Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Five Years, No Tulsa: The Story of the Blue November MicroFilmFest (Abridged)

The more I think about it, this Festival began with taking negative energy and creating something positive. Despite dealing with one ass after another, we did and are still doing a good thing. I am proud to even have the opportunity to reflect on five years.

Many people do not know my reasons for starting a festival. I often mention it in some limited detail, but the truth is, it is much more than the stories I tell. I usually say it is my love for film, and it is. There were also many incidents that occurred as the bad examples I wanted to avoid. As with anything, there was opposition. Then there was the inevitable fact that remains relevant to this very day: Tulsa.

I have to say that I am happy about what was accomplished, and I am very grateful to those who assisted the dream. This is the story of the Blue November MicroFilmFest.

In 2003, I had just finished my first film, a short film, and I was ready to spread my art across the world, if I could. I was very excited. What cost me eleven dollars in the production was accumulating to nearly a hundred dollars worth of film fest entry fees and related expenses; I was not accepted to any of them. I did land a slot in a local festival that October in downtown Tulsa; it was there I would learn the wrong way to do things, what I stood for, and where my disbelief and discontent would mold into what would become my own film festival.

I had shown my support to what little of a cinematic entity we had in Oklahoma. I even attended the Overground, quite possibly the lamest yet most celebrated event in Tulsa. I literally watched integrity disintegrate before my eyes, as teenagers fell off trampolines, blew up trees with fireworks and flushed hot dogs down public toilets; they called it 'film'. There was little or no effort towards showing local artists. I stopped attending. I also supported a larger festival from Muskogee, and even worked side by side with the directors until I began to question their methods. I saw more emphasis being spent on their own personal standing, the misdirection of people's trust and their ethics regarding young women in film. It's hard to do something when you're too busy laying down red carpet and talking about how great you are instead of doing something to truly support the filmmaker.

I'll give you an example. I had just started dating this beautiful girl that would later become my Wife. At the screening of my first film [in October, 2003], she came out to support me with her mother and father, sister and about seven other people, including close friends. My editor was amongst this crowd, and we could finally see our efforts on a large screen for the true cinema experience! Alas, the sound system was not just unsatisfactory, it was unfit. The 'projectionist' didn't care to be there, so he didn't care about sound or the fact that the film began in the middle of the tape! There is a definite beginning and end, and this was anticlimactic at best. After I had him rewind my film, I swore I would never allow this to happen.

I developed a festival for the filmmaker, the auteur, and the director. I created a festival for the film, the musician and the artist, and thus I created a festival for the people. I was and still am not non-profit, which is to say that I do not have the funding which non-profit status provides. Despite this fact, I worked, so many worked to create a festival that was free for the filmmakers to enter, and free for the people to attend. Everyone was paid in fellowship and harmony. We continued on, with lackluster efforts and promises from others, and yet we still prevailed. We brought so many together, and though we had plenty in attendance, we still should have had more. Tulsa ignored its own.

I received decent press for the first couple of years, and when I say decent, I mean 'adequate'. A big "thanks" to Greg and Chuck at Z104.5, The Edge, and can you believe that I was on television all three years? Another "thanks" goes to the local network affiliates that offered their airtime.

Written press was a bit more 'interesting'. The local counter-culture alternative newspaper was poorly managed and too busy supporting itself and that self-absorbed Tulsa agenda to offer any of their time. The main newspaper reported on things that people could buy, sports, conservative politics and its own self-indulgence. John the Reporter showed support the first year, a little less the next year and then he verbally attacked me the last year (2005), when I challenged the press in Tulsa in a mass e-mail, asking "where is your support for the unseen artist?" He couldn't take the time to respond to my question, but he could take the time to be rude and express his opinion. Since, he has done a great job of promoting his own books and the untalented Carrie Underwood, yet he and his newspaper have clearly failed to recognize the hidden artistic treasures that can be found in Tulsa, underneath the pomp and circumstance received by those who are in the spotlight.

Bret kept the Tulsa festival alive one more year, while Fae and I left behind the heartlessness of Tulsa. I have friends who still love it there, and I respect that. As for me, it is a dead town. Moving to Seattle is still opening doors of wonder and amazement.

This year is the fifth year of the smallest, focused film festival, the Blue November MicroFilmFest, and it is our first year completely separated from Tulsa. I took my lessons from the behaviour and failure of those who are still poisoning any chance Oklahoma could have at a film community. I left behind people who are following the coattails of false idols and prophets. This experience led me towards a more enlightened path, and each year I celebrate even more.

I question the ethics of those who boast about their achievements, who speak and who lead when they are misleading those who are too blind to do anything other than follow. I question the dedication of those who claim they are dedicated, when they fail to show respect to those who have given them the gift of their art.

So, to recap this entire essay, avoid anything in Oklahoma that references 'boneheads' or 'a Tulsa Tradition' unless you like throwing your money away...or maybe flushing it down the toilet with a hot dog...or you can give it to me! I'll actually put it to good use.


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