French Tickler

August 2, 2007

After San Francisco I went to France in the middle of June to promote Delirious for the French release. It was set to open July 4th on about 70 screens; 11 just in Paris alone. It was a big deal. To put things in perspective, our entire upcoming NYC release will be on a total of 2 screens.

Now, a lot of people probably think being in France for 12 days doing publicity for a film is nothing but a glorified vacation. Like I just went around from hotel to hotel, getting fed great meals, drinking all kinds of great wine, hanging out in bars, getting my picture taken a thousand times a day and having a bunch of journalists sitting around writing down every idiotic thing I had to say.

Well, yeah. That’s pretty much the picture right there. The fact is there are some perks to low-budget filmmaking. Sometimes after all the years of grueling tedium and disappointment you get tossed these brief morsels of pleasure. But, actually, you do pay for it. Like when you're asked the same question 15 times a day for 2 weeks; “Why did you make this movie?” First of all even answering it once is hard, especially if you’re trying to put some real thought into it and inform people what had inspired you. The stakes are even higher if your hope is to have the answer inspire people to see the film.

So, you get a little passionate about it. You reach back into your soul and revisit all the hidden aches and half-realized thoughts you had that prompted you to begin this long, impossible march to the screen. You try to do it in such a way that the journalist takes that journey with you. And if they barely speak English? Well, you speak a little slower and a lot louder. After Day 6 when the question comes at 9 in the morning, you start to hate everything about promoting the film especially the sound of your own voice.

But then it’s lunchtime and you sit down to a 4-course meal, you drink a great espresso, crash for 20 minutes and then start the afternoon. “So, tell me; why did you make this movie?”

I traveled all over France, from Paris to Bordeaux, to Lyons, Avignon and Lilles.  I did press during the day followed by evening screenings of the film. I actually enjoyed talking to the audience afterwards. For some reason I never feel nervous doing that. I like to engage the audience, to hear their thoughts and entertain them a little bit. If someone asks a question I really try to answer it. If someone asks a stupid question I really try to answer it. People have strong opinions and little qualms about sharing them. One guy in Lilles stood up and furiously denounced Delirious because it didn’t have sections of black and white the way Living In Oblivion did.

I said, “I made that movie 12 years ago. Plus, I’ve made 4 movies since then that don’t have black and white in them.” The guy snapped back he didn’t know I’d made any other movies. I said, “Then perhaps you need to get out of here right now and go to a video store.” I took out my wallet and handed him some cash.  He laughed and so did the audience, which was great because that meant now I could make more jokes at his expense, which I did about 8 more times.

Sometimes after being in a hotel room all day I’d get a little stir-crazy. I’ve been taking boxing lessons for about 2 years and part of my workout is jumping rope. One afternoon I went into the Luxembourg Gardens and found a secluded spot on some gravel beneath a row of immaculately pruned pear trees. I’d been jumping for about 3 minutes when I sensed some movement behind me. Turning I saw 8 little French kids about 6 years old, huddled in a mystified cluster silently watching me. I stopped and said something in a form of French even I didn't understand but they they scattered as soon as I opened my mouth.

As I walked back to the hotel I spotted a huge poster of Delirious on a billboard. No matter how many times you see one in public it still brings a thrill. There it is, your movie sitting up there for all the world to see. I was just about to walk away when I caught sight of myself in a car window. Now I knew why the kids had run off. I was dripping with sweat and my hair was in a rubberband, sticking straight up like some lunatic, homicidal samurai.


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Independent Filmmaker & Musician