If you’re here for the first time, welcome to a post about the making of my first feature film (How To Be Louise) (trailer below) and my adventures with it on the festival circuit and beyond in search of distribution. What I’d imagined would be one or two entries has turned into a multi-installment epic.
Returning from six months in Japan to the broken-down charm of Williamsburg was a shock: the bloom of living in bohemia was off the rose.
n Japan, I remember once leaving a bakery and breaking up a big cookie to share with Frank who was confined to his stroller. When some large pieces fell onto the street, I figured “Big deal. The birds’ll get ‘em.” But looking around, I had second thoughts. The street was immaculate and the people in their impeccably pressed suits and knife-pleated skirts all seemed complicit in keeping it that way. I bent down and picked up the crumbs to throw away in a proper garbage can.
Here in Williamsburg, with our now walking sixteen-month-old Frank, the distressed look I had so loved had become a burden. Even the appeal of a low-population neighborhood within one subway stop of Manhattan had lost its allure. None of my artist friends had children and the only people in the kiddie park were drinking bottles of English 800 in their wheel chairs.
We started working every angle to find an affordable apartment in Manhattan.
In the meantime, How To Be Louise was going on to festivals without me. Antwerp, Atlantic International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale, Haifa Intl Film Festival, and Santa Barbara Film Festival among others.
And then, there came an invitation from a festival I’d never heard of —in Pesaro, Italy. There was going to be a section for American Independents. Having been in competition at Sundance and in Berlin, I have to admit that my ‘high standards’ had crossed the line into outright snobbery. I’d heard of Venice. But, Pesaro? At first I shrugged and thought, well, okay maybe the film can go. If the print is available. (We had only one print for screenings as even a 16mm print could cost over a thousand dollars.)
Truth is actually stranger than fiction because Mr. Green had been planning to leave at just the time of the festival for a lecture tour in that general region of Italy. My dear sister Mary arranged to take off from work to join Frank and me in Pesaro for a few days so I could take my eyes off Frank and be there as a filmaker.
The festival put us up in a lovely small hotel with the other indie filmmakers, many of them from New York: Paul Morrissey who had made many films with Warhol, Jon Jost, Abigail Child, Su Friedrich and others.
All of our meals at the hotel were taken care of by the festival and, unlike at Sundance and Berlin where everyone was pretty much on their own, there was a delightful spirit of camaraderie at the large tables in the hotel dining room. Frank, with his passionate love of spaghetti, was always in a good mood. We were artists and being treated so well, respectfully. How could I have ever considered passing this up?
We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. I like to think that I’m good in the moment, present and real. Unfortunately, as far as executive function, that's a card missing from my deck. When my sister Mary left to go back to her job in New York, the full horror of my lack of foresight and planning hit me like a Mack truck.
At eighteen months, Frank was a big talker. Furthermore, he was in constant motion. There was no way we could go to screenings. In fact, there was no way I could have a conversation. Here I was in Pesaro, surrounded by filmmakers, film lovers and even film curators from MoMA and beyond. I saw the filmaking crowd at meals, but other than that, I was attending to my toddler, so close and yet so far. We had more than twenty-four hours until Mr. Green would arrive and give me back my freedom. Frank and I hit the beach. We spent time at the kiddie park. I was counting the seconds.
After one very long morning picking Frank up and depositing him on the seat of yet another enormous motorcycle parked around the town square, Adrienne Mancia and Jutte Jensen from MoMA came running toward me. “There you are, Anne! Your film is the hit of the festival!” I actually thought they were being sarcastic but apparently the Italian press had gone crazy for How To Be Louise. Corriere della Sera had used the phrase “unreserved praise” along with my name in one sentence and seven other papers had singled out How to Be Louise as the film of the festival.
(to be continued)
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