Eliot does indeed Live!
Check out TWISTED: A Balloonamentary in its natural habitat, as Sara and Naomi head back to one of their favorite places - St. Louis...
St. Louis International Film Festival
Saturday, Nov. 17
Saint Louis Art Museum
1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park
Thursday, November 1, 2007
The Tallgrass Film Festival was exactly what a film festival should be. The entire community seemed to rally around the festival, volunteering to make it a very special weekend. Thanks to Lela, Eric, Arietta, Gretchen, Lee, Francine, Teddie, Terry, and Jim for a great time!
We were excited to go to Wichita because it seemed like a random thing to do. Two gals from the Northeast hanging out in Kansas for a few days. Wichita is famous for many things (we assume) - but to be honest, we just didn't know what to expect. On our first evening, we walked over to the Warren Theater, within eyesight of our hotel. We'd been warned that it was too far to walk, which was funny to us, because neither of us even have cars and are used to walking a few blocks. Upon arriving at the theater, we were immediately glad that we'd made the trip to the festival. Everyone on the programming board took time to introduce themselves and tell us how much they enjoyed our film. Wichita was funkier than we'd expected, a bit more progressive and diverse than our assumptions had led us to imagine. The opening night film was Kansas vs Darwin, a documentary by Jeff Tamblyn and Jeff Peak, and it was the perfect thing for us to get to see with a Kansas audience. It investigated the Kansas Board of Ed's temporary ban on teaching evolution in the schools. It was interesting to hear both sides of the argument, and the audience's reaction (yay's and boo's) to certain characters. As we both live in areas of the country that tend to be more liberal, it was interesting to see that there is actually a fairly liberal audience in a state as red as Kansas. Neither of us had grown up in areas that debated evolution, but we had several conversations that night on the controversy. We always say the mark of a good film is people discussing its ideas afterwards. And, perhaps most importantly, we should mention that we watched the film in a theater with seat warmers. That's right, the Warren Theaters have seat warmers and waitress service. Reason enough to go to Wichita.
After the screening, we went over to a Japanese restaurant for the after-party. We handed out some postcards and found community members to be very excited for the festival. A bunch had already made plans to see our film and a few even asked for our autographs!
170 people braved the A.M. start time to come to our screening. Teddie, the woman introducing the film, had already won us over with her enthusiasm. She told us she was on the festival's screening committee and was unsure when she heard she'd be watching a film about balloon twisting conventions. But, she loved it and watched it several times before the festival, inviting all of her friends to the screening. As we met them, they told us that Teddie is now an avid twister and has even tried to encourage her parents to twist. When she introduced the film, Teddie explained that, after watching the movie for the first time, she was inspired by the way people had changed their lives. She decided she would order balloons and begin twisting. She knew she wanted the best balloons in the world to get her started and began researching on the internet. She ordered a package of balloons and a pump from a company in Australia that promised it had the best quality product. A week later, the package arrived and Teddie was surprised to see that the balloons had been produced in Wichita, several blocks from her home.
We knew that the Pioneer Balloon Company, one of the biggest in the world, was headquartered in Wichita. Cam Woody, an awesome woman who works there, encouraged us to apply and made sure that we would be given a warm welcome. She and her team from Pioneer created amazing balloon columns at the theater, got volunteers to help us blow up balloons and hand out postcards, and made sure that everyone at the festival got their own pump and bag of balloons. Cam also gave us a personalized tour of their headquarters. Which, in case you were wondering, is not filled with guns.
