really the best at keeping this blog updated in a regular fashion, so expect me to be even more sporadic until the tour resumes-- but I'll try and drop a line a few times in the time between, to update you all on where we're heading in our next batch of tour stops, or if anything interesting happens.  Hopefully we'll also have another comic strip up featuring John Patton Jr. by month's end.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Life Day!

Catchin' Up part 6: Georgia... Georgia...

The final screening of the 2010 portion of the tour was supposed to be a cakewalk-- an easy screening, just before Thanksgiving, with the bulldogs over at UGA in Athens, Ga.  Athens is only about a three hour drive from where I'm from, and I'd been through on other trips mere weeks before-- so, naturally, I assumed it'd be a breeze.

Much like Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Oxford, Knoxville and most campuses in the SEC, Athens is the quintessential state-university-in-a-college-town-whose-economy-owes-its-success-and-continual-growth-solely-to-the-school.  In other words, it's a college town and not much else.

The Immortal UGA -- The Ghost Mascot Who Walks
Initially founded on the banks of the Oconee River as a trading camp in the 18th Century, Athens literally owes its existence to UGA-- it was born out of the Georgia General Assembly's establishment of the University in 1785. 

The town wasn't "official" until 1805.  As the University grew, so did, exponentially, the town's industry-- in fact, so many Mills began popping up in the area it became known as the "Manchester of the South" after the famous English mill town.

As with many of the school's on this tour, Athens was a strategic locale in the Civil War, mostly because of UGA, and also because the Confederate New Orleans Armory was relocated there shortly after the war began.

The town continued growing, ever steadily, its government changing considerably after Reconstruction, and by the 20th Century, it was quite larger and quite different from its intial 18th Century form.

Aside from the continued growth, innovation and importance of UGA, Athens is also known, in modern times, for its thriving arts scenes-- especially its music scene.  Band members from such groups as REM, Widespread Panic, and the Drive-by Truckers call the town home.

REM eating BBQ -- They're from the South all right
Since the town does have such a thriving art scene, spreading word about the film was pretty easy to do.  There were a lot of folks to contact, so it took several days-- but, overall, there were plenty of outlets, plenty of interested folks at those outlets, and, theoretically, plenty of interested folks receiving those outlets, in a town known for cherishing regional art and artists.

I'll confess, I usually try not to get my hopes up, or get excited about these screenings.  Part of this is that, since it's a DIY tour, and I don't particularly enjoy touring, there's little "fun" to these things-- it's all business.  And, since no one is hiring me to do them, and I'm having to create my own opportunities, it doesn't really feel, I don't know, I guess, "official", in some way.  But, since I'd been constantly improving at tour promotions for each new screening, and Athens did have such a great scene, I was kinda half-hoping-- and half-expecting-- a pretty big crowd.

A very overused stock photo
The morning of the screening I, as usual, got a bit of a late start.  I have no excuse.  Regardless, even with the three hour drive ahead and the lost hour from the time zone change, I left with enough time to make my 6:30 call no sweat.  After all, I'd made the drive several times before, and I'd taken into account every wild variable I could think of, hadn't I?

Well, no.  Because I didn't take into account freaking Rush Hour.  In freaking Atlanta.

As you folks know, Atlanta is the biggest city in the traditional Southeast (ie not including Florida and Texas); and since most of the roadways in the South are not over wrought with the same kind of painful traffic that exists in most Northern states and Northern metropolitan areas, us country bumpkins always forget to take afternoon-drive-big-city traffic into account when taking a leisurely stroll through predominately rural Georgia.

At the time I was just barely on schedule at my 80+ mph pace, so as I came to a stop in the middle of I-285, I realized giving my contact a heads up that I was probably going to be late was a good idea.

I make it my policy to make sure every host contact has a DVD screener of the film, on file, just in case something like this happens-- it had already come in handy once, when I missed a screening down at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi.

So, I gave my contact, a Grad Student and head of UGA's Anthropology club, a call, explained the situation, and we seemed to be on the same page.

Just a quick note, while we're sitting here in traffic-- Atlanta is pretty notorious for being "poorly" designed (at least its interstate transitions are), and the roads are regularly nightmarish this time of day.  The fact that I didn't count on that just goes to show you why it's generally a bad idea to schedule these things by yourself, folks.

Just had to say it-- Go Bravos!
Anyway, as expected, when I finally rolled into Athens it was about 8pm local time-- with the screening supposed to have started at 7.  Still, when I last spoke to my contact, he assured me that we were good-- that he had the DVD screener and that he'd start it if I wasn't there by 7-- then I'd be there for the Q&A after the fact.

So I was in no real rush when I got into Athens-- which was a good thing, since I missed my turn several times.  Finally I found campus and started looking for the Anthropology building.  One thing that struck me immediately was, for a major state university, the campus sure was deserted.  If only my alma mater had had this kinda parking on a Wednesday night.  It felt like summer on a much smaller campus.

Inane observations would have to wait, though-- cause then I got a call from my contact.  Apparently there had been a miscommunication-- he thought a different disc, that had come with my promotional bundle I'd mailed to him, was the DVD screener-- not the preview screener I'd initially sent him.  Meaning he didn't actually have a copy of the film.  So he-- along with the rest of my "guestimated" huge audience-- had been sitting and waiting for me for over an hour.


So I immediately picked up the pace, found the room, ran up the stairs-- and was greeted by half a dozen or so students.

So you know what had to have happened, right?   At 7 I had a huge, interested crowd-- who'd bailed because they were told they'd be waiting indefinitely for some no name Bammer filmmaker who had underestimated Atlanta.  Wonderful.

So, with a few brief words to my contact, we got underway.  All eight of us.

Let me say this-- I don't mind playing to small audiences, that's part of it, especially around here.  So if that was all we were going to get, it was all we were going to get.  But I HATE missed opportunities, and the last thing I wanted to hear was that I'd lost what I'd hoped to be one of the biggest audiences of the semester because of poor planning.

I feel ya, Big Al... I feel ya....
So, once it was all said and done, my contact invited me out for a beer to thank me for coming out and bringing the flick.  I don't drink, but I suggested the next best thing-- Jimmy Johns.  So we hit one up downtown.

He was a cool guy-- an anthropologist and working folk musician in the Athens scene-- and we talked a little everything-- movies, music, social anthropology, the economy... football-- hey, even among us intellectuals, it's still the SEC.

I eventually got it out of him-- that was all the audience that showed up.  Whew.  So, now, I guess the more important question was, with the seemingly unending supply of support and interest coming from  promotional outlets in Athens, with the town being home to a major state university, and with the town crawling with folks interested and willing to get involved with independent arts, why were we only able to attract such a small crowd?

"Because it's fall break."

Apparently Thanksgiving's a two week celebration for the Bulldogs.

