The Universe Took Away My Badge to Give Me a Medal

I have just returned from quite the adventure. With Vic Olam and Aditya "Adi" Vishwanath, we made a round trip, non-stop 1,400+ mile drive from Los Angeles to Muskogee, Oklahoma for the Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival where P.A. premiered as a Comedy Micro Short.

On the way, we passed by the prominent city skyline of Oklahoma City; within a few hours from there, we rolled into Muskogee, a smaller town, even in some ways a ghost town but you wouldn't be able to tell that from the attitude of the locals.

We all know Los Angeles, everyone's got their own thing and are pretty much too busy to concern themselves with anyone else; not so in Muskogee. It's a quiet little town, most local restaurants close by 10 p.m. and don't open on Sunday. It's a town where customer service may be slower but not for being lackadaisical; merely because people have a genuine interest in you and it wasn't because we were filmmakers from L.A. - it's just the way the small town works.

Here's my favorite example of what I'm talking about. During the festival, there was some screenings at the 3 Rivers Museum; a decommissioned rail station that now serves as a time capsule for some of Muskogee's most prominent moments in history. This museum, however, was closed during the festival; we talked to a curator who was still there for the event and asked her if we could check it out.

She told us it was closed but that we could look around the immediate area in the lobby. Then, less than 2 minutes later, she appeared behind us to accommodate our desire to see the museum in it's entirety. Her only request was that we turn the lights off when we were done. Perhaps she was inspired by our interest in the history of Muskogee; perhaps she merely felt bad for initially denying our request. One thing I know for sure, anything that's closed in L.A. will not be opened for you just because you ask.

This is not to disparage my Los Angeles home; the two places are merely different. L.A. is all go-go-go with the hustle and bustle of the big cities. Muskogee is a laid-back town with accommodating, friendly people on every corner.

Bare Bones was an experience in itself. Appearing lightly attended at first; most residents and perhaps some of the out-of-town filmmakers were at the two day chili cook off. P.A. played on Friday, April 11th in a small studio space for about twenty people.

The festival had arranged a filmmakers lounge at Max's Garage, a bar in town. It was an active scene but we found ourselves more interested in soaking up some local color. So we went to a little dive bar not far from our motel; Uncle Dan's Dawg House. It's a laid-back spot with inexpensive beers, pool tables, and smoking allowed inside. We kicked back, played a few rounds, drank a few rounds, and talked about our plans for what to do next in the film world. And Uncle Dan himself is a good man with a tough exterior; we made sure he knew we'd be back and we intend to do just that.

It was only on the final day, at the awards, that we saw a bit more of the draw this festival has. I worried, briefly, when I lost festival badge; we were asked for ours when we entered the Oklahoma Music Hall for the ceremonies but we were not kept out. The staff took our word for it and we walked in with relative ease.

After musical performances and the National Anthem played Rock-style by a passionate 16-year old girl; the awards began. First up, the award for Best Comedy Micro Short. There was no time to get nervous; the category was read, the five eligible films were listed and, within twenty seconds, P.A. was announced as the winner!

Adi and Vic screamed cheers and I took a nervous walk up to the stage from near the back of the long hall; I was first so I didn't know if I was supposed to walk up or not but no one waved me away so I kept going. The male presenter joked about not being a beautiful woman placing this medallion over my head, I said it was no worries and that this was just as good.

I turned around with him for a photo and I left the stage with a wide smile on my face that wouldn't leave until we were out of town. My first festival and my first win; how could it get any better?

A thunderstorm rolled into Muskogee as we were leaving; rain poured hard and visibility was low but we pressed on safely until the hail started and began to pour down on our rental car. We took shelter for a minute or so under an overpass, to let the hail subside, and then continued on our way.

Later on, what I thought was just big particles of dust, turned out to be snow. It appeared in "star burst" like fashion in the windshield, illuminated by our headlights. Still, we pressed on for home and finally, the snow died down just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We commented, on the way into town, that we should stop by the Grand Canyon on the way home; Adi and I had never seen it in person and Vic was last there in his childhood. So, as we approached Flagstaff, Arizona, we took a detour into one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We didn't stay long but our experience was still profound; to see such a gorgeous sight, the deep canyon for miles, it was amazing.
We were back in L.A. just in time for the evening rush hour. We were tired, fairly sweaty, but also richer for our experiences. We connected like a good production family should; we talked about everything under the sun and we were walking away with festival gold.

We have big plans ahead and we can't wait to share them with you. We're energized, we're pumped, and we're passionate; we'll use this win as inspiration to plug ahead. The team we have, we won't be deterred.

I have no doubt this trip, this experience of a lifetime, will lead our team into some of the most rewarding work we will accomplish in our lives.