Road Stories: The Film Screening Q&A

Several years ago, I made a Surrealist short film that people seemed to like — it won some awards at film festivals, etc., and led to a fair amount of paying work, so (locally, anyway), some people took me to be a successful independent filmmaker.  I was asked to screen the film and do a Q&A afterward for a non-profit that sponsored local, usually small-town, screenings and film education programs in various communities, and I agreed.

So I pack up the car, DVD screener in hand, and drive most of the way to Louisiana for the Q&A in Beaumont, Texas.  The local community college film/media program is co-sponsoring it in some way, and the screening takes place essentially in the back storage room of an art gallery or pottery studio of some kind located in this odd, dark part of town with maybe a single streetlight for several blocks around.

I meet the guy whose event it is, and he’s great, very passionate for helping local filmmakers, and it’s a really cool night.  There’s maybe 20 people there, including several local kids who had made their own movies (I remember a vampire short and a music video) and were getting to screen them in front of an audience for the first time.  Then they screen my film last, introduce me, and invite me up to the front to field questions…

…where I discover that a guy sitting in the front row has no face.  And I mean that literally.  He has no face.  Just eyes, and then a flat expanse of skin, and a small slit for a mouth.

George Carlin had a bit about going to shake a guy’s hand, and then realizing that the person doesn’t have a complete hand.  As much as you want to let go, you have to keep shaking hands and pretend like it feels great.  Very similar situation.  The guy at the screening was very nice and everything, and I remain completely impressed that despite whatever accident or anomaly had resulted in his condition he was still out and about and participating in community events.  But I remember that night most for the stunning moment when I walked up to the front of the room, and for a brief second, was utterly convinced that I was having some kind of very odd, very vivid dream.

Because when I went to go answer questions about my Surrealist short film, there was a guy sitting three feet away from me that had no face.

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Road Stories: The Russian Dude

After a somewhat crappy show at the Pig ‘N Whistle in Hollywood, I went to the bar and got a beer.  Standing beside the bar, a guy with a heavy Russian accent, a purple shirt unbuttoned to his stomach, and a heavy gold chain complimented our set and I thanked him, then went to watch the next act, Olivia May.

After Olivia’s set, I went out to the balcony/stairs to get some air, and the Russian Dude followed. He told me “I like your drummer. He knows jazz. I like the jazz. I play the jazz. All my life.  Sorry for my English.”  Dude was a drummer, I also was a drummer for many, many years, and I told him so. “This is cause for celebrate. You come. You drink,” he tells me.  We go back to the bar, and he tells the bartender to give me anything I want, on him. I get another beer, and Russian Dude says “Also for this guy and his girlfriend.” He points to Olivia and her boyfriend.  “Also this guy, and…her.”  He picked two others at random, and bought us all drinks.

Talk returns to drumming.  “I play anything. I play seven, nine, eleven. Anything.” These are complicated mixed-time signature patterns that are beyond me.  I tell him I’m impressed, and he says “You want see six? I show you six,” and proceeds to bang out this really stunning pattern on the edge of the bar with his palms.  We head back out to the balcony, myself, Russian Dude, and Olivia and her small entourage — six or seven of us total.  Russian Dude says “Who wants to hear great, amazing music? Complex, great music, two minutes.” Everyone nods and says sure, and he says “You come,” and heads down to the parking lot below.

I follow, and look behind me to realize I’m the only one.  Everyone else had just been smiling and nodding at the foreign guy, not having any idea what he was saying.  So it’s me and Russian Dude, and he unlocks his S-Class Mercedes and climbs in. Knowing this is the part of the story where I will probably get killed, I get in the passenger’s side, leave the door open, and keep one foot on the pavement.

Dude cranks up the car, fires up the stereo, and plays me…Iron Maiden.  As loud as his car can manage.  Which is goddamn loud.

We went back up to join the others, Russian Dude bought us all another round, and we held up our glasses and said thank you, to which he replied “Thank you for America.”  Olivia asked him what he did, and he politely shook his head and said “No.”

Thank you, Russian Dude.  For the drinks, your generosity, your absolutely unique spirit, and for turning a lackluster night into an awesome one by giving me this story.