A big GRACIAS to GEEKS comic shop for hosting our EL MUERTO Q&A at the Whittier Film Festival friday night!
Man, that was a fantastic evening. We had a near capacity crowd at the screening (I'd say about 85-90% full). Among the audience were some long-time friends from Whittier, one of my neighbors and some Friends from MySpace. But the overwhelming majority were people just curious to watch the film, and that's always great to see. I introduced the picture, sharing with the folks my own upbringing in Whittier and how the film actually came about. The screening was held in the upstairs ballroom of MEMORIES (my history with that particular building was previously posted about here), and I stayed to watch the first hour or so of the film with the audience. I never tire of experiencing the audience reaction to the movie.
The audience awaiting the film at MEMORIES
Some happy fans at the event.
I left the screening before it ended and caught up at dinner with Brian Cox, our screenwriter/director. Brian made a point of coming out from a busy schedule in Hollywood to attend the Q&A, knowing how special this night was for me. From Day One he's been a stand-up guy, and a real professional. I met him over 6 years ago, initially because of his interest in EL MUERTO as a property. In the ensuing years we made the film and formed a friendship. We were joined at the restaurant by Susan Rodgers, the film's Co-producer. Susan, who I've referred to as my 'big sister' on the film, hadn't had an opportunity to attend a festival with us, so I'm glad she made this one. She actually lived in Whittier for a year back in the 80s, so for her this was a little bit of a homecoming.
We made our way to GEEKS comic shop at about 9:15 and entered a room full of fans! Martin Espino, a musician who worked on the film, was providing some musical entertainment, playing the music he specializes in: pre-Columbian Mexican. GEEKS is a beautiful store, and for a comic book shop it's exceptionally classy, not one of the men's-club-house atmosphere comic stores used to be known for! I had lots of EL MUERTO artwork on display throughout the store, making the evening particularly memorable.
GEEKS before the Q&A.
Included among the exhibition was the costume I wore for my cameo in the movie. Hanging on the right is a great EL MUERTO painting by my friend Michael Aushenker (his artwork is included in the GALERIA DEL MUERTO Special Feature in the EL MUERTO DVD).
I also brought this collection of custom action figures made by other artists. The two 12" action figures in the back were made by a super EL MUERTO fan and good friend Jose Iturriaga. The the three figures in the front, from left to right, were customized by Melissa Daniels, Alex Montijo and Manny Elias. It's such a kick to recieve these from artists, and I'm honored that people would spend their time in creating these figures.
I customized one of the Whittier Film Festival posters with some El Muerto doodles...
The actual Q&A was wonderful. Brian, Susan, Martin and myself fielded questions for about an hour. I was of course asked about the inspiration for El Muerto, but also questions about my initial feelings about handing over my creation to a group of filmmakers (the answer, of course, was that the whole experience in working on the film was educational, involving and ultimately satisfying). But there were plenty of questions that were addressed by Brian and the others as well. One of the reasons I love seeing my fellow filmmakers attending these events is that they can see the impact that the film has on people. I hear it all the time, because I'm always in contact with fans. But for Susan and Brian, as they move onto their next film projects, they don't often get a chance to hear all the great comments from people who actually enjoyed the picture. There were plenty of autograph and photograph requests for all of us filmmakers, which was also great to see everyone participate in.
(l-r Martin Espino, me, Brian Cox and Susan Rodgers)
A surprise visitor to the event was a close friend of mine, Rhode Montijo. Rhode lives in Oakland, but was down in Bakersfield to speak to an elementary school. Even though Bakersfield was still 2 hours away from Whittier, he had told me he was going to try to attend. Well, when I walked into GEEKS, there he was! Rhode's been a great friend and we're each tremendous supporters of one another's work for the last 10 years. We used to exchange comments on each other's debut issues (he created a comic called PALBO'S INFERNO) and have been able to exhibit together at various shows over the years. Rhode actually painted an EL MUERTO portrait that I printed as the back cover to the KING SIZE EL MUERTO #1 (I told the audience that and sure enough, the guy had numerous requests for autographs that evening!). A good sport, a great artist, and a true friend.
How could the night have been better? Screening the movie in my own hometown. A Q&A inside a great comic book store? It was really cool when introducing the filmmakers to the audience at the shop. My own introduction was the long-winded "and I'm the creator of EL MUERTO, the Associate Producer of the film and the host of PLANET COMIC BOOK RADIO!". (Never pass up a chance at self-promotion!). I don't know if it's good or bad, but I'm getting a lot more comfortable talking with a mike in my hands! Nothing like a captive audience.....
But really, I continue to be extremely grateful for all that's happened to me as a result of starting the first Muerto comic back 10 years ago. At the same time, I feel there will be other things to both come from what I've created (or collaborated on) and new creations. In some ways, finally screening the film in my hometown is a completion of a huge circle begun back in the late 70s when I used to buy my early comics at BOOKLAND on Greenleaf. Back then, there were several used bookshops I would frequent on the weekend, looking through the piles of back issue comic books that they usually had a box or shelf reserved for. Just filling my collection with more books, and my head with dreams.
My friend Bert, who got posters and comics signed for her son. And me....dreaming...