I guess, ultimately, I didn't really have this screening thought through, when I planned it.  But, that's part of it, I guess.  Next time I'll be sure and check my dates against the academic calendar.

That should also explain the veritable ghost town called campus.  I thought it was just because of their football team.

We made a bowl!!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Catchin' Up part 5: Homecoming

Probably the easiest stop on the tour so far has been our "homecoming" screening at the University of Alabama Huntsville.  Not only are Wonder Mill and myself based out of Huntsville, but the film has its own special connection to the school-- Louis Salmon Library, the main library on campus, doubled as Hoole Special Collections library (from the UA campus) in the film.

Hoole Special Collections ala UAH

Frankly, organizing the screening at UAH was way too easy-- not that I mind a few of these screenings just kinda conveniently working themselves out without me hustling folks, but I gotta admit one e-mail request with an immediate "can do!" response doesn't build much character.  Regardless, it was on the schedule following a couple of weeks of excessive traveling, so it was a welcome respite.

Part of the reason booking the campus was so simple was because we were able to host the screening AT Louis Salmon Library, in a room literally feet away from where we shot.  The good folks there were excited about having us back for a screening and got us one of our most fun and, frankly, comfortable venues of the tour.  But more on that later.

First, you know the drill-- the history of Huntsville, AL in three to four sardonic sentences.

Many a Fanning knew the sweat and stank of the Cotton Field.  Just not me.

I have a lot of roots in Huntsville and the outlining area-- it's where my father is from, and where the Fannings sharecropped til his generation.

Established in 1805, the city was first incorporated as Twickenham (and hence the namesake for my Adult League soccer team - the Twickenham Rovers), and first thrived from strong railroad and cotton industries, which would remain thriving into the 20th century.

One interesting note about the town's pre-20th century days is that it was actually, initially, opposed to secession in the Civil War (this is fitting, now, since the town's current culture, due to the many engineers working there from all over the country, is an eclectic mix of traditional southern culture and modern urban/non-regional identity); but the opposition didn't last very long.    

Huntsville, aside from its thriving agricultural industry, remained pretty modest in size and quiet in the national scene for most of its first century of existence, and into its second.  However, all that would change with the onset of World War II, when the city became home of Redstone Arsenal.

Redstone, which still largely influences the town's make-up and culture today, was briefly closed in '49, then re-opened as a missile research facility the following year.  The place finally became a national jewel, though, when, in 1960, Marshall Space Flight Center was opened on the Redstone campus-- and into town came a handful of German Rocket Scientists "refugees", including one Werner Von Braun-- and the city's namesake as 'The Rocket City" was born.

Just don't ask him about V2s.  Or the English.
The Saturn V, the largest rocket ever built and the means by which man reached the moon, was designed in Huntsville, and parts, including the boosters, were tested in the city.  It remains the city's crowning achievement-- the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, located in Huntsville, even has one of three actual Saturn V test rockets still in existence today on display in the heart of the city.

The Mighty Saturn V-- at the USSRC!
The space program ties and the arsenal still heavily dictate the town's culture, known for its progressive atmosphere and heavy saturation of engineering firms, engineers and other notable left-brainers.

One other tidbit worth note about Huntsville-- baseball greats Walt Weiss, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco all played AA ball together, for a time, with the Huntsville Stars-- then a farm team of the Oakland Athletics.  Though I'm not sure there were ever pre-steroid days for Canseco, this was certainly before Big Mac had forearms like Popeye.

Looked more like Olive Oil in his Huntsville Days
Another Cliff Clavin fact I gotta mention here-- Alabama-born comic book writer Mark Waid used the town (or at least the name, though the town's presentation was not entirely congruent with how it really was at the time) in a Batman story, published by DC in Detective Comics Annual #2 in '89.  As a native and a Batman fan, I've gotta admit the story was special to me.  I spent a fair amount of my childhood battling imaginary Klan members (instead of the Joker or Two-Face) because of it.

Get them Shameful Southern Stereotypes, Bats!
Another treat to having a screening in your hometown is having some family and friends in the audience-- well, I say treat, though I couldn't shake the nerves, going into this one.  I don't get nervous at these things anymore, usually-- mostly because there's not much of an audience to get nervous about.  But I guess that was exactly the fear going into this one-- that the only folks who'd show would be folks I invited.

But, apparently, being pretty well saturated in the Huntsville community paid off, and we wound up getting a pretty big, excited, and largely unfamiliar crowd at, again, the most comfortable venue we've yet played.

We were playing in a "Super Classroom"-- and unlike "Super Star Wars", this wasn't just a shameless (though addicting and fantastic) platforming cash in on the then trendy "Super" adjective.  The room was decked out in dozens of executive-style leather computer chairs-- comfortable, executive-style leather computer chairs.  So comfortable I figured most of the crowd would be out by the time the ever-dreaded cave scene rolled around.

Super = Killing Robocop lookin' villains as Luke Skywalker; Not So Super = Seeking Missiles and no lightsaber to defend yourself 
Luckily, the crowd, all young, stayed awake (at least as far as I could tell).  It was actually one of the more excited and expressive crowds we'd played to, laughing at (generally) appropriate times, and reacting to reveals appropriately.

I was suspicious Ben, who as a rare treat got to come out to the screening, had paid 'em, at first.

Also making the screening a true "homecoming" were some friends from the day job, Ben's parents, my ever supporting parents (including the "Arkie" that's the namesake of this blog) and my wife.

A genuinely nice night-- nothing to whine about, really; just a relaxing celebration and a night of story-sharing 

My next stop, however-- the final of the semester-- was another story....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catchin' Up part 4: Capital City Comics Meet-and-Greet

Little deviation from the tour recaps here to talk about one of the film's more exciting media tie-ins!

As I've mentioned on this blog before, actor/artist Kevin Maggard (see him in The Nocturnal Third) and myself are currently working on a serialized comic strip, Southern Truths featuring John Patton Jr., which details more events in the life of John Patton Jr., the archaeologist whose actions would spark the events of A Genesis Found.

Anyway, as part of a nice, promotional treat for Kevin, and for the strip, Capital City comics in Montgomery, AL, showcased Kevin as one of a few local artists at its recent grand opening, where he was able to set up a table, pass out some comics and DVDs, and get some folks on our mailing list.

Kevin also had a pretty brilliant idea for direct fan interaction, and organized a "contest" of sorts-- folks who joined our mailing list would be, with their permission, translated into comic form and included as extras in our next strip, which features John in his school days at the University of Alabama.  Though this is all well and good and a clever use of resources (after all, we'd need plenty of extras for the campus scenes), we encountered one, unexpected hitch-- the strip, set in the 1940's, takes place at a then non-integrated Alabama, where no student is over the age of 35-- so naturally a majority of our volunteers would be middle-aged African-Americans.   Several with dreads.

