About an hour north of Los Angeles lies Oxnard, and this year they hosted their 10th Annual Independent Film Festival. EL MUERTO was chosen (um, no pun intended for those who've seen the film!) as the opening night film and it was my honor to attend the screening. They even had a red carpet leading into the theatre!
Also attending the festival was my friend Martin Espino, who worked on the film as well. Here he's being interviewed outside the theatre by some local press. (Martin's the gent wearing the suave hat)
Martin worked with our composer Tony Humeke and director Brian Cox on the film's unique pre-Columbian sounds. Martin handcrafs his own instruments, just as they were created by the ancient Mexicans hundreds of years ago. And he's also fluent in the Aztec toungue, Nahuatl. The various chants you hear in the film come from Martin, as well as a jaguar growl or two! He's a wonderful artist, an inspiring person, and most important that night, a heck of a lot of fun to be around.
One great thing about attending the festivals is actually meeting fans of the movie. One such fan was this wonderful lady, Terry, who drove out from a neighboring city to catch the movie. Martin took this picture, and for good luck made sure to include the cash machine in the shot! Hmmmm..... Hope the gods were watching!
The screening was held in the theatre where DRAGON WARS was playing, so for the 7 o'clock showing at least, El Muerto slew the dragons! There was a full audience when I entered the theatre, represented by a good cross section of people. Men and women, old and young. Earlier, I had seem some younger kids outside checking out the poster, and was glad to see them inside awaiting the movie.
Originally I had told Martin that we should stick around for the opening, then maybe we could dart out and grab some margaritas, returing back in time for the Q&A. However, Martin and I were having such a great time sharing our individual commentary with one another during certain scenes that we ended up staying for the whole movie! Just as well, because I really enjoy hearing the audiences reactions to the film. And sometimes I get so wrapped up in how beautifully the film was made I just want to see the whole thing through.
Afterwards was very enjoyable as well. Most of the people who watched the film stayed for the Q&A. The usual questions such as my inspiration for the comic were asked, but people were also keen on the story elements in the film and the use of symbolism evident in the picture. This crowd, largley Latino, really responded to the film in ways that only they can. It was obvious to me that these folks were very much into the mythology as well as the culture El Muerto came from. Their support of the film only reinforced what I've believed all along in the character and the story. Sure, you want to appeal to the mainstream, at least as far as a commercial enterprise like a film is concerned, but there will always be certain groups that will be the core support for whatever your endeavor might be.
Following the Q&A we all headed up the block for a real nice after-party held in a restaurant. When I got there, one of the organizers announced me and to my surprise there was a real nice round of applause from the seated guests! It's moments like this that can't be measured with any amount of ticket or DVD sales.
Another moment that's hard to put a price on is feeling like a movie star surrounded by pretty ladies like these!
Before I had arrived at the restaurant, I had called my girlfriend to let her know how things were progressing. One of the last thing she told me was "Well, go enjoy yourself and have fun signing b**b**s!" To which I responded "Aw, c'mon sweetie, ya know I wouldn't do that!". However, I was asked by one of the gals to sign her T-Shirt, so I figured I better do my part as Associate Producer of the film and oblige!
The another lovely Latina asked me to sign her festival badge. Much obliged. Looking at this pic, I think we could have both used a cigarette afterwards! (and I don't even smoke!!)
Next thing I know, they all want their badges signed. I love the movie biz!
The food was very good, served buffet style. And it was nice to be able to chat with the audience members on a more personal basis. I was even introduced to one of the local Councilmen when he stopped by to visit the party. At one point, trying to give a photographer from the local paper a good photo op, I started drawing on the table top (don't worry, that's a paper table mat!).
Julio Alcala, who works as one of the festival programmers is an amicable guy. Very accomodating to his guest, and engaging to talk to about the independent film biz, as well at the Chicano arts scene. Here's a shot of he and I, and a friendly guest, kicking back at the bar.
This young man, Graciel, said he was really moved by the film. I stopped by his table and we discussed some more of his questions about the film and Mexican culture in general. He was very proud of his Mayan roots and was happy with this drawing I made for him (from another one of the table coverings!).
The gentleman in the pink shirt is originally from Mexico and he was very keen on the Aztec prophesies and themes of sacrifice portrayed in the film. He said he was grateful to see Aztec mythology portrayed in a film. I had a few comics on me so I made sure he got a signed copy.
I was asked to do another interview at the restaurant, for which I was more than happy to do. Veronica, the delightful young reporter from a local college television show, was a little nervous as she said this was her first time. Resisting the obivous joke, I told her that we would do just fine. "I'm an old pro at this," I reasurred her, hoping it would turn out to be the case! She did fine though. I'd sure like to see a lot more of her on TV!
The staff of the Oxnard Independent Film Festival put on a wonderful event, and I made sure to let them know. They themselves started from humble roots 10 years ago (their first festival was held in someone's garage!) and now they were celebrating their 10th year. It's been about 10 years since I first published El Muerto so I guess it was some type of fate that brought us together to show EL MUERTO as the opening night film to this year's festival. When you're working in your chosen medium as an independent, wether it's film, music, comics or whatever, you've got every imaginable obstacle in your way. Sometimes you don't 'make it', but if you keep slugging away, against all the obstacles, critics, setbacks, maybe even your own insecurites, you just might make the mountaintop you were eyeing years ago.
Maybe someday you'll really get lucky and get rich while doing it! But the journey, as they say, has been an enriching experience for me since day one.