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Austin After Dark. A fer-real blog entry…

Today, something different. I’m going to post a blog entry that is actually, well, a blog entry. That is, it isn’t going to be one of my usual political rants in which I natter on about how Trump is the devil incarnate and the Republican Party has turned into a cesspool of corruption and proto-Fascism. Which is true. But I’m not going to do that today.


I am actually going to write about something which is really happening in my life.


I know. I know. Bizarre isn’t?


But it’s true.



Yep. That's me.


Actually if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve already read most of this, but here goes any way. Specifically, here’s what I posted on 19 May, 2021:


As some of you know, one of my schticks is that I do short, experimental videos, mostly using some form of limited animation. I enter them in film festivals and, sometimes, get a laurel or two.


Well, something new has arisen. One of my little efforts, “Love In A Time Of Covid #3” was accepted to the Austin After Dark Film Festival. That’s not unusual. I’ve had lots of videos get accepted to competitions.


But…this one is being shown with a bunch of others at an Austin-area theater on Sunday [18 May, 2021]. And, gulp, yours truly is going to be there.


Oh, it won’t be anything special. I will just sit in an audience of a bunch of other (hopefully) vaccinated and masked participants while our various efforts appear on the screen. It’s not like I’m going to be any particular object of attention. Though, it is the very first time I have attended a film fest where I had an entry in competition.


But, you know what? I’m a little anxious.


Why? you ask. Because, I answer, I know what’s coming. Most of the participants at these kind of things are young. I mean, really young. I mean really, really young.


So I’m going to be the only one there with white hair.


In fact, I may be the only one there who has ever known a year that didn’t begin with a “2.”


There is something terrifying in that.


Wish me luck, everyone.


Cheers


*


That’s what I wrote. In retrospect, I realize it was kind of embarrassing to admit in public that I was suffering from a sort of free floating anxiety about the contest. But, I was. And it really did have to do with my age.


Here’s why. A film festival is a networking event. People who are seeking an entry into the entertainment world frequently go to them to, well, meet other filmmakers…and, maybe, discover an avenue into Hollywood, or wherever. In other words, many of them are job hunting.


And the thing of it is, I’m not really in a place to do that. Entertainment is sort of like the law or medicine. There are more people who want to be doctors and lawyers than there are places for them to be doctors and lawyers. Just so, there aren’t many available slots open to be the next world-famous film auteur. That’s true even in this remarkable age, when streaming and YouTube have vastly increased the size of the market—though, by the way, if you have serious technical skills, particularly CGI, then you have a better shot than otherwise.


But what this all means is that very often, getting into the film and video industry is a young person’s game. You start with some family connections if you’ve got any, then you go to film school, then you do some sort of pieces, then you go to go to film fests…and you network like crazy. And, eventually, with luck and pluck, particularly luck, one day, the door opens, and you’re in. At least for a while.


Okay, I’m not sure I would have been happy doing that sort of thing even when I was 20 (glad-handing makes me cringe), and, besides, I’m not twenty at the moment. Haven’t been for quite a while. Or, well, to put it another way, I flat out don’t have the years, and the time, and energy, to pay the necessary dues. So, I’m probably never getting a job in the film biz.


Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sure I want a job in the film industry. And I won’t give up doing my videos. And, who knows, maybe there will be a miracle. Maybe one of my video efforts will hit the big time. Maybe I’ll turn one of them into an NFT and sell it for a cool $50K. Why not? Stranger things have happened.


But, even so, it was difficult for me to attend this event knowing all of that.


For one thing it reminded me a little too much of the disastrous time I attempted to enter another limited-entry profession, the academy, when I was 50.


As I have said before, that decidedly did not go well.



*



Sunday morning duly came, and we found ourselves confronting a cloudy day. Our part of Texas has been dark and dreary these last few weeks, with a lot of rain. Apparently making up for last year’s drought, the skies have been opening up quite regularly of late. Saturday I went for a walk, and was surprised by a cloudburst. By the time I got home, I was absolutely soaked. My only consolation is that my phone had somehow not gotten wet.


But, anyway, Sunday was gray. The day went quickly, and then about 1pm we headed off toward Austin. The Festival was at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Lakeline. The Drafthouse is a chain of rather cool cinemas. It is of the sort where you can watch a movie and also order a meal and a drink and they will deliver it right to your seat. And when I say a meal, I don’t mean a hot dog and a soda. I mean full-fledged meals—burgers, sandwiches, pizza, brunch specials, pub food, beer, and cocktails. The fact that I’m surprised by that probably also shows my age.


But the exciting part came before we got to the Drafthouse. We were driving down the highway — I-35, to be precise, which is always exciting because traffic here is brutal. There are too many people, and way too many cars, for far too few roads.


