Got the first week’s numbers in from France. Not a blockbuster but the film did very well for itself. Delirious was number 4 behind Live Free and Die With a Hardon, Spiders of the Caribbean and Wee Wee, a French movie about a dog who wins a prize for making the best cheese.
This news cheered me up for about an hour or so. I went to bed and had a dream that I was pulling a freight train up a mountain with a rope made out of someone’s old socks. Although it was exhausting work it was comforting knowing that others were behind me, pulling and pushing along with me. The hill got steeper. I turned to yell encouragement to my team and was shocked to discover most of them were riding in one of the cars. The rest were walking leisurely beside the train, laughing and talking and sharing pieces of an award-winning cheese. These walkers reacted the most venomously when I erupted in outrage. They all sneered and said, “Go ahead, do it by yourself then. This train’s goin’ nowhere anyway!”
The dream shifted to the conference room of Gestation’s offices on 54th Street. Arnold, the head of the company, was summing up the Delirious campaign. “The film opens in NYC in a month. Our entire promotion budget is $350,000. Just to put things in perspective for you another US independent film, Little Miss Sunshine, spent 8 million on promotion. So, in our case there will be a few small pre-opening screenings to help build word of mouth but no premiere. There will be no TV advertising, no billboards, no magazine ads and no radio.” Arnold paused for a moment then concluded, “Under these conditions it will take either a miracle or a sex/rehab/murder scandal for the film to succeed.”
In my dream I started to hallucinate. My pen turned into a large ax that moved swiftly through the air toward Arnold’s head. Can you hallucinate in a dream? I guess so. I put the ax carefully on the floor and told Arnold of the happy accident that had come out of Istanbul. Ari, from the Hollywood Foreign Press saw the film after it won the Jury Prize there. He liked it so much he asked me to set up a screening for the HFP on Aug. 2. Hearing this Arnold suddenly exploded at me. “Don’t even think about the bigger awards for this film! Maybe an Independent Spirit Award nomination but forget anything else because it ain’t gonna fuckin happen!”
I said, “I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about Buscemi. He gives the performance of a lifetime.”
“So what?!” Arnold snapped back. “It takes millions of dollars to mount a Golden Globe or an Oscar campaign. Only a miracle could get their attention with this little movie.”
I said, “You know what, Arnie? I don’t think of this film as small. I believe in it and I’m going to keep reaching for the sky. If I hit the ground at least I’ll know I came down trying.”
It’s funny how in dreams you say things that sound just right. Arnold muttered something in defeat and walked out. But still, I didn’t feel so good—and it wasn’t just his negativity that infuriated me. It was the sudden realization that he’d been operating in this little-to-none expectation mode for the past two months. All this time I’d thought he was working hard for the film. Instead he was doing nothing; because it wasn’t worth it. Because it would take too much effort and too much money and most likely this train was goin’ nowhere anyway.
I caught up with Arnold in the swank employee kitchen and accidentally hurled him against the employee espresso machine. “You fucking idiot!” I yelled. “The real miracle is getting the movie made in the first place! All the years it takes to drag and claw something into being out of nothing. And the whole time everybody is saying exactly what you just said to me, “Don’t do it. It’s too hard. Give up; it’s never going to happen.” A woman came by and started to make a latte. But seeing Arnold’s head jammed up against the steam valve she just made some tea instead. I took Arnold’s hand as we waited and explained myself more clearly. “You see, Arnie, getting any movie made is a victory of the most profound proportions. Everything afterwards, no matter how difficult, is like making tea compared to that.” Arnold nodded as best he could and whispered that the car was waiting for me.
The next thing I knew I was rushing down 7th Ave and into a packed movie theater in Chelsea where Delirious had just screened. A Q&A with Professor Richard Brown was about to begin. The tussle with Arnold had me still worked up, sparking a fever that was edging me into a state of delirium. When the professor asked me a question I could barely see his face and words rushed out of my mouth so fast I didn’t know what I was saying. A lot of the words were curses. Prof. Brown asked me about independent films and distribution.
I replied, “The only films guaranteed to make it to the screen today are the blockbusters like Shrek 92 or Spiderman 158. Against them, smaller independent films have little chance. I’ve got nothing against entertainments like these. I just don’t happen to believe that the only way to enjoy myself at the movies today is to give myself a lobotomy.”
The rest was a frenzied blur. I remember Prof. Brown embracing me afterwards. Many members of the audience came up to say how much they’d been moved by the film and by my words. Clearly the screening was an important success. It showed there was an audience for the film. It showed the marketing firm that there was real justification now to increase the promotional campaign. Then I looked up and saw Arnold leaning against the door. Though smiling, his face was set in a rigid impenetrability as if he was fighting as hard as he could to smother even the faintest possibility of hope for the film.
Then I woke up and realized none of this was a dream.