I recently went to the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival. Four years ago, my film, Into the Unknown was shot near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains and we thought screening there would be a wonderful way to conclude its festival run. Essentially, the film started there... and was to end there, a fitting and poetic ending for a film that I have loved so much.
Into the Unknown played around the country from the Palm Springs Film Festival, to a private screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was also included in a national art roadshow, which is actually still TBD on whether or not it will indeed happen. The film has done well and I am proud of it. I am also proud of both the actors and the crew, who lent their hard work and talents towards making a great film.
But the film is 4 years old.... and it was time. Time to let go.
In my heart I was imagining a weekend of emotional closure and relaxation. A weekend away from the superficiality of Los Angeles in an authentic mountain town. I thought of myself and film as intertwined--- It was as if we grew up in a small town together in the woods and were returning home.
Returning to a "real" and genuine place.
I thought wrong.
The festival was weird. Everyone was posturing and speaking in vague terms of who they were and what they did. I did indeed meet some awesome people and hung out with them... but overall, it was all the superficiality of Los Angeles, but set in the woods. Aside from some technical issues, the festival organizers were delivering the best festival experience that they thought was possible. However, instead of the festival embodying what it really was (a homegrown well-run festival in the woods by a lake), it was trying to be something more, something that it was not. It is not an industry festival, it's not Los Angeles in the woods. There's no buyers there. No studio people seeking content, no management.
It's a small festival by a lake. And there's something great about that. Something wonderful about being the best of what you are. Cinema under the stars? Sign me up! Film lovers in the woods? Yes, please!
Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that the festival selected my film. I am appreciative of the effort and hard work they put into the weekend. Putting on a film festival is no easy task and my hat is off to them for what they have done.
And, like the festival, my film is far from perfect. The film is not some pristine Hollywood picture. In fact it's quite the opposite. The film was shot on 16mm film, and in the world of HD these days, the picture looks like shit in comparison. It also has plenty of other problems. But the homemade aspect of the film is what I like. And if you get past the technical roughness, there's a great story with great acting in there.
And that's why we won an Audience Award in one category that weekend. We won a little bear statue.
I went up on stage and accepted the award. Walking back to my seat in the theater audience, I sat down and looked at the Bear figurine. It looked like one of those wooden statues that some local wood carver crafts and sells by the side of the road. A kind of local craftsmanship that embodied metaphorically what I was seeking... a return home. A return to a place built out of love and authenticity.
I pursed my lips. The film was done. And on the way out, it was even recognized one last time for what it was: a good story.
I now had the emotional closure that I was seeking... a real moment in my hands.
Rest in peace, Into the Unknown.
I turned the Bear figure over. On the bottom it said, "MADE IN CHINA".