These guys look like they're from the 40's, right?
Of course, with so many campus scenes I'm sure we can find a place for everyone that's both non-racially discriminating while still being historically accurate (I told Kevin it was his problem since it was his idea, haha), and we're very thankful for everyone who stopped by.  It's still a great idea, even if it would have worked better for a non-period piece.

Regardless, here are a few more pics Kevin passed on to me from the event (unfortunately I was at a wedding and couldn't make it-- congrats Jackie!).  And keep checking for strip number three launching this month!
Hey, Kevin-- Sneak me out some of them DC Showcase volumes behind ya, huh?
Birth of a Salesman

Monday, November 29, 2010

Catchin' Up part 3: Murray State, Busted Brackets, and Grilled Cheese International

All right-- where were we?  Am I still in the Carolinas?

Thankfully-- and nothing against the Carolinas-- but no, though I didn't have much down time in the "ordinary life" before I was swallowing the Carolina Chaser-- a much more modest drive up to Murray, KY.

Now I understand there is still some dispute over including Kentucky in the South, and since the state didn't officially secede (and had, probably, more Union sympathy than Confederate) in the War of Northern Aggression, I suppose an argument can be made that my trip up there makes me a scalawag.  But, I know as Southerners we love to include Texas-- which wasn't even a state in the Civil War-- because it's big, scary, and full of citizens convinced that, if the Feds screw 'em, they'll just go back to being their own damn country.  So, I figure, we can let the "officially" neutral state of Kentucky-- home of bluegrass, Don Rosa, and George Clooney-- in on the joke too.

Plus, Murray State University, dubbed Kentucky's Public Ivy League College (though it's not an Ivy League school, obviously) because of its academic standards, is located about fifteen feet outside the Tennessee state line, so my ancestors can rest easy.

Frankly, prior to organizing the screening and making the trip, all I knew about Murray State University was that they were the "little college that could" that beat Vanderbilt last year in the opening round of the Men's NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.  Not being a basketball fan, and being an alumnus of an SEC institution, I had somewhat recklessly projected that Vandy would make it to the final four-- and with Kansas losing in that big upset in the second round, my bracket was completely busted two days into the blasted tournament (just a side note-- President Obama actually called this unlikely upset by Murray State.  Decide for yourself whether or not our President keeping up this well with College basketball is unsettling).  So I suppose because of this mauling, Murray's name stuck, and eventually found its way on my list of projected tour venues.

Who cares about basketball anyway?  I'm from the SEC!
That might have been all I knew then, but I know a little more now.  Here's a little back story behind Murray State:

As I mentioned earlier, the school is known for its strong academic reputation.  Its nickname/mascot is The Racers (like "Kentucky Derby" kind of racer).  The school was initially founded as a teachers college in 1922, opening the following year.  Throughout the following decades, it slowly grew, changing its name several times until finally settling on Murray State University (to coincide with yet another slew of additional courses and programs) in 1966.

One notable alumnus includes Chris Thile, a member of the fabulous folk group Nickel Creek.

The campus was quite handsome, if a little modest, and reminded me of the layout of USA in Mobile or UWA in Livingston or UAH back home-- kinda like a city college that's not in a major city.

Murray's (the city) history is as equally as modest.  It's the seat of Calloway County (though wasn't always). Despite the aforementioned neutrality of Kentucky in the Civil War, Murray, again, being on the Tennessee line, had its share of Confederate sympathy, and the town did see its share of guerrilla warfare.  It was burned on numerous occasions by both the North and South-- that's what neutrality gets you, folks.

Hey there, hi there, ho there, he's a friend to you and me....

Regardless, the trip to Murray was one of the most pleasant long distance (ie over two hours) trips I've yet had on the tour, and I arrived an hour and a half early to meet with my contact, an English professor, and a friend of hers from the department (also a professor) to grab some food and socialize a bit before the screening.  It was a gracious (and rare) offer, and I was thankful for it.

We met on campus and walked over to a nearby, hometown international restaurant that was literally feet off from the quad (though not technically part of campus, I don't believe).  Really nice set up, though-- a converted house-- that was quite cosy, with books all around, and not just for show.  Definitely an intellectual type of hangout with a down home feel. 

Unfortunately, I'm not very adventurous when it comes to food, nor do I drink, and in hoping to keep from costing the dept much of a burden (they were footing the bill) I got the ever-fancy American Grilled Cheese sandwich with a Coca-Cola-- the only non-imported combo on the menu.

Crazy eyes off sister!
We spent most of the meal talking old films (mostly the work of Orson Welles), film technology and film scores, and I did my best to tread water when the discussion moved to Opera-- La Bohemme and Defladermaus and I'm out, haha-- but I did my best to stay interested.  I hadn't really had a hoyty, non-regional, intelligentsia type convo in a while (and not to bash it, I def enjoyed it) and was glad I could actually get discussions and ideas out of my skull that weren't just about super hero mythologies and how Bama's secondary best be growing up in the off season.  Not that I didn't want to bring it up.

We then ventured back to the venue, and the screening went pretty much as it should've, and the crowd that came out was actually bigger than I expected.  About an hour and a half in, though, about two-thirds of the audience took off (apparently it was some class that had come to see as much as they could before class time).  So as the night ended I fielded some questions from a handful of people-- including a European student who, having a hard time understanding the raw southern accents, asked the horrifying question:

"What happened in the movie?"


Thankfully, though, after getting more details from her I found her real question was about the McGuffin, and something we left quite intentionally ambiguous about it-- not about the basic plot structure and what the hell happened in the two hours of jumbled, idiotic mess she just forced herself to watch.

Duh, who says movies gotta make sense, 'dere?
Questions like that keep you humble-- even if it wound up not being what she was really asking.  I'm quite content with the film now, with its flaws and strengths, and don't have a problem when I get grilled by audience members anymore.  You gotta be loose, open, honest, and have a sense of humor, while also keeping a strong conviction that the work you did and the work you're doing is worth a damn.

And trust me, unless your name is Orson Welles, when you show your first feature, sometimes you're gonna get grilled, and it's the best thing that can happen to you. 

All of us can't be "Jacks-of-all-trades" you know.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Catchin' up part 2 1/2: "The crazy crap you do for movies"

Benjamin Stark, my business partner at Wonder Mill (also the producer of A Genesis Found and the writer/director of The Nocturnal Third) coined the quote in the above title, and it's about the most straight forward assessment of the bizarre experiences endured in varying phases of filmmaking I've ever heard.

