The 48 Hour Film Project awards were this weekend. The event was held in a loft with the sort of sci-fi-apocalypse-hello-America-this-is-your-future view Detroiters take for granted:
That’s the Packard plant, beloved of lazy photojournalists looking for a tragic symbol of Detroit’s industrial decline; Jim at Sweet Juniper (and many others) reminds us frequently that the plant’s been closed more than half a century, but don’t let that bother you, Mr. Parachuted-in Freelancer. Its history is long and complicated and — standard for around here — tragic, but the bottom line is, it’s been abandoned for decades, fell into receivership years ago and presumably belongs to the city. Yes, it should be torn down, but a conservative estimate on what it would take to demolish and haul away more than 3 million square feet of Albert Kahn-designed factory is in the eight figures, and the city doesn’t have that kind of money. A search on Flickr demonstrates the site is a favorite of urban explorers; it stands open to the world now, but even they’re getting bored with it, and it now belongs to the scrappers, who are busily trying to take it apart from the inside, with some success and occasional self-injury — here’s a pretty good Bill McGraw column on the state of things.
The latest craze is arson, and as we stood on the deck drinking and socializing, we could hear the sound of glass breaking, as restless vandals and scrappers worked out their excess testosterone on the few remaining windows. There’s a stripped car sticking halfway out one of the windows two or three floors up; for a while I thought the project was to push it out, but no, they were firebugs, too:
It wasn’t much of a blaze, and it didn’t last long. According to McGraw, the city fire department doesn’t even bother responding to many alarms there, and never at night — it’s just too dangerous. But 3 million square feet holds a lot of puzzlement, and some of it will burn:
Kirschner said Engine 23 and other fire companies responded to a fire recently during the day and discovered about 25,000 square feet of shoes burning. The smoke, partially from the shoes’ rubber and glue, was dangerous for the firefighters and anyone in the neighborhood who might have breathed it.
Hazardous-materials crews monitored the air Monday night and found no need for evacuations. The cause of the fire was not known, but firefighters were certain it was set. They called for an arson car, but none was available.
(I hope you get a sense of the weirdness life in and around this city is, on almost a daily basis. Twenty-five thousand square feet of burning shoes? Shrug.)
The fire was only the appetizer. The main course was the awards, and how did we do? Reader, we won:
(The award says Best Film, but I’m calling it Best Picture until someone tells me to stop.) This puts us in the running for the nationals, and enters us automatically in Filmapalooza, held next year at the National Association of Broadcasters meeting in Las Vegas. I have very few illusions about our chances up against the fearsome teams of Los Angeles and New York, but on the other hand, I’ve never been to Vegas, and don’t you think I should go before I die? The NAB meets in early April, a little late for spring break, but what the hell.
Yes, I’ve never been to Vegas. Atlantic City, yes, but once you’ve seen “Casino,” do you even need to go to Las Vegas? I don’t think so.
We were lucky. Ideally, when you make a film, you start with a story and add your elements. In a challenge, you start with your elements (genre, prop, character, line of dialogue) and craft the story around them. The time constraints and guerrilla element means you have to work with what you have, and this lends a certain Mickey-and-Judy air of homemade chaos. Stories get shoehorned into places where someone had a friend who would let them shoot — a haunted house, a tattoo parlor or, in our case, the Theatre Bizarre, which was easy to work into our thriller/suspense genre draw. One team drew Musical and put on a fun show called “Love Between the Lanes” at the Ypsi-Arbor Bowl (which has one of the great names, and great signs, in Michigan business). Another, faced with a dud genre (fantasy), threw up their hands and did a “Princess Bride” takeoff that was pretty funny. But there was a lot of crap, too; I haven’t heard so much expository dialogue since, well, the last 48-hour challenge.
(Expository dialogue: “Hello, Bob, let me introduce my sister Sally Mae. You may recall her from last August, when she fell into the punchbowl at our other sister Julie’s barbecue, which required her to take an immediate shower. While she was rubbing the stains from her shirt, the door opened and our brother-in-law Simon came in. He was drunk. Sally, why don’t you tell Bob what happened next?” And so on.)
Watching the screenings, I was reminded of my pal Lance Mannion’s observation about the terrible dialogue in “The Deep”: No one gets out of here when they can get the hell out of here. One film had that intensifier in, seemingly, every other line: What the hell are you doing? Who the hell do you think you’re talking to? Where the hell are we? And so on. I vowed to never, ever write that again. And then watched our film, where a character tells another, “Lady, you need to get the hell out of here.” Wince. Live and learn.
So, then, any bloggage to start the week? Not very much, but some:
Hank liked “Julie & Julia.” So did everyone else I know who saw it this weekend.
Overheard in the Newsroom, one in a series of Overheard blogs. Makes me miss the crazy places:
Intern: “I know what happens when I assume.”
Editor: “Yep. You run a correction.”
We had one crashing thunderstorm a few hours ago, with another one expected around dawn. Best sleep while I can.