Being Ginger in Austin
So the Being Ginger Tour is off to a flying start. I had my first screening down in Austin on Monday, and it was a truly special experience. It was a rough day at first because I learned at midnight the night before that the theatre couldn’t play my BluRay disk. I spent the entire day trying to find a solution, racing back and forth across town terrified that we would have to cancel the screening. This was going on at the same time I learned the screening had sold out. Long story short, we had to play the film as a standard definition DVD, but from where I was sitting it didn’t look too bad.
I sat in the back next to my brother and a special guest who flew in for the screening. I won’t say who, but if you’ve seen the film you could guess who it was. My brother had a little of my favorite whisky on him, and we sat there sipping it throughout the screening.
The Austin screening was always going to be emotional for me. For starters, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Film from The University of Texas at Austin, and in addition to a handful of old friends, two of my former professors made it out for the screening. Professor Charles Ramirez-Berg is a legend at UT. I was lucky enough to take four of his classes, including my very first class. During the Q&A I was able to tell a story about something he said on that first day about how the secret to making a good film is simply to be honest about the human experience; do that and it doesn’t matter what the film’s genre or story is, other humans will relate to it. That is something I’ve always remembered and played a big role in the choices I made while making Being Ginger as I wanted to make something that wasn’t only for redheads. He later told me how proud he was of me, and that he was fighting back tears. He added “All teachers should have such a night as I had last Monday.” I was very happy to repay him with that for everything he has done for me.
The real high point was when he said this in an email today:
“I’m teaching Latino Images this semester, and had my first class yesterday. I showed them the trailer for BEING GINGER as well as a couple of the animations. My point was that stereotyping was a broader phenomenon than just Latinos in the US, but a social phenomenon, and that it creates all sorts of US and THEM categories, not just ethnic or racial ones. It’s part of marginalizing people and rationalizing that process. The class loved the trailer and the animations, especially since I told them you were not only a former student, but had taken this same class.”
(He would probably be embarrassed if he knew that I wrote this, but Professor Ramirez-Berg is, among other things, one of the foremost experts in the world on stereotyping in cinema, and for him to have mentioned my film in his class is a high honor.)
The screening itself was a huge hit. There were about a 100 people there, I’d guess that half of them had red hair. The reaction from the audience was incredible, the critic I had invited told me he’d never seen an audience react like that before. I did an emotional 20 minute Q&A and afterwards some of us got together for a group photo and then a few went downtown to a jazz bar for a drink.
The critic wrote a glowing review. He said, “What this movie succeeds in doing is a hugely rare thing. It takes a very specific lens coupled with an even more specific story and turns it into a universal narrative.”
The other highlight, which I think is worth mentioning, is that I was asked on a few radio programs. I was so busy I didn’t research any of them, which is something I’m going to need to start doing. One of the shows was a half-hour thing about women’s issues. The three women didn’t actually watch the film, but invