I have strange fingers. I really do. They never work on the fingerprinting machine that takes all your prints as you enter the USA. I am looked at with a great deal of suspicion and my heart pounds. Just never make a joke about shaving the ends of your fingers as I once did. I was taken into a room. I thought I would never come out. Anyway now I’m here at SXSW in Austin Texas, with my producer Cairo Cannon, and our film Dreams Of A Life. If you haven’t heard about the film yet it is a quest to create a legacy for Joyce Vincent, who lay undiscovered for nearly three years after her death at thirty-eight years old.
One of Joyce’s old school friends contacted me today and said- “Joyce has taken you out to America. Bless her”. And so she has. I’m thinking a lot about Joyce while I’m here- I’m catching people in the crowds who resemble her, and I really wish Joyce was still around.
Four days have passed in a blur of lines (it’s a myth that people don’t queue in the States- they just call it “a line” instead) and figuring out the systems of badges and tickets. The weather has gone from raining all the time and resembling my hometown Manchester, to what are now officially sunny days (with only some threats of thunderstorms). There are so many screenings, so many events and talks my brain is reeling. My hands are sticky all the time from free food in bowls dotted about wherever I go. I no longer have to wear my free give away rain-protecting poncho – which is a relief, but it did at least protect my clothes from the food splashes.
I am currently sitting on a hotel bed writing this waiting to do a press interview at 3pm with Film International. I have done quite a bit of press since I’ve been here- which sometimes involves holding up some kind of product or standing in front of a backdrop that is advertising something or other. It feels very American. One of the interviews I did was with Vladimir Radovanov & Ondi Timoner for BYOD on The Lip TV. Ondi made Dig, one of my favourite films, it’s about two bands- The Brian Jonestone Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. If you’ve never seen Dig- do!
Our first screening of Dreams of a Life was extra special. Joyce’s friend Judy came to see the film for the first time with her husband. It was a powerful experience knowing that as we premiered the film in the USA Judy would be there- a very real and tangible link to Joyce.
A great deal of time was spent on warning the audience not to speak or text during the film. But it seems that nobody here can go without food for ninety minutes as menus were provided, orders were placed, and a steady array of serving staff, bowed over to avoid blocking the film as it unfolded on the screen, arrived. As it was a full house, an endless stream of dishes arrived, and it seemed to me (hyper sensitive filmmaker) almost everyone in the cinema had ordered something. In addition to the extensive menu there was a short menu with dishes named after featured SXSW films- including “Dollhouse Suicide” – which turned out to be “every drink on the fountain- twice” and “Epic Meal Time Candy Sushi” Don’t ask. A member of the audience reassured me afterwards that it hadn’t been distracting at all- so I felt better.
The reception for the film was intelligent, caring, thoughtful and respectful. The Q&A afterwards was with filmmaker Matt Harlock and he did a lovely job of leading the discussion and opening it up to the audience. Our second screening and Q&A is tomorrow.
Tonight Cairo, Andy the CEO of our UK distributor Dogwoof and I are going to meet someone who lives in Austin but happened to see Dreams Of A Life in London when he was visiting. He got in touch when he saw the film was playing in his hometown. He is driving us out to some restaurant by a lake for dinner. I imagine and hope he will expand on the story he told me about how Dreams of a Life caused him to trace and reunite with his old school football team. I promise to report back…