Then…all of a sudden…


The sky just opened up and poured. I mean, it rained, and rained, and rained! It was like nothing I’d seen since Boston. The roads were flooding. Cars and trucks were skidding here and there. We’d already been in bumper to bumper traffic, and now…it came to a complete halt.


I figured we’d miss the Festival. But that was okay. Right then, I just wanted to survive. Texans are aggressive drivers at the best of times, and they’re not used to poor road conditions. James McMurtry, a life-time Texan himself, has a line in one of his songs, “Holiday,” that goes, “It’s damn near as deadly as Texans on ice.” Which is oh-so-true. And you know what? They’re not much better on wet roads. At least three times, cars roared past me and other cars with a fine display of contempt for our caution, and then nearly hydroplaned off into infinity.


Y0u know, I don’t want to die, period. But getting scragged by a dumb shit in a BMW or a jacked up luxury pick-up who’s too stupid to slow down in a flood zone would be uniquely a pain in the posthumous posterior.


*


Finally, we made our way onto TX-45…and…and…


The sky cleared. Amazingly, the sun broke out and the world was bright and new.


Texas…


Where the weather and drivers are equally unpredictable.


*


Later I told Martha that it was…uh… interesting. After the rain storm, my tension …the anxiety I felt…was gone.


I don’t believe in precognition or anything like that. (Or, if it exists, then I don’t have it.) But, sometimes, I do get these strange moments of …I don’t know. Call it premonition. I feel something awful or at least very stressful is going to happen, and I associate it with one event. Then it turns out that the event itself is fine, but getting there, or something that happens afterwards, is perfectly dreadful.


And the flooding, and the streets, and high the speed drivers courting death, all qualified as dreadful by my lights, or they’ll do until a full-fledged fiasco comes along.



I'm the short one.




To my utter amazement, we arrived at the Alamo Drafthouse with time to spare. We entered, presented our tickets, and looked around. Among other interesting things, we discovered this particular Drafthouse has a lobby much decorated with Planet Of The Apes paraphernalia. There is even a huge statue of one of the learned orangutans from the movie in the lobby. I posed with it while Martha snapped a picture. I’ll try to re-post it here. I’m the smaller one. With slightly less hair.


We went to the bathroom, a decided necessity after our rain soaked adventures. Martha emerged from the ladies a moment later with a wry smile on her face. “You’ll be lucky if you’re just forty years older than the people here,” she said. Some of the other women in the bathroom had been barely out of their teens. “Oh, Goody,” I replied.


We then made our way down the hall and checked in at a desk. We were directed into one of the theaters where the other attendees were “networking” before the event. I took a deep breath, and we entered.


There was a goodly sized crowd present. I was surprised and pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one there of, as they delicately say, “a certain age.” Most of the attendees were, indeed, far younger than I was, and many were, indeed, in their 20s, but there were several folks in their 30s, plus some 40-somethings, and I even spotted a few other gray heads.


Martha and I had our pictures taken with the Festival organizers, a very pleasant fellow by the name of Mikel Fair, and then we had a few conversations with other filmmakers. (Yes, I guess you could say I networked.) After that, the crowd dispersed to the various theaters where the videos would be shown.


We even ordered something to drink. Martha had a Margarita. I got an Old Fashioned. We split an enormous bowl of popcorn. The houselights dimmed, the screen was full of videos (one of which was mine)…


And all was right with the world.



And all was right with the world.




And that was Sunday. That night I posted the following to Facebook:



Well, it’s over. I have officially attended the Austin After Dark Film Fest, and surprisingly enough, it went very well. Everyone was quite welcoming. I was, probably, the oldest filmmaker present, but a couple of folks came in a near second, so I didn’t feel quite as out of place. My little effort, “Love In A Time Of Covid #3” looked great on a big screen, and it even got a nice round of polite applause. Maybe not raucous, shake-the-rafters applause, but at least nobody snored, which I’ll take as a win.


Martha and I actually had a really good time. And I guess I’ll try to attend a few more such events, at least if they’re not too far away. (Austin, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, even Boston…fine. But I draw the line at Bulgaria. Sorry, Sofia. I know you were counting on it.)


Oh, and I also got a cool certificate and a badge.


I mean, really, what more could you ask?



And, well, really, I was being flip, but…but…what more could you ask?


I took real satisfaction in being at the Festival. I took real pleasure in being given my little certificate. I enjoyed meeting people there. I enjoyed hearing about their films and their aspirations.


And if I never achieve…well…the breakthrough…if I don’t sell a video as an NFT for a cool fifty grand, or whatever…


Honestly, so what?


I had the pleasure of this day, and I will have probably have many others like it.


And not even the fiercest rain, even on the highways of Austin…


Can wash that away.


*


Until next time…


Onward and Upward.


~mjt



*


Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker


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