The Indomitable Benjamin Stark
For our first two features, Ben and I have done our fair share of "crazy crap" (often with the help of family/friends/cast/crew), including a straight 23-hour drive to Illinois and back to pick up a $400 piece of junk camper; an out-right bizarre festival award show in Anaheim, CA (Joey Buttafucco was one of the presenters!); towing the production van behind an SUV out of the woods and into civilization at 2:30 in the morning, attached only by rigged tethers of rope; while waiting with our wreck-stranded DP, watching the sun come up after a late night of shooting, with the next day's call about 5 hours away (I missed this one, but Ben, Joey and Markus were there!); dealing with SAG after realizing we had unknowingly used a SAG actor -- etc, etc.

Of course, not every great anecdote of "crazy crap" has to involve loss of sleep and awful, off-pitch urban/techno/indie/europop singers with their dancers they met off Craig's List (thank you, Anaheim).  Sometimes the "crazy crap" is simply how you react to two world's you generally keep separate colliding into one, in scenarios of great potential for physical comedy that almost make you feel like a marionette of Buster Keaton.

You said it Buster
I got to experience one of these bizarre events a few weeks ago, in the week prior to my trip to the Carolinas.  For the tour, I've developed a pretty aggressive and all-encompassing promotional strategy for every school I visit, getting word out about screenings as best I can using what humble means I have at my disposal-- mostly passing on fliers, press releases and PSAs, and doing my best to get blogs, podcasts, newspapers, and radio stations interested and willing to pick up and promote the screening with no cost to me.

Unfortunately since most of my promoting can't involve money (I pay to print up and ship fliers, but that's it), this campaign is a bit more hit and miss than I'd prefer, generally depending on how much of a head start prior to the screening I give myself to get promos rolling, how big the town/school is, and if I contacted the right person.

Anyhow, since Columbia is a pretty big town with a nice art culture, my promotions for the screening went pretty well (even if the turnout wasn't overwhelming-- Beat Auburn in the SEC Title game and you're forgiven).  I got a good amount of coverage from numerous local press sources, including the always welcome opportunity of getting interviewed on a local syndicated-radio "community events" show.

The filmmakers are coming!

I work as a projectionist in my day job, and since I spend a lot of time in the projection booth babysitting the projector, I generally have some free time-- or at least time where my job is simply to be present and not actively work.  When I don't waste that time lamenting Alabama's 9-3 season or updating my Netflix que, I can generally use it to the advantage of my filmmaking alter-ego.  So, assuming I'd simply need to give a 15 - 20 minute interview, on tape, I agreed to call the show in the morning during my 11 o'clock show (show duration: 40 min).

So I made the call, and after a brief introduction, my interviewer prepped me:  "You ready?"
- "Yes"
- "All right.  We'll get started and all I need for you to do is tell me a little bit about the film."

Again, assuming this was just a taped PSA of some kind, I, immediately, started into my memorized spiel that pitches the film and screening--

- "Whoa, whoa, hold on, we're not on air yet."

Now, it hits me.  "Oh, sorry."

Fifteen seconds later, I'm on air live in South Carolina.

Generally, I'm not alone in the booth, and when I have to take important calls (I'm assuming being on air live in another state qualifies as important) I do so in the back, but since I was alone, and the projector can't be left alone when it's running, I was left to field interview questions just a few feet away from a very loud projector.

For the first twenty minutes or so, the interview went great-- outside of the fact that it was twenty minutes when I was expecting five to ten.  Not that I minded the extra publicity, but I wasn't counting on it-- and having called the station some 15 minutes after starting the film, the film's ending, and the need to quickly turn it around for another showing on the hour, was becoming paramount.

To further complicate matters, I had other "supervisory" duties still to deal with.  In a nutshell, where I work, when I'm the only projectionist in the booth, I'm also the supervisor of the theater's ushers.  Typically they rarely need any input from me-- they are largely self-sufficient-- but since I had been the only projectionist in all morning (and wasn't initially supposed to, mind you) we had never decided what ushers would leave to go work our other theater (which had it's first show in the following hour as well).  Also, with the other projectionists (my bosses) still not checked in from some extra work that had kept them all morning, we also didn't know if we had a projectionist available to run the show at the other theater.

You know where this is headed
SO, my lead usher informed me of most of this dilemma on scribbled scrap paper while I was still fielding questions-- generally tough, detailed questions-- about the film.  Luckily, when you eat, sleep and breathe a project for three years, you get pretty good at talking about it with half your attention.

And, to further complicate (and not embellish, I swear) matters, my phone, a cheap $20 go-phone that, ever so humble, has a sweet spot in regards to the placement of its mic, and if I angled it mere centimeters incorrectly away from my mouth, it couldn't pick me up at all-- so, as I ran around with no free hands prepping the transition between films, I had to keep the phone pressed quite awkwardly and quite firmly between my arched shoulder and ear.

So, standing by the projector's control panel mere minutes from the transition, my lead usher and I exchanged numerous hand signals, pointed fingers, nods and other forms of silent communication to sort out the mess, while I continued to try and field questions.

Too bad my name's not Barry Allen....

Despite some awkward pauses, and too many "uhs", I got through most of the motioning pretty smoothly, and we had a gameplan.  Now all I had to do was wrap up the interview while turning around the film myself in a nine-minute window.

And then, with my hands in crucial places on the control panel, retracting the projector down from its up-track position, I shifted my shoulder and the phone dipped under my chin.

"Oh, oh, we've lost you.  Are you there?  Hello?"

Jesus.  So, after a few silent seconds, I was able to pull a hand free and readjust the phone.  Now I had seven minutes to thread, a phone call still to make to ensure there was a projectionist at the other theater, a film to turn around (which needs both hands), and an interview, now nearing 45 minutes, with no end in sight.

Fortunately (though rather unfortunately for my story), that was about it.  Once the film was down, aside from having to thread with a pinched nerve because of my neck glued to my shoulder, and looking kinda ridiculous (and unprofessional) to the guests watching me work from our outer glass wall, everything smoothed out.  Luckily, threading is like riding a bicycle or hitting a baseball-- muscle memory-- so I was able to focus on the questions, wrap up the interview in five minutes, and finally give my full attention to make sure both theaters were covered.

The crazy crap you do for movies.  All in a day's work, right?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Catchin' Up part 2: USC, Columbia, Locked Doors and Loud Windows

Having never slept at a truck stop before, (and hosting some irrationally childish fears about truckers thanks to Spielberg's Duel), I'm frankly a little surprised I slept as well as I did.  I suppose part of it was just the exhaustion of the solo trip, but I think, too, 200 or so idling motors create a surprising symphony, a soothing, resonating murmur, like mechanical rain.  Plus, I'd planned well enough in advance to pack extra sleeping bags and sheets, and thus had decked out my air mattress with so much excess padding that I had no issues bedding down on a plastic, underachieving excuse for a personal flotation device.

