Memories of AFFs past

I don't know if I've ever posted this story before.  I am in the process of completing an e-interview for the Austin Film Festival to post on their website, however, and thought that it seemed appropriate to sneak preview-ify with a little retrospectacle from my first visit to Austin, TX.

After the Friday night screening of SHOP GIRL at the Paramount Theatre, I somehow ended up chatting over beers for hours with director Anand Tucker and stars Jason Schwartzman and Claire Danes.  I kept pinching myself.  I mean, whoulda thunk?  As I recall, I finally landed in bed around 2 AM.

I woke up feeling slightly hungover.  I also woke up feeling completely LATE!  I was scheduled to be on a panel at 10:15, and a quick peek at my cell phone informed me that was in exactly 25 minutes.  I didn't shower.  I barely splashed water on my face.  I think I brushed my teeth.  I threw on jeans and a T-shirt, and tossed a sport coat on for good measure.  I wanted to at least look, you know, somewhat “professional”.

Right as the panel was beginning, Kelly Williams, the film festival director walks in and taps me on the shoulder.

"Hey, Bill.  You're going to the awards luncheon today, right?"

Now…when a film festival director asks you a question like that, how are you supposed to answer?  "Absolutely!"  …Right?

Not me.

"No…I'm heading out for a run and a shower after this panel."

Kelly got this look on his face.

"You sure?  It would be great to have you there in support of your movie."

"One of our producers, David Viola, is the guy with the actual 'film credentials',” I told him.  “I'm here on a panelist's badge.  I don't think I can get in.  Maybe David should go."

I grabbed my cell phone.  "You want me to call him?"

"No, no, no," Kelly insisted.  "David can do what he wants.  We'd love to have the writers from all the competition movies at the luncheon.  I’ll get you in.  Just show up."

All right, I thought.  I sighed.  The shower would have to wait.

After the panel, I got my run…sprinting across downtown to get to the Austin Club in time for the luncheon, that is.

I get to the door, and a very nice person working security informs me that my name is not on the list.  I try on a "Kelly Williams told me…"  No go.  After five minutes or so of trying to wrangle my way into the place, I turn and start heading down the steps.  It’s not gonna work.  Just then…

"Bill True..?  RUNAWAY..?"

Next thing I know, a very official-looking person holding a clipboard is grabbing my arm.  She's literally dragging me back up the steps and into the main ballroom.

A minute later, I find myself seated at this table right in front of the stage.  Across from me is the cast and crew from one of the other movies in competition.  These are the folks that were going to win, I thought, because they were sitting at the table closest to the stage.  I was very happy for them.

And then a strange thought occurred to me.  I was also sitting at the table closest to the stage.  And Kelly Williams had been acting very strangely when I said that I wasn't planning to…  Could it be?

Naaaaaaaaaah!

I put the thought out of my mind completely.  I sat back and enjoyed the free meal.  I had a glass of wine.  I chatted.  I got to listen to Harold Ramis talk about how some of my favorite movies of all time came to be.  I got to see Karl Williams win his legendary screenplay hat trick (I am convinced the guy can't write a bad script!).

And then someone got up on the stage.  And then they were talking about the "Narrative Feature Award."  And I was taking a swig of pinot.  And then, all of a sudden, I heard the title of my movie.

And then I heard nothing.  Because no one was talking.  It was like a bomb went off.

I scan the room, waiting for someone to rise.  Everyone else is scanning the room, too.  It felt like hours were passing.  Dawn was breaking quite slowly in the molasses of my conscious mind. 

I eventually turn to the guy sitting next to me and chuckle: "I think we won."

He grabs the wine glass out of my hand and starts slapping me on the back.  "Dude!  YOU WON!"

Oh, my god!!!  He was right!

I spring to my feet.  Now I feel like a real fool because everyone was staring at me.  But I dare not move, lest I be wrong.  I wait for some other screenwriter to head toward the stage to accept an award.  'Cause I don't win stuff like this, I reminded myself.

There are no takers, and the people at me table, like, pushing me toward the stage.  I still don't know what I am doing, but I decide it's safe to mount the stairs.  And then people are shaking my hand.  And then they put this thing in my hands that weighs about 15 pounds.  And then I'm in front of the microphone.

And as I scan the expectant faces of Hollywood's best and brightest, about to open my mouth and wing my first-ever acceptance speech, a profound thought occurs to me: I really wish I had taken that shower this morning.

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