The road to Beloit

I think I have finally recovered from the whirlwind of the Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF), where The Devil’s Tail played last weekend.

We got in the car Wednesday night around nine, and picked up Ryan Greig, our producer for the next feature project, Nothing To Declare. Rob Fulton, the only actor who has been in everything I’ve ever shot, and the lead in Devil’s Tail, was originally going to be doing the drive to Wisconsin with us, but booked a commercial shoot in Chile at the last moment. Now he was going to have to fly from Santiago to Madison and pray that his connections worked and he would make it to the festival in time for the awards. He was adamant that he be at the awards, because he said he wanted to see Samantha win for best screenplay, for which she was nominated. 

The next ten hours or so are a blur of white line fever and an insane number of toll booths. It was great having another driver in the car for a change, and I handed the wheel over to Ryan and fell unconscious immediately after entering Michigan. I woke up near Chicago around 3 am and took over while Samantha and Ryan fell asleep. I spent the next couple of hours conducting imaginary interviews with myself, something I often do while driving, in the hope of sounding coherent and intelligent should someone ever ask me a question about making movies. By sunrise I was sounding pretty suave, if I say so myself.

I looked over at Ryan, his handsome bald cranium bouncing gently against the window as he slept. I experienced a moment of dread as I realized that I hardly knew the guy, and here we were about to spend nearly five days in close quarters, either sharing a car or a hotel room. How long before we started to get on each other’s nerves? Or would one of us just suddenly decide that the other was a complete tool? I’d been down this road before, many times. But, you have to keep trying. Give people a chance to surprise you.

We finally arrived in Beloit, about three hours earlier than we had anticipated. It’s a very pretty little city of about 36,000. We were booked into the Beloit Inn, which is where the filmmakers’ hospitality suite is, i.e. free booze, coffee, breakfast and snacks, as well as a parade of press opportunities as reporters from local media set up one after another to interview festival participants.

I can’t say enough good things about this festival.

It was extremely well organized. The venues ranged from decent to very good. The organizers put money and effort into making sure even the ad hoc venues had good sound and picture. Help was never more than a phone call away. The attitude overall was very positive, with absolutely no whiff of cynicism from anyone involved. From the festival staff to the citizen on the street, everyone was great. I find it hard to believe as I write it, but here’s an example. Our group had to get from the awards ceremony to the hotel. I called Melinda Schumacher, the Artists’ Liason, and asked her for local transportation – in this case, a limo that they provide for filmmakers at the fest.

A Beloit local saw us waiting and offered us a ride. We took it and called off the limo. I just realized I never took a single limo ride because the locals kept taking it upon themselves to ferry the filmmakers around.

I know, I know, never get into cars with strangers.

But this is cheese country.

Rob Fulton, our lead actor, made it to the awards after 24 hours of travel just in time to see Samantha win for Best Screenplay. So here’s another great thing about BIFF: they have excellent taste.

This all happened within our first few hours in town, so we were on a very pleasant high for the rest of the festival.

 

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