On Projections at the New York Film Festival: Day I, Year III

I am sleeping with two heavy down comforters that have the kind of aerated density like a damp cloud wrapping around my body without touching me. It is so excruciatingly comforting it must be a trick; every way I curl and turn and readjust so slightly, ever so minute my movements, it feels as if I am in euphoric bliss, ablaze with a rush of blood that sends me under the ocean of consciousness. I am amazed with stupidity at how good it feels.

It is hard to summon myself to leave, exiled from this heaven for duty. I am up five hours after I had made it into bed this morning. My excitement battles my body's confusion at being so exhausted.

It is the first day of what we have been planning, receiving, tabbing, viewing, rejecting, screening since early in the year. I introduce myself to everyone, some I know by face, by name, by history. I catch friends rushing off to get in and friends trying to talk at inopportune moments. Some people are joyous to meet me, others are polite. I am introduced to people who I tell, "We've met before." There is misunderstanding and changing the rules and changing them back. Didn't you get the email? Didn't you fill out the form?

There is explanation as fact, not as chastising.

I give an encore of information to anyone who approaches me. Some think I have what they need, but most of them are rerouted. Like a mother entertaining with a child tugging at the sleeve, I am talking to one person while being asked by another to explain what this is, what is this here, can I take this, can you show me, can you tell me? I reroute them. The public is a funny gag: unavoidable and must be humored, answered, but looking for answers just because I am there as a human. We laugh that there must be a sign on our heads that says HERE ARE YOUR ANSWERS. I suggest it would be pink, hot neon, flashing, something that doesn't make sense with no context, something probably obscene and one word. People would still approach, my presence magnified with warm magenta tones from above. I answer people's questions about things I am not involved with or knowledgable about. It is very one-way: I ask only what I need to gather that I am or am not their oracle, but I never ask them anything else, not how are you or where did you come from or what are you thinking about. They don't want to talk about themselves, which is the funny part. They only want answers to their questions so then they can talk about how they know.

I am asked by a woman what is going on. I am asked by a man if he is in the right place. I am asked by a boy in a suit, who introduces himself as a freshman at Columbia who has just moved to New York, what are some ways to get in touch with directors to work on their films? I give him some suggestions, a colleague adding a few sites to scope out. The kid asks me to type them in a note on his new iPhone. My colleague and I know better than to be acrid but we cannot help ourselves and the truth betrays our friendliness. We are frank about what he is looking for. I want the heart to tell him not to bother yet, but instead I keep naming resources he has not heard of until my colleague finally tells him, "You should go to LA." I laugh but I agree. I start listing more obscure groups in the iPhone note. When I hand it back to the kid I say, "Be prepared."

I cannot tell if this kid has made me salty or sad. No one will care about your craft if you don't have anything to show. No one will accept your help if you don't want it, if you're not trying to give or to learn but just to climb to the next. How can you be relied upon? Both sides are insincerely expecting a result but you don't get brought on by your resume to get promoted to auteur. Wanting something is not enough; you have to show what you can do. And you should do your research.

I am orchestrating the program and presentation of Projections, the avant-garde art and experimental section of the Festival. I am approached by a young woman who is in the country on a visa and hopes to make a documentary about international adoption. She tells me, after seeing one of the programs, that she didn't understand some of it but that she really enjoyed it. She doesn't stop talking about it for a long time, trying to explain without the vocabulary what she was seeing. I tell her to watch more, that clearly this new way of seeing and hearing is affecting her. She is very excited and wants to stay in touch with me.

I am asked by someone to help her with the branch she is not on. "The branch, I am not on it." She is getting frustrated with her lack of clarity to communicate to me so I ask her to say the word she is looking for in her native tongue. "There is no word for it," she says. She begins trying to explain as I notice two people I know separately gathering nearby to try to sneak in a brief chat with me, but I am trying to help this young woman with the bouncing hair in a perfect bob as she shakes her head clipping her tongue at herself, and no branch. Somehow, without any real connection to our broken syntaxes meshing, I understand her. "You're asking about brunch," I realize. She agrees. There is no word in her language for this meal after the eating before you eat again but instead of both.

I talk with someone about archiving his artworks from the past decades. I say I will come back for his presentation later in the month. I have not told friends publicly that I am here at all right now, not yet. Some remember, others ask if I am back again this year. Anyone I've spoken to in the past week has heard I will be around, but I am not. "I cannot see you unless you come to me," I advise. I like this model: there is no pressure on anyone to make it to plans because we're leaving it up to our own plans. I am no longer "in town" or "back" or "visiting." People have accepted that I may or may not exist.

I do not eat the entire day or have coffee or water. Unintentionally. I realize how dehydrated I am. In the shower I leave the lights off so that I will fall asleep right away afterwards. I find that the black velvet I'd worn all day has left a dark hue around my hips and thighs. The soap turns grey as my skin turns white. I think about the girl trying to explain her first experimental film experience, the four lines and the cars going one way and then they disappear, I don't know how he did it. I think of the kid wanting his resume in front of a director and how if he gets on a film set he will be a cog in a wheel standing around until someone needs a coffee or for him to get out of the frame. I think of how a movie is a big production with seemingly unnecessary components, budgets, and crews. I think of how I had to learn to ask someone else to shoot the camera for me. To help me setup a light. To accept that other people were willing and better qualified to grease their part in my machine. It was wildly empowering and relieving to know people wanted to help. But by default I work alone.

Most of the artists' films we are screening - if not all of them - have been made by the filmmaker only, perhaps a few hands on location or in post. They are a showcase of internal messages told through the craftwork of a vision, pulled together by personal appraisals of justice and readiness. I need to see what's in my head. The productions are not elevated through agency.

Being a single creator, working alone, doing it yourself - perhaps that is our avant-garde.