Arizona Diaries: Screening Night / by Laurence Fuller

Night of the screening

Lisa Goodman on the left (plays my mother in the film), myself in the middle, director Dustin Cook on the right

Lisa Goodman on the left (plays my mother in the film), myself in the middle, director Dustin Cook on the right

Waking up we immediately get it a healthy dose of Blue Bottle coffee in our faces, honestly it's delicious. The Arizona sun crackles off the pavement and the skin, the city glares back as you peer down its streets. The neon of "The Screening Room" speaks as a beacon to a world outside, a world beyond, a world of dreams. I love the cinema, the smell of popcorn, the promise of adventure. Everyone who's drawn to film deep down is really just a big kid looking for an adventure. As I look at the photo of the three of us before the screening of our film, I see three big kids, a little nervous because of our vulnerable position of presenting our work and in that our true selves in front of a room full of strangers, and yet we're proud of what we've created together and are looking forward to welcoming others into it.

And the lights go down

And the lights go down

The Anniversary

"David and Meryl, two troubled parents, quarrel on the eve of an important anniversary. After months of severe strain on their relationship, Meryl makes a final attempt to connect with her wayward husband."

 

Moving Day

"Carrie's illness has come back strong, and now she and Pete are separating. Her friends are confused and blame Pete, but is it really that simple? Is this a mutual separation, or is Pete kicking her out? Today is moving day. While everyone else struggles with their decision to part ways, Pete struggles with a secret burden that only he can carry."

Falling To Pieces

 "Cassandra had no idea that her husband Eddie had checked the organ donation box on his driver's license. And when he suddenly died, she was left with nothing but a list of his recipients. Now, before packing up and moving out of their house, Cassandra is determined to meet every one of them. Each encounter proves more disastrous than the last, and as the list grows shorter, so do her odds of finding some kind of meaning in this loss. But if she can't move on, she might just fall apart.

Mother & Brother

"Two Brothers are burdened with the care of their abusive mother. On his wedding day, Younger chooses to confront the guilt haunting their lives and carry a new burden alone."

Director Dustin Cook's Statement:

"Family has intrinsic responsibilities, emotions and complications. It creates us, drives us and provides the criteria for which we appraise the world. I wanted create an experience in which the characters' guilt is shared and their decisions ultimately entice a judgment." - Click here to read more about the film

Q & A 

One perceptive question in particularly asked by Festival programmer Giulio Scalinger still lingers in my mind.

What did your character go on to do after this experience?

At the time my answer was 'I personalized it towards my own hopes and dreams, so really it should be whatever your hopes and dreams are.' This made me consider a recent Christoph Waltz interview for Big Eyes where he quotes Harrison Ford 'My job as an actor is not to show you how close I am to the character, my job as an actor is to show you how close you are to the character'.

Immediately after answering the question I felt there was something unsatisfying about my answer, although I knew it to be true and compassionate to those who had just experienced the film for themselves. It's interesting that some people want definite answer to the meanings behind the images, what is ticking behind the eyes and others want to be left to form their own impressions. If someone finds something in a film that inspires them, who am I to take that away from them by asserting a contradicting idea. Ultimately I feel the audiences perception of the film is more important than anything I could say about it, on the other hand I could illuminate ambiguities in a different way that helps them think about the film and possibly a moment in their lives through the frame of that film, just a different way of looking at it. Daniel Kunitz in the editorial of Modern Painters this month said: "Some people seek art that confirms their convictions about it, others seek art that challenges their convictions" I feel that film is much the same.

The question makes me consider the fact that talking about your work is a whole other thing to actually doing the work. Being too literal about what I was actually thinking and feeling in that moment on screen would be too strange to communicate verbally.

I also remember saying there's actually a very positive message in this film, despite its darkness, and in part because of its darkness. It's about standing on your own, moving on from things that pull you down without giving back, even from the people you love. That's the strength of the human spirit, the will to live. Which is an assertion about the film granted, but an unobvious aspect of this film in particular.

Dinner

After the screening we went to the resteraunt across the road where I was taking in the history of disco and funk music over a burger as director Mark Moormann recounted his experience and research about the documentary that screened before the shorts called The Record Man

"Before there was a "music business" there was Henry Stone. From distributing records out of his '48 Packard to establishing Miami's TK Records as the largest independent label of the 1970s, Henry had an ear for hits. His funky eight-track studio and chart topping family of artists including KC and the Sunshine Band, led to the original Miami Sound and birth of Disco. When his empires collapsed on a baseball field in Chicago in 1979, Henry didn't miss a beat launching Miami Freestyle. Through Henry we witness the dramatic arc of the record business from inception through the digital age. With photographs unearthed after 40 years, The Record Man captures forgotten musical history."

The guy was a music business crook who ripped off artists and in the end got ripped off himself, but kept surviving and got away with it all by being up front and good natured about what he was doing. It was almost as if understanding that the music business is corrupt is a pre-requisit to understanding this movie. Although you can't help but be charmed by the man who helped build a movement in music history, survived its vicissitudes and still maintained up until his death last year at the age of 93, that he was on the look out for a hit record.

At the end of the night after the other directors had gone home I sat with Dustin and Giulio as we closed out the bar discussing the nature of Film Festivals, amazingly every film that is submitted to Arizona Film Festival gets watched all the way through, that's around 5,000 

As we parted ways, we lit cigars, Dustin was pleased that my Girlfriend and I were relatable as Los Angelens, I quoted Brando: "An actor's a guy who if you ain't talking about him, he ain't listening". We raised our cigars in the air, as Dustin walked East and I West, salut and see you at the next one my friend.

Love Is Now

There is something serindipedous to the fact that my friend and colleague Jim Lounsbury has his debut feature screening at Arizona Film Festival at the end of the week. Jim directed my first ever film Possession(s) we wrote the film together, I raised the cash and then it got picked up for TV. Although our paths have taken us to working on opposite ends of the globe, Jim in Australia and myself in Los Angeles, we find ourselves in the same line up once more. Look out for my friend Jim Lounsbury's film Love Is Now

"Love is Now is a mysterious drama chronicling a summer of love for experienced photographer Audrey and aspiring snapper Dean. Propelled by Audrey's free spirit, the couple embarks on a formative adventure that proves too good to be true when Audrey goes missing."

 

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