My Parking Lot Buddy
I initially woke up not long after dawn (6 or so local time) and, having forgot my glasses back home, waddled half-blind to the convenient store to use the restroom-- only to, after realizing how many hours it was til the 8pm screening, bed back down for another four hours or so.

Around 9:30 or 10 local time, I woke up for good, got back my eye sight, grabbed yet another bologna sandwich and some Pop-Tart's from the cooler (another component of the "grassroots" claim I was finally earning-- I couldn't afford to buy many meals on the road, so it was cold cuts and canned food all the way), and took off.

Being now so close to Columbia, it took me a little under an hour to get into town.  Since I had so much time to, essentially, waste, I opted not to buy a shower at the truck stop but, instead, just hunt out a state park/campsite when I got in town.  I found exactly what I was looking for at Sesquicentennial State Park, and, for two bucks, got a hot shower, a nature hike, and a scenic, for-once-non-parking-lot setting for cold Beefaroni and a bologna sandwich lunch.  I ate peacefully til I was flanked, on opposing sides of the picnic area, by school kids on a field trip and hungry ducks who weren't content with the bread chunks I gave them.  Leaving Scrooge, Donald and the nephews to torture the school children for scraps instead, I took off to check out Columbia.

You said it, Scroogey

Now, the history lesson.  Columbia is the capital of South Carolina and the largest city in the state, not to mention one of the oldest cities in the South, and one that wears its history on its sleeve.  Founded in 1786, USC was founded in the city in 1801 (then called South Carolina College) because of the city's strategic setting between the northern and southern parts of the state.

Similar to Atlanta and other prominent Southern cities, much of pre-Civil War Columbia was destroyed by fires started by the lunatic Sherman.  The burning of Columbia, though not depicted in Gone with the Wind, does have its own mythologies, anecdotes and claims to fame-- including a tale of Union soldiers, determined to burn down the church where the South Carolina Secession Convention was held, approached, torches blaring, the First Baptist Church downtown.  Asking a local groundskeeper if this was the church where the convention took place (it was), the groundskeeper lied to them, and said: "No, you want the Methodist church down the street."  Thus, the historic First Baptist Church was saved, and many a Churchless-Methodist joke was born.  I wonder if the inevitable feud between these two churches, started by this grounds-keeper's cleverness, is still the subject of Softball contests today?

Bring it ya wannabe Catholics!

Anyway, the Columbia Fires were a somewhat special case, due to the city's significance at the start of the war.  Sherman denied calling for the town to be burnt to the ground, though just about everyone else who was there spoke to the contrary, North or South.  Most of the Union soldiers admitted they wanted revenge on the city that sparked the Civil War (SC secession was the first state to do so, FYI).

Regardless, Reconstruction followed, and though it was as painful and disruptive and corrupt and anti-progressive as it was for most every other Southern city, a building boom for Columbia was an unexpected by-product, which continued thriving leading into the 20th century.

In recent history, Columbia has been known for two things: integrating faster than most other Southern cities, and in turn experiencing, on average, less of a volatile counter-reaction; and being the host site for the falling of the once-mighty #1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the best game the USC football program will ever play in its existence.

Bad Moon on the Rise
I expected Columbia to be pretty urban-- and it was (not Hip-hop urban-- urban urban).  It isn't as big as Atlanta, but certainly the biggest town I'd been to on the tour to this point.  It reminded me, a bit, of Charleston in the Eastern part of the state, except less Palmettos and no coastline.

After scoping out downtown, and trying, to no avail, to find the building on campus where the screening was being held (little did I know that most of the campus wasn't accessible from the road--more on that later), I took to the 'burbs to find a Library with wi-fi.

After finding one, and setting up my wife's hand-me-down, beat up, rigged, gimmicky laptop, the much tortured ac adapter (which was essential since the laptop no longer had a working battery) finally gave it up, and all that work I hoped to get done in prepping for the UAH screening that was, still at that time, the following week (I ultimately had to move it because of poor planning on my part), didn't get to happen.

Instead, I killed time.  Saw some sites (free ones, of course), searched through VHS tapes at thrift stores, and, eventually, made my way back to campus, parked a half a mile a way, and took to the sidewalks for a closer investigation on where the heck Sloan College was.

USC is a neat campus.  It has a C.S. Lewis Reading Room on site, so it should be no surprise that, fittingly enough, the entire campus has this weird, Narnia-esque, "Southern Backwoods Hidden World" kinda feel-- the quad felt like a winding, Gothic forest nestled in the middle of Downtown.

As I mentioned earlier, the bulk of the campus isn't very accessible via car-- even by most university standards.  And there are trees everywhere.  As I told my wife over the phone, the whole place felt like someone took Bama's campus, stopped making exterior renovations in the 1930's, and crammed it all into a 6 or 8 block stretch of downtown Birmingham that was still a forest.  Definitely gave the sprawling campus, especially the central grassy stretch that shared ancient brick walkways and dense foliage, a small town college/secluded community kind of feel.  It felt like it should have been in Oxford of Savannah.

Anyhow, I eventually found Sloan College (one of the last buildings I checked and, ironically, a block away from where I initially had parked-- though I had spent more than an hour roaming the campus).  By this time it was only an hour or so til the screening, so I unpacked, set up, then, as per routine, took to roam the campus until a half hour or so before.

I had an added personal bonus this screening-- my cousin Bailey, who is a USC alum and still lives in Columbia, got to come out to see the film.  Lamentably, us Alabama Fanning's have never been that close with the South Carolina branch since my uncle moved up there (it's a pretty big drive), and it's only gotten worse now that we're all older and both my grandparent's have passed.  So, obviously, it was nice to see her and catch up.  I did, though, have the embarrassment of mixing up the sex of her brother's child, when I asked about him.  Told you, we don't stay in touch.

We got rolling about 8:10.  Frankly, it was kind of a below-average turn out.  I knew we were asking for trouble with the 8pm start time (on a weekday near mid-terms), but sometimes with these things you're at the mercy of the host, whose at the mercy of the venue.  Still, it was a handful of folks who had never seen the film, and it seemed to screen pretty well-- at least the first half hour or so, when I stuck around.

Typically, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I stick around to watch the first act, see how engaged the audience is, see how they react to certain moments, and then bail until the very end.  Obviously I've seen it a few times.  So, as per my custom, about 8:40 or so, I took off to wander campus, listen to the radio, make phone calls, and twiddle my thumbs.

Taking Care of Business - Mobile Office Style

So, after the routine (and listening to the Giants take ANOTHER game from Philadelphia), I waddled back over to the venue.  I tugged on the door.  It didn't budge.

So it was after 9:30, and I didn't have an ACT card to get past the 9:00pm security lock (which I wish I'd known about earlier).  To make matters worse, my cousin had already left, and I didn't have my contact's cell phone number.

