Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Southern Circuit tour day nine - Karl Staven

Southern Circuit tour day nine. Final day of the tour ends in Asheville, North Carolina. The drive up from Orangeburg is relatively painless and when I cross the border from South to North Carolina and stop for lunch I am pleasantly surprised to find the New York Times available at the “quickee-mart.” Arriving at my designated hotel I discover that their wi-fi isn’t functional so I cancel and continue on to a hotel that will allow me to check my school email and begin to address the work issues that I’ve been unable to address this past week.

Screening is at 7pm at the Fine Arts Theater in downtown Asheville so I head over there around 5:30 to check in and see what the facilities are like. Neal R., theater manager/guru, stops his ongoing poker game with the projectionist and says to come back around 6:30 when their showing of The King of Scotland is over. A middle aged couple comes in to purchase tickets to the 7pm screening of The King of Scotland but are informed that it won’t be playing at that time because of a special animation screening. They are disappointed because they are leaving town so Neal points over to me and I introduce myself and invite them to come instead to take advantage of a once in a lifetime chance to see unique and varied animation introduced by the filmmaker. They don’t return.

I wander a bit around downtown Asheville and see a variety of art galleries, restaurants, book/music stores, and young males with hair exploding off of their heads. Returning to the theater I meet with the projectionist and we talk through the evening’s schedule, Neal gives me a curtailed history of the theater (the balcony which is now a second screen was initially set aside for ‘colored’ patrons, the theater as a whole drifted into a porn house in the 70s and 80s, and has now returned as a venue for quality, non-Hollywood fare).

Alison W., head of the local Media Arts Project that is sponsoring the Southern Circuit here, introduces me at 7pm to the audience and away we go. I walk in front of the audience, decline to use the provided microphone (since I can carry my voice when I choose to), and talk about the path I took from undergraduate psychology major to independent animator/teacher. We then work our way through 13 of my films grouped in the categories of drawn, cutout, puppet/object animation, collaborative, and miscellaneous. In between each film I stand up, the house lights come on, and I talk about what they just saw and introduce the next film. When the first film ends the audience applauds (I believe this happened in three of the eight screenings). I ask them to hold their applause and wait until the conclusion (since I feel it will be too much to expect a spontaneous eruption/tepid acknowledgement after each film).

There are a few small glitches in the screening. The projectionist misreads a thumbs-up gesture to the audience when I initially walk out in front as a cue to start the first film even though I have yet to begin my introduction (I stand in front of the rolling film in the dark and gesture towards her and she recovers quickly and stops the film). Being a fast learner I give her a direct and obvious salute when I’m done talking between every other film. When we play “Gabriel Goes for a Walk” the film begins to skip then stops entirely so she has to skip forward eliminating 1/6 of the film (you can’t depend upon DVDs or DV tape in a public arena), and some digital artifacts that appear early on in “Backyard Shadow” make me fear that it will grind to a digital halting death in its position as the final film of the evening. The film recovers, however, and the screening is essentially a technical success.

The audience uses up their saved applause and I answer 10 or 15 questions. No one leaves during the Q & A (always a good sign) and 7 people come up afterwards to purchase a copy of my compilation dvd. Several even request my autograph on the cover and I happily oblige, though I warn them that my signature, although legally valid, is basically unreadable.

All in all a fine end to a worthwhile, interesting, rewarding, and sometimes tiring journey through the south touring with my films. Thanks to the Southern Circuit (SC Arts Commission/Southern Arts Federation) and all of the venues and hosts for their hospitality and efforts. If any future participants wish to contact me for info about the experience (especially your one day off) don’t hesitate to do so. Otherwise I bid you adieu and encourage you to post comments and read earlier blog entries from myself and the other participants.

Now back to real life,

Karl