Thanks so much to the many Pioneer/ Qualatex employees and balloon twisters who came to the screening! We had such a great time. Each screening has been special in different ways. This one was important because it reminded us how nice it is to be able to share the film with others. This summer, we spent countless hours working on a yet-to-be-announced development. Since we live in different cities, when we meet to work, it often involves ridiculously long days and a lack of sleep and sanity. Sometimes, when we're knee-deep in work - it can be hard to remember why this is fun. When we were sitting in Wichita, watching waitresses serve the daily specials to film-goers (chicken noodle soup - and boston cream pie - an odd combo - but undeniably NYC and Boston friendly), it was just such a treat. The audience response was amazing - laughers and criers - just like we like it. After the film, many people told us how much they'd enjoyed it. Dan Flynn, the COO of Pioneer gave us each a hug and told us he thought we'd captured the spirit and essence of the balloon twisters - which is a big compliment from a man who knows so many of them.
We were kind of floating afterwards. We walked over to the filmmakers lounge to get food (we didn't have to buy a single meal while we were there) and to relax a bit. Oddly enough, a TV crew from Austin was there and we told them we premiered at South By Southwest and did a quick interview. Then, we just got to hang out. Even though it sounds really simple, we've haven't really done that at too many festivals. Usually, we're busy trying to promote our next screening. It was really special to be able to sit and talk to other filmmakers and find out what other people in similar situations are doing. We talked about production, post, distribution, festivals - and it was so frickin' nice.
Then - because Eliot Lives Productions never seems to have too much downtime, we went back to the hotel and did a bit of work. We answered a few emails about festivals and even checked some dvd's to make sure some dubs we'd made were in working order.
Then, we headed out to a party at a loft apartment downtown. The party was held in honor of Don LaFontaine - the guy whose voice you hear in almost every movie trailer. Great view of the theater where we’d screened earlier in the day and Don quickly got into the balloon spirit.
That night we went to two more theaters, this time – instead of being cutting-edge – they well well-preserved, beautiful, old buildings. It showed Wichita’s heart that there is such an appreciation for the arts. They are preserving these buildings, while other cities are tearing them down. They announced the audience award and TWISTED: A Balloonamentary won runner-up! Many people came up to us tell us again how much they enjoyed the film – so nice. After a Q & A with Don La Fontaine, we attempted to get a dance party going. The DJ finally agreed to play one dance song and we had a quick but spirited crowd.
We then boarded the party bus. The Party Bus is a big, neon, loud bus that should come with disclaimer that it could cause seizures. As the festival provided all of the filmmakers’ transportation, the party bus provided an effective way to schlep us all over town. We ended up at another theater, but we were kind of movie’d out. A few filmmakers debated going out and we wandered over to the parking lot where a festival van was parked. As we waited for Gretchen, volunteer extraordinaire and our driver for the rest for the night, we chatted to Douglas and Arne, two other filmmakers. Arne started playing with the radio, and our dance party finally came to fruition – right in the middle of the parking lot. From midnight until 2:30 AM – we danced, sang and were generally merry. We occasionally had visitors briefly join the party until we called it a night. Gretchen even created an ad for The Parking Lot – the new place to be in Wichita. We then continued to sing our hearts out as poor Gretchen had to make a late-night drive to drop each of us filmmakers off at our respective hotels.
After a few hours sleep and a filmmaker’s brunch, we went to our second screening – added because of the audience’s response to the film. We had a nice Q and A – and – as a special treat, were able to meet Mr. And Mrs. Gruver. Their son, Tim started the festival five years earlier. Tim suddenly passed away a few years ago, and his friends Lela and Eric vowed to return to Wichita to carry on his legacy with the festival each year. The entire community clearly cared for Tim, as they were so passionate in their support of the festival and the feeling of importance that it would carry on. It was very nice to meet the Gruver’s and have a chance to tell them how much fun we’d had in Wichita.
From there, we headed to the airport, where Naomi carried out her tradition (addiction?) of playing every game she can find where you use the little grabby thing to try to catch toys in a machine. She is undeniably good. The day before she won another toy in a machine at the movie theater.
And – it should be noted that, after hearing about it all weekend, we passed the Friends University of Central Kansas on the way to the airport (aka F.U.C.K.). Locals didn’t like the name and had it changed to Friends University, which is clearly much, much better.