After roaming the building and checking every door I could find numerous times; considering climbing a tree to a slightly crack third floor window; and knocking continually for several minutes, I realized that the only folks still on the ENTIRE freaking campus were the handful in my screening, and the only way I could get them to open the door would be to make a rucus on the screening room windows (and thus distract audiences from my own film).  Leaning close to the closed, blacked out windows, I discovered I could hear a slight "mumble" from the film's soundtrack.  Luckily, I knew the film so well it was all I needed to keep tabs on where it was and how long it had left.

Now here's the predicament.  As a culture, we're conditioned to, as soon as that "Directed by" title card pops up, get up, chunk our popcorn and smuggled in coke's, and get out of dodge-- no applause, no hesitation.  Lamentably, I had learned throughout my career at film festivals, special screenings, and this tour itself that this doesn't just go for films seen at movie theaters, exhibited by faceless projectionists--this goes for every film experience, no matter how exotic the venue, no matter if the filmmaker is sitting behind you, no matter if a Q&A follows.  If I wasn't out of my seat and in front of the screen by the "Produced by" credit, my audience was gone.

I had no real desire to travel all the way to South Carolina simply to show the film to a handful of students and have them ditch before I even get to speak (that's the only reason I came with the film, after all), especially since it was mostly due to my own laziness to avoid sitting through the film one more time.

So, my plan was simple.  As soon as I heard the trash can lid slam shut at film's end, I'd bang on the window and start yelling.  Well, not that refined of a plan; but it seemed to at least be more plausible than climbing three stories and committing a breaking-and-entering felony.

Holy Ease of Vertical Escalation, Batman! 
So, as soon as the film ended, banging and shouting was exactly what I did.  Then I waited.  Then I banged again.  Then I waited again.

Then I looked at the building's front door (probably twenty-five feet to the left) as my handful of audience members exited the building.  Thinking they saw me (or at least heard my banging and therefore, seeing me, would realize I was the culprit and was trying to get back in) I didn't ask them to hold the door for me.  My mistake.

They left, not even noticing me, and just before I could grab it, the door shut back again.

You know where this is headed
Luckily this didn't continue like a Screwball comedy, and I eventually got back in and got to thank my contact for hosting the screening.  Though I didn't get to do a Q&A, there were enough people there (and enough local online enthusiasm in the week prior) to make the screening worthwhile.  We even got some great local press-- the previous Friday, I got interviewed on local radio (story coming), and we got a little bit of press in USC's student paper.

Anyhow, after that, I packed up, threw in the Empire Strikes Back radio drama, and was home by 3.  It's still a sissy, domestic, non-committing, part-time tour-- but the first major hurdle, now past, was, kind of surprisingly, a memorable success.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Catchin' Up part 1: ECU and Day One of the Carolina Trip

The first of the "neglected coverage" screenings was the October 20 screening at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

This is the farthest to the Northeast I'd be traveling on the tour (as well as my first overnight trip), and it was a pretty ferocious (if not ultimately boring) drive.  Aside from a little bit of a snag while on the road (story later), it was mostly just 10 to 11 hours of radio dramas, sports radio, phone calls and rock'n'roll.  My route-- East through Georgia, then North through Tennessee, South Carolina and then into North Carolina-- mostly kept me off the interstate for a nice, personal highway drive (like I was in Two-Lane Blacktop) through five different states.

Long Highway Road Trips = Existential Art Films starring James Taylor 

Frankly, Greenville was a nice college town, but the town in itself doesn't necessarily stick out in my memory-- in fact, the campus of the school reminded me of a bigger version of the University of West Alabama, and the town  alone kind of made me think of a younger Johnson City,TN.

Originally "Martinsborough" in the 18th century, Greenville has been Greenville since 1786 (an ice-cursed place, it was named such to deter settlers from venturing to its greener brother to the south "Iceville"), and is located on the South bank of the Tar River.

For most of its early history, Greenville was only modestly known in the region, for its tobacco crop, and as the location of East Carolina Teacher's College, which didn't become East Carolina University until the 1960's.

Another note-- since Greenville is right near the East Coast, it's no surprise it's been rocked by hurricanes every now and then.  Hurricane Floyd, back in 1999, was the worst it has seen in recorded history.

I'm not sure if it was just the fact that homecoming was the upcoming weekend or not, but, while I was there, I must admit that the student body at ECU (and surrounding Greenville community and businesses), percentage wise, MUST BE the most school spirited collective consciousness I've ever seen.  On the campus, which was modest but handsome, about every other student, it seemed, wore or carried some sort of school themed tee shirt, ball cap, back pack, laniard, etc.  It was everywhere.  It felt like I was at Medfield College on the set of Son of Flubber or something.  Very impressed by the consistent commitment to school pride from the entire campus.  Maybe if us back home were so consistent, Bama wouldn't have two losses.  Even at the local Wal-Mart, there was a gigantic, center store display with HDTVs streaming ECU Buc highlights that'd put the displays at Skyland Drive to shame.

Tommy Kirk supports Dem Bucs!

Anyway, the one complaint I did have about the campus was the parking was pretty limited-- even by university standards.  I initially had to park about three or four buildings down (I did show up an hour or so early) before moving it closer to time after the 5pm rush died down (and even then I was still a good two blocks down).

The film was being hosted by ECU's Anthropology dept, and we got a nice, scientifically minded, turnout.  It was a unique screening venue-- we screened in a genuine archaeology lab, with blocky lab desks and swivel chairs instead of the usual auditorium set up.  As an added bonus, the archaeology club provided some drinks and iced cream.

Like I said, the audience was very scientifically minded, but over all the film seemed to be received quite well.  I suppose the film is pretty disciplined with the liberties it took with the "true science" in the film (and most of those liberties are presented as potential non-truths anyway), and the audience seemed to appreciate the fact.

My contact at the school, an archaeology professor who was also a UA alum, had great things to say, promised to pass word at a regional archaeology conference he was attending the next week, and turned out to be a friend of most of the archaeologists based in Tuscaloosa who helped us as advisors on the film-- a trait he shared with most of the Anthropology staff at ECU.  I must say, getting introduced to the collective regional archaeological culture has been a nice byproduct from this tour, if it produces nothing else.

I even had a pretty long conversation with one ECU student-- though it, pretty quickly, turned into talk just about comic books.  A long talk.  But I was content to talk, to kill time-- because, later that night, I was finally about to earn that "grassroots" banner I'd been flying the length of the tour.

Around 10 or so, local time, I took to the road.  I didn't have to be in Columbia, SC until like 5pm the next day, but I decided to go ahead and drive as long as I could before stopping, and, about 2:30 or so, about 45 mintues from Columbia, I found a truck stop that looked as good as any, and stopped to bed down for the night.  I pulled around to the truckers parking area in the back, and like a Graham Parson's song, found a corner spot to spend the night.

Out with the Truckers, the Kickers, the Cowboy Angels

I was in my parent's van, a '98 Dodge Caravan, with the rear two rows of seats removed, where I set up the air mattress, covered the windows with some trashbags, cranked the heat for a good 20 minutes (sorry environment), watched some cartoons, and hit the hay.

Will I wake up dead tomorrow???  I maybe just towed??? Or boxed in by an 18 wheeler???


Catchin' Up: Prologue

Got a lot of catchin' up to do, as usual.

Since my last post, I've been to four schools-- East Carolina University on October 20; the University of South Carolina on October 21; Murray State University on October 27; and, after another by week, the University of Alabama-Huntsville on November 11.

Since I've shirked my duties of town histories and venue recaps, I'll probably spread these posts out over several, to keep things clean.

Also, had a lot of press recently (which I'll also retroactively share here), and some nice developments with some of our tie-ins-- including a nice meet and greet with actor and artist Kevin Maggard-- who stars in "The Nocturnal Third" and who's illustrating the "Southern Truths featuring John Patton Jr." comic strip.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Johnson City Recap and Prepping for the Carolinas

Been a few days, I 'pologize.

Well let's get started where we left off.  Went out to Johnson City last week, to East Tennessee State University, and had a blast.  The usual modest size crowd showed, but as a plus, seemed to get a few more folks from the community than usual.  What was most rewarding was the enthusiasm from the audience and from the hosts.  I definitely got a genuinely enthused vibe from the crowd, and was glad to be a part of it.  Thanks guys.  Even got to talk in detail about some of the media tie-ins to the film, and some of the more peripheral elements of the film's/continuity's story, which was a nice treat.

Johnson City was a surprisingly big town, and to avoid the usual Eastern Time Zone trap I get myself into, I wound up being extremely early, and went for a drive around downtown.  The downtown area reminded me of Birmingham, or maybe Nashville's downtown over near Vandy.

On the way home (only about a four hour drive, five taking into account the time change), stopped in Knoxville for some Jimmy Johns, had a few exchanges with the UT crowd down on the strip, and was reminded why I'm glad I'm no longer in college.

This week I've been enjoying a "bye", gearing up for our first big, overnight trip-- two days and some change up in the Carolinas, at East Carolina University and the University of South Carolina, the second big SEC school of the tour.  Be looking for some "previews" of the two towns I'm visiting up there, Greenville, NC and Columbia, SC, early next week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To the Mavericks

Just some food for thought for all you Mavericks out there.  I'll see y'all out in Johnson City tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"A Genesis Found" now on Video on Demand!

Little aside from the tour travels-- just got word from Amazon that A Genesis Found is now available through their Video on Demand service!  The film is available for rental, for streaming, or for download to own (with varying portable device/TV formats available).  If you're looking to see the flick, can't make a screening, and refuse to pay for the two-disc DVD (though I worked so hard on it, sniff, sniff...), this is the best way to see it.  Plus, it's the cheapest.  7-day rentals are $2.99, while you can download it and own it forever for $3.99.  Big price difference there Amazon.

I haven't downloaded a copy yet myself, so I can't vouch for the quality, but I can vouch for the flick-- this is the "Final Director's Cut" that's on the DVD release, so you're getting the premiere version of the film.  So now there's no excuse not to see it-- HOP TO IT!

Patton and Dr. Jones can't believe they're on VOD

Opelika Orange

Back from Auburn and gotta say, I was quite impressed with the campus and the environment down there.  I'd never really been to that part of the state-- and I suppose if the tour amounts to nothing else, at least I'm gonna get to visit a lot of the South I've never had a chance to visit.  As I told my wife Peyton (the costume designer for A Genesis Found and The Nocturnal Third, who as an added bonus got to come along with me last night)-- I get to pretend I'm a four or five star athletic recruit, visiting all these colleges-- except nobody really gives a damn I'm on campus, and I don't have the hair.

Regardless, Auburn ain't a bad drive, and Peyt and I both dug campus.  We got there via back roads, so it's kinda like driving to Tuscaloosa through Cottondale-- there isn't a sign of civilization until about two minutes from campus.  So just when I thought all those Auburn jokes about pastures and mules were true... boom, there's the Plains.

The school's Anthropology club sponsored the screening (that's something a lot of these screenings have in common) and we had about the current tour standard number of students/ community folks show up for the screening.  Regardless, it screened well, and I got to wander around a nice campus for an hour or so with my wife (during the cave scenes that just don't age well the more you see them).  Plus, the Padres lost, so now the Braves, who've been trying their best to give their playoff spot away despite it being Bobby's last year, are now a win or so away from the NL Wild Card.  And Auburn has a Jimmy Johns, which is always a treat.  All and all a good trip.  No worries, though, Tuscaloosa, we still got 'em beat.

Just ol' Luke sportin' them locks of Opelika Orange

Not much great insight here.  I did have a nice talk with my contact Arianne, a anthropology professor, originally from urban Massachusetts (where my step-brother-in-law currently calls home), and an alum of the University of Southern California (where she worked some with their now nonexistent ethnographic film program).  She mentioned, with future screenings, I might want to try and get Student Associations involved, like the viewing societies who are ahead of getting those almost-out-on-DVD Hollywood flicks screening at the on campus theater for like a buck a ticket.  I initially started that route, when I first starting trying to organize the tour, but aside from one nice young man at Kentucky who politely sent me in another direction, I never heard back from a single one of them-- that's like one out of forty-six.  So, obviously, not a great place to start-- but, it might be a good group to get involved once the film is locked for a screening on campus-- I certainly need to get better at finding easier ways to get these screenings "buzzing" on campus, which, aside from Pearl River Community College (where my contact also worked in the PR dept), I haven't really been able to accomplish yet.

Here's hoping Johnson City is "hopin'" like Auburn-- we'll see you folks at East Tennessee State October 6!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Screening in the Plains at Alabama Polytech

I've grown a lot, personally and professionally, throughout the course of this film, from scripting to distribution.  And, certainly, since that spans my life from age 21 to 24, I'm gonna grow-- but I think this film has acted like a catalyst, in some ways-- like a concentrated punch in the face to my maturity and perspective.  As I was telling my Wonder Mill colleguae Ben Stark earlier, I used to hold art, specifically movies, to a very, very high regard; essentially, I looked at the stories and artistic expressions of a culture as the defining legacy for which said culture should be interpreted. 

But going through the "grind" of a DIY feature, and the grind of working a low paying day job to support my ambitions, sometimes to the inconvenience of my wife and myself, and experiencing the successes and failures, the few, hard fought rewards and the more steady pile of inconvenient but non-life altering disappointments, my perspective on film, and art, has changed.  I now see it is just another dimension in cultural definition-- something in the conversation-- but not inherently more essential to the human experience than other great human institutions, like politics, faith, sex, technology, athletics, philosophy, and morality.  And though art is a lens through which all of these institutions can be analyzed, art can too be analyzed through the lens of these other institutions.  Usually I felt more comfortable relating to everyone, and everything, through my love of the arts, especially movies.  But after "living the dream" for nearly three years, I don't think that's still the case.

The Grind

I've learned a lot about filmmaking, the modern film culture, and the modern film market, but I think more importantly, the struggles have forced me to reevaluate my perspectives on the world, and on my ambitions, and on my goals, and led me to a pretty profound conclusion.

I think anyone who wants to be a successful craftsman or learned man, upon reaching that state where they are no longer, at least in title, a "student" of their desired craft, probably goes through a similar paradigm shift in perspective, and feel as I felt-- hunger for interests, hobbies and conversations that have nothing to do with your craft.

I won't say I got burned out making Genesis, but I certainly consumed the culture of movies and filmmaking for a good chunk of time, to a point where I eventually had no clue what was going on in any other aspect of the cultural life.  I guess, over time, that's a grind in and of itself, and the need to develop some sort of consistent hobby with NO connection to the silver screen became paramount.

So what did I do?  I rediscovered my boyhood love of college and professional sports.

Roll Tide Roll

Now granted, there are much more haughty, "intellectual" appearing things I could be doing with my spare time than reading "Bama vs. Arkansas" game previews and cruising to Colin Cowherd or Braves play-by-play, but in re-embracing sports I've come to appreciate the "more-than-meets-the-eye" moments of subtle brilliance that can be found in them, along with, of course, the more touted elements of organized athletics, like set up, payoff, tension, twists, shifts, turnarounds, excitement, gutting misery, and angelical joy. 

Since I hail from the Southeast, and especially since I hail from Alabama, it should be no surprise my chief sport of choice is College Football (though I lament the fading popularity of Baseball, probably my favorite game to play and close second to follow), the one sport that, since the 1926 Rose Bowl in which 'Bama smacked down the then dominant Washington Huskies (much due to the play of my distant, by marriage relative football great-- and later Western Matinee great-- Johnny Mack Brown) had put the South on the map as a dominant power.  There are few pro teams down here in any sport, as there are few major markets-- but, aside from the Atlanta Braves (the only other sports team I wholeheartedly support), who wears our region's support on it's sleeve, most of the region has few "true" representatives in the professional spectrum (we all love the Saints, but that's "Norleans" team alone).  So down here, it's all college, it's all football, and it's all SEC.

Johnny Mack Brown

I'm an alumnus of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and my wife was in Color Guard with the Million Dollar Band, so just like everyone else at school there, I got an up close and personal look every weekend at the joys, pains, nuisances and rewards of SEC football in the craziest football environment in the nation.  Granted, I was there during the painfully mundane Shula era (I graduated after Saban's first season), but still, the Bama faithful is pretty unwavering whatever our record, and Game Day was still full of plenty of hub-bub.

So despite all the awful traffic, annoying alumni, jerky LSU fans, ridiculously priced parking, and the school's legendary athletic achievements overshadowing its equally impressive but undersung academic ones, its a cultural phenomenon that can't be ignored nor written off as "rednecks living vicariously through athletes" (just as a comic con can't be written off as "geeks living vicariously through fictional characters").

Well, to avoid a really long, un-movie related tangent, let me just say that, the reason I bring all this up is, my love of College Football and Crimson Tide history and lore has, to a certain degree, peripherally influenced my approach to the scheduling and execution of this tour.  For instance, I initially included Arkansas and Kentucky on my "must visit" list, despite their fringe-regional status and distance from my home base, simply because of their inclusion in the SEC; I've participated in a few back and forths with my contact at Tennessee exclusively about the school's recent struggles with its football program; and I've even chuckled to myself when thinking about wearing my "13 Time National Champions" tee shirt to the Florida and Texas at Austin screenings of Spring '11.

Typically, though, the professors and school representatives I deal with about the tour could care less about Football, or at least care less about making small talk jokes about competing football programs with me.  And, at the end of the day, sure, it's a non-factor-- even for next weeks screening of A Genesis Found at "the enemy"-- Bama's big instate rivals, Alabama Polytechnic University.  You may know them as Auburn.

I've never been to Auburn and am looking forward to finally being on the Plains.  A lot of my friends and high school classmates went there, or are still going there, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the trailer parks college kids live at down there.  No Auburn joke intended, they really do folks!

Regardless, in keeping with the task of compiling historical highlights of the menagerie of schools/towns we're visiting on the tour, here's a brief write up of Auburn:

First charted in 1856 as a Male College, Auburn changed its name every other week or so until eventually landing on Alabama Polytechnic Institute at the turn of the 20th Century, with the nickname of Auburn originating around the same time (cause the students down there couldn't pronounce "Polytechnic"-- booyah, now that's an Auburn joke!)  In 1960, the school officially changed its name to Auburn University.

Though primarily known locally, like it's rival UA, for it's football program, the school also features nationally renowned academic programs in numerous fields of agricultural study, and in veterinarian studies.  It's also known for its work with the study of software engineering, and was the first university in the Southeast to offer Bachelor and Master degrees in the field.  Other innovations include the least original mascot in Division 1 Athletics (Tigers) and the eloquent refinement of the "War Eagle" battle cry by drunken frat boys into "War DAMN Eagle", which is still heartily endorsed to this day (last Auburn joke, I swear!).

Aubbie has a bunch of mascot brothers round the NCAA

The school has some interesting ties to the Civil War and Reconstruction, as the school's entire student body and faculty enlisted in the Confederacy at the advent of the war, effectively closing the school until 1866, with some of campus even serving as a Confederate training ground and hospital.

Auburn (the city) is the largest in eastern Alabama, and was initially inhabited by the Creek tribe.  After being settled by former Europeans, the town became quite attractive to families for the establishment of various primary schools and academies, and the town and its econony grew steadily until the Civil War.  After the Civil War, the town entered a pretty heavy, nearly-40 year depression (which also saw some ravaging fires of the downtown area) before becoming economically vibrant again at the turn of the 20th-Century.  This is similar to the depression that has plagued their football program since the end of the Pat Dye era (couldn't resist, I'm sorry).

Jokes and rivalries aside, I'm very excited about playing at Auburn.  It's our first big SEC school on the itinerary, and I got a  lot of friends down there.  Plus, with the heavy ties to Native American history in the school's culture, and the general interests of its student body, I think Genesis will be received pretty well.

A Genesis Found screens at Auburn this Thursday, October 30 at 6:00pm in the Haley Center room 2213.  For more info, check the our official site here.