One month has nearly passed since the first-ever Canted Angle Film Festival! It's been about a month since I've been able to speak of the festival at length, and I'm aware currently this article feels a modicum of force coming from my fingertips. Arting is hard, y'all. For me, film, text, and painting art are my called-to mediums, though I never give my time to painting. I've got an itch to do music, but I don't have any discernible skill there yet.
I want nothing more than to create for others art that pleases me. Creating art wipes me out, to be honest, both emotionally and physically. I'm beginning to notice a pattern in needing to take a rough-estimate three weeks off after a project. I've been meaning to write this retrospective for the better part of that month, and at least I have now, I suppose. Let's jump in briefly.
I don't always lead according to the standards I set. I fail often. I don't speak of my role as a leader to brag, though I do have immense pride for people who dedicate their lives to my work, be it short movies, film festivals, and other projects I have going.
Without my friends, I do not exist as a film director. Without the help of some crazy talented people, I would hardly be a film festival director. Eleven people cleaned an entire theater for four hours straight and are owed, in great amounts, a friendship from me that shows my loyalty, care, and compassion for their lives and workloads.
If they'd charged me for their cleaning services, I'd have been indebted $319, per American minimum wage of $7.25/hr. I value my friends, and the work they put into the theater, the same as I value my cinematography, at a varying rate that begins at $100/hr. I'd be indebted to them $4,400 by the end of their work cycle, and that was before they dedicated a further 4 hours to work the festival, as well as the final hour, when they cleaned the entire theater again.
Without these people, my work would not exist. Full stop. I have two hands, two legs, and I'm blessed to be whole. And, even being able-bodied, I'd still have never accomplished what I have in the last two months without the volunteer staff. They are people I consider my family. The Canted Angle Film Fest wouldn't have happened. I was strung out, stressed, spread thin. I didn't have too much to do, but I had enough in every direction that I often felt out of control, and would end up nearly comatose, managing to get nothing done.
However, I got what I needed done. I readied the movies we selected. I worked with one of the directors of one of the shorts we were showing and managed to help him get himself to Harrison, Arkansas safely, via bus, from Omaha, Nebraska, so he could see the debut of his first short film, at the first short film festival that had ever selected him. CAFF now holds that distinction in high regard!
This filmmaker is an amazingly talented man, and I'm sure we'll feature his films in the future. I invited him on stage to discuss his film for a few moments. I didn't want to put him on the spot, but if he'd wanted to speak about his movie, I gave him the platform to do so. He accepted and gave us his perspective as a new filmmaker, and dedicated the film to his grandfather.
Later in the the show, I had a moment planned where I spoke about the difference between live theater and film theater. In this conversation, I had a surprise for the audience. My crew threw paper planes off of the balcony of the theater and into the small crowd, as a way of symbolizing the spectacle and participatory qualities of live theater. The same wonder we feel in film via spectacle is the same feeling we have during enrichment moments like this is theater. They are different, radically, and in a way, exactly the same.
I shared as much of myself as I could without turning it into the "Jed Show", which I hope I accomplished. I have a lot to say about the world; sometimes, my perspective can feel arresting. I tried to balance my talking by showcasing my perspective of the films we watched, and why film is important to me. I have a lot of hope that my perspective was received. I think it was, and I will proceed with cautious optimism.
The show was dictated through eight blocks, each with their own name. The films within those blocks were specifically catered to the name of the blocks. My favorite block, and the first that I'd come up with during the show's inception, was a block titled "Caulrophobia: M.C.L." For those that don't know, "caulrophobia" is the fear of clowns. The acronym? The acronym is used by a rap duo, known as Insane Clown Posse, and stands for "much clown love". Anybody in the audience unfamiliar with either of these bits of info from the block title would be left arrested by the notion that an entire block was dedicated to clowns! Surprise!
Also, that awesome group of people I talked about at the beginning? They dressed as clowns and doused me in silly string and confetti as I introduced the block! What an amazing experience! That idea also spun from enriching the audience experience, and the success of the moment fell wholly upon the awesome people tasked to be clowns! They absolutely owned EVERY SECOND of their appearances as clowns, and I actually think they all had a bonding experience as a unit independent of me, too!
To finish the night off, I interviewed two of my close friends, Mickey Stone and Zach Malott, both actor/writers, regarding the massive amount of work we've created together. I was able to chat with them on stage, provide them a platform to talk about their art, and most of all, I got to tell my friends I loved them when we hugged after their interviews. This was the most important personal moment for me to experience.
I'd intended to lift up my brethren when I sat down and started ironing out the show many months ago. We hear a lot about being promoted in this area, and nobody really wants to promote anyone but themselves. This area is rich with self-servers, weasels, and half-assers who will promise to help, but are self-servers. This is not necessarily a community, at times. But, my friends, my colleagues, I support them all the way through. And, having a chance to show off their talents was a large priority for me.
In all, I performed my hosting duties for a crowd of 365, an at-capacity and packed house, where 343 seats were unoccupied. Yes, we had a modest 22 audience members, the bulk of which were my crew. And, we watched 20 short films from across the United States. I was able to pitch the work Canted Angle Media does yearly. I earned a friendship with a local journalist, who's gone on to write about the festival, which has appeared in the local paper. And, I believe they're writing another feature about CAM for our partnership with Alamo Drafthouse.
I could sit here and pretend like we had a giant crowd. I'd be lying, and I'm still okay with myself had I opted to do so. My good friend and favorite rap artist, Tech N9ne, tells a story about his very first performance as a rap artist, back in 1996/7. He performed in a one-thousand-seat theater for seven people. He remembers performing for every seat in the house. With my hosting duties, I performed for every seat in the house. Tech knew one day he'd have a bigger crowd; he could at least give himself perspective that seven pairs of eyes is seven more than zero. I've done the same.
I'm not trying to pretend I've got a festival with a bunch of famous actors attending, nor did I charge $25 for a below-par experience where the movies took second fiddle to hocking a business proposal. Wink. Our ticket prices were small, $7 online, $5 for students. As one person doing all of the promoting, I worked the downtown square, met a hundred business owners, talked with people on the street. I made new friends. I pushed myself emotionally and out of my comfort zone by approaching people on the street, which I have always hated doing, and I did everything in my power to make known the festival's existence.
With that said, one man bought his ticket online and was forty-five minutes early, found his seat, and never moved until the show was over. A new filmmaker got to see his movie on a twelve-foot-tall theater screen, in stereo, and remarked that he had a great time coming to the show. Of the people I spoke to on the street, one man told his son, once a screenwriting major and a lifelong cinephile, about the show, and he brought his wife and brother along. The newspaper journalist I spoke about has quickly become a new friend. I look forward to seeing more of their writing, and excited to have an outlet to speak about the awesome stuff CAM has planned for this winter and next spring.
A friend from my 2011-12 college days, the man who played "Curly" to my "Lennie" in the theater's rendition of "Of Mice & Men" in November 2011, he showed up and told me he was so happy to be following the work I'd been doing with Canted Angle Media over the years. We laughed a little again about how he'd hit me in the face by accident during one of the live performances.
Another friend, from my MSU days in 2014-17, came from Springfield and watched the show and participated in Q&A, ribbing me while I was on stage a few times, and enriched my own experience as a host in the process.
I held conversations with people like they were important members of my club, and I showed them big love and compassion for their perspectives and presence at my show. I got to show off on stage for my loved ones, my mom included, and make a full-circle commitment to the arts, as my life as an entertainer (and future business owner) started on the very stage I held the CAFF.
Online, CAM received over one-hundred and fifty new likes to the Facebook page, and ten new followers on Instagram. A filmmaker, whose film was selected for the clown-related block, is now designing my posters and flyers for films and shows in CAM's future.
Tech N9ne's reasoning for performing for a mostly-empty room like it's full? Because, one day, that room would be filled. Last year, Tech N9ne performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater, to a capacity ten-thousand fans. I've already got him beat, technically, in terms of his first show as an artist and how many people were present. So, there's that, too!
While I showed twenty films to twenty-two people, Canted Angle Media began expanding before the show ever started. I've amassed new friends, artists, filmmakers, and fans, all because I saw my dream through, shown to a small crowd of die-hard, weirdo-movie fans, and my life is rich with potential today for their presence! For that, I am incredibly blessed and humbled!
I'm now looking ftoward to my CAM-exclusive Alamo Drafthouse show on November 5th, at 6:40pm. I've got movies of my own to edit, and another program to enrich with audience experiences, weird movies, and laughter. I'll see you all at the movies, eventually, even if you're reading this and you're thinking "nah, you won't". That was Tech's secret. He knew he was doing what he was called to do. So am I. I catch you. I'll be seeing you real soon.