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.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Being Remote is still Being There

I've made it a point to do everything in my power, throughout this tour, to make it to every venue I have scheduled.  No matter how far, how poorly prepared, or how ultimately impractical, if a school or a school's representative took some of their personal time to give me an opportunity and set up a screening for me, I feel highly obligated to keep my promise and make the trip.  Not that I should be congratulated for this, or anything-- this is our arrangement.  But it would certainly be easier just to have the film tour itself, and kinda take myself out of the equation, especially given the resources I have to work with.

"Alderaan???  I'm not going to Alderaan!"
Regardless, with a grassroots approach to distribution, I've learned it's pretty much an essential to have folks associate your ugly mug with your work by meeting you in person.  Seems to be incentive, and seems to help make the experience stick once you're gone.  Ultimately, if you're taking a non-traditional approach with your media distribution, of whatever it is, well, you're kinda asking folks to come out of their comfort zone-- to try and consume media in a way they don't generally consume it.  So, really the only way to convince folks that such a step is worth their time is to show up yourself-- not just because it shows it's at least worth your time-- but because it gives them an opportunity they don't usually have-- to meet and greet with one of the minds behind the constructed conversation you're presenting.

I'm by no means breaking ground here-- but still, nice to remind yourself why you're doing it, from time to time.

Anyway, this whole setup is all just a means, I suppose, of getting around to the fact that, due to some circumstances beyond my control, I wasn't able to attend my fifteenth screening at the University of Arkansas.

This wasn't the only screening I've missed-- way back in September I missed what was our largest screening at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi.

Frankly, I don't really like touring.  It's not very fun, I'm not much of a salesmen, it's usually not too rewarding, and I'm tired of watching the film.  And yeah, a 10 hour drive to Fayetteville wasn't really something I was looking forward to.  But I hate missed opportunities-- that's the worst-- getting a great opportunity like a screening at a major university and then feeling like, when the crunch time came, you weren't able to make the right decisions, the right calls, to get as much out of the opportunity as possible.

The Romanticized Grind
 But there was a death in the family, and there was no way I could make the screening, and no way the screening date could be changed.

But that didn't necessarily mean I was going to have to chalk this screening off as a missed opportunity.

Unlike the circumstances that forced me to miss the PRCC screening, I knew for a few days a head of time that making the Arkansas screening wasn't in the cards.  Again, not wanting to miss an opportunity (especially not when the Arkansas screening was looking like it was going to be the Tour's last) I decided to see if my contact and I could work something out where I could do a remote Q&A, either via phone or via web cam or something similarly slick and "High Tech".

Luckily, my contact was the head media librarian, and she was a very gracious person, and was all in (as Auburn fans say) to help me coordinate a Rube Goldberg-esque construct to facilitate a remote Q&A.

We couldn't really do a straight web cam to web cam broadcast via Skype, so we decided, instead, to have her and the audience communicate with me via speaker phone, while I answered the questions over a live broadcast feed via Ustream

The concept seemed pretty solid, actually, and it all worked in theory.  Plus, it kinda opened up new opportunities for us-- since the Q&A would be streaming live to a public channel, anyone with an internet connection could tune in.  So, now it wasn't just keeping me from missing an opportunity-- it was generating new ones.

The only real problem, going in, was that I'd never done a live web broadcast via Ustream before, and I didn't own a web cam.  But it couldn't be that big of a deal, right?!

To complicate matters more, I've yet to get internet at my new humble abode, so in order to do the stream I had to set up shop at my folks' house-- coulda been worse, coulda had to use McDonald's WiFi or something-- but halfway-hacking a bunch of new technology using a Windows laptop not exactly optimized to my needs didn't make things easier.

"I am speaking Tech-nol-a-gy."
I'll spare you all the little glitches we ran into in our "rehearsal" prior to the screening, but we eventually got it somewhat working, despite my webcam's penchant for freezing video and the Windows Laptop being anything but an efficient, reliable machine.

So, after probably the greatest two hours I've ever spent while waiting on this damn movie to finish (it was the first day of March Madness, after all) I started re-prepping everything for the broadcast.  And, of course, as these things always go, the computer and/or web cam took turns freezing and resetting in the minutes leading into go time, extending even on into it.

There's this kinda panic you feel when things don't go as they should with time sensitive events-- you kinda amp everything in your mind and you fear that if things don't happen on cue, all existence will invert itself and spill off the edge of the film strip.  It's why stage managers are so impractical and have such thin nerves; why Assistant Directors tend to be jerks; and why I'll never work for local news.  As silly as it is-- it's entertainment for crying out loud-- that panic is there and it's as enveloping and blinding as the panic felt in any great personal catastrophe, like losing a lot money or a limb.  It so deafens your objectivity that you forget what it really is-- a play, or a film, or a news broadcast.  Or a Ustream Q&A with a bunch of kids in Arkansas.

This is for my wife.
So, about 9:10 I finally got a phone call, and having just restarted the Windows Laptop again-- did I mention it was Windows?-- we decided to go ahead and start the Q&A via phone while I continued to try and get the stream working.

A little while ago I blogged* about an interview I did over the air in South Carolina while I was at work, and how freaking scattered brained I can be when I'm partially distracted (which, if you ask my wife, is virtually all the time... j/k Peyt).  (*Check out the Sunday, Nov. 28 entry  for Lee's Projectin' Adv.-- Stan)

Luckily this night was a little different and I actually felt I did a decent job fielding questions while messing with peripheral annoyances. After the first three or so questions, the stream was up.

In true half-assed prepped fashion, about halfway in the video froze, so we did the rest of the Q&A via audio only (while I'm sure a zinger of a photo of my frozen face, jaw half-cocked and jutting teeth pix-elated and distorted in grotesque fashion lagged on the screen in Fayetteville the remainder of the evening).

 I'll let what I have recorded of the Q&A speak for itself, but overall, really great questions.  I hate I wasn't able to make it out there to meet some of these guys-- sounds like we got some real perceptive film students out there.  I do apologize for committing the cardinal  sin and not remembering to repeat back the student's questions for the stream, but I think you can get the gist.

We also got some nice press out of it, from Arkansas' school paper.  Here's the link.

Despite the glitches, I think, overall, the screening and Q&A went as well as they could, and I was spared that awful feeling that's associated with missing an opportunity.  So, at least to my own peace of mind, me not being there in person didn't affect the film's impact or the opportunity of the screening.  Maybe I shoulda thought of this remote stuff back in July.

Thanks to my contact, everyone who made it out despite my absence, and be expecting your promo DVDs in the mail.