For an insider look to this year’s AFI FEST presented by Audi, we asked participating filmmaker Alison Bagnall, whose feature Funny Bunny played in the festival’s American Independents section, to keep a diary of her Hollywood experience.
Funny Bunny screened Saturday, November 7 and Sunday, November 8 at the TCL Chinese Theater complex. Here Bagnall, who previously directed efforts Piggie and The Dish & the Spoon, and co-wrote Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66, journals her weekend trip, which involved a stay at the famed Roosevelt Hotel and interactions with L.A.’s wildlife… and other denizens of Tinseltown.
One of the striking things about AFI FEST is that it is an elegant and high-brow cultural event, an end-of-year curation of the very best films from around the world, with an almost European sensibility to the programming—yet it takes place in perhaps the cheesiest 500-yard stretch of old Tinseltown there is.
The juxtaposition borders on the sublime. Independent filmmakers—most of whom make little to no money at it, and live monk-like, low-overhead lives—enjoy the sparkling pool and luxurious, crisp-linen bedrooms of the storied Roosevelt Hotel. The only catch is that these often sensitive-souled artistes must share elevators and poolside parties with fake-tanned and -boobed wannabe reality TV starlets and the escorts who typically pay their tabs and drag them by their wrists back to their rooms at 1 a.m. once they are sufficiently full of alcohol. It’s a sight to see. Not for the faint of heart.
Saturday morning of November 7, I awoke at 5 a.m., still on East Coast time, so I thought I’d risk looking like a homeless person (nobody walks in L.A., says the song, correctly) and take an early-morning stroll toward the Hollywood Hills. This was an antidote to the tinsel and starlets. I saw a 20-foot-tall flowering bush chock full of hummingbirds on North Curson Ave and for the first time I discovered that hummingbirds actually make noise. I had always thought they were silent! But that is because I’ve always only seen one hummingbird alone. Unlike us humans, birds don’t tweet into a void or a fiber optic cable, they tweet to each other. In person. (In bird, that is.)
One of the high points of this day was running into the Krisha team. I had met the the director, Trey Edward Shults, and his producer (and childhood friend) Justin Chan way back in March at the SXSW Filmmaker Meet & Greet Luncheon. I had been searching anxiously for someone to sit next to who looked down-to-earth and friendly at the SXSW luncheon, and these guys looked very much that. Since last March, these humble sweet guys and their first feature film, Krisha, have taken the world festival circuit by storm. The film is crushing and masterful. I finally caught it at AFI FEST on one of the glorious Chinese Theater screens. I love the movie. Love it like a baby. Trey is the real deal.
I had to jump up from dinner to run to the TCL Chinese Theaters for my tech check and screening of Funny Bunny. Along the way I met the lovely ladies below. I am not sure why they hang out here, on the Walk of Fame, all day long. I don’t even think they are paid. Maybe the logic is that if they hang out on the Walk of Fame long enough they’ll get famous too? No need to ask permission for their photo. They are ever photo-ready.
Made it through the gauntlet of the Walk of Fame to the Chinese Theaters. Maybe I exaggerate. It’s not that bad, I guess. But it’s intense for sure.
Had a sold-out screening. (Thanks Audi!) Technically perfect and on a gigantic screen, an independent filmmaker’s dream. This film will mostly be seen on tiny screens so I savor this moment and watch most of the movie (all the funny bits especially).
Epilogue: The hard knowledge I gained from my stay in L.A. this year was twofold. First, the hummingbirds thing. And this fact, which I can’t believe I never noticed: The below tree trunks are all….palm tree trunks. There isn’t one kind of palm tree bark. There are numerous kinds. The trunks below (growing next to the Roosevelt Hotel pool) are all palm trees.
When I lived here years ago I must have been so wrapped up in myself and my filmic ambitions that I never even noticed there were different palm tree types. I think I have to go back and tell the poolside babes. They need to notice this!
Thank you, AFI FEST! And goodnight. MM
For more on AFI Fest 2015, read our moviemaker survey here. AFI Fest presented by Audi runs November 5-12, 2015 in Hollywood, California. Images courtesy of Alison Bagnall.
Funny Bunny opens in theaters on November 13, 2015, courtesy of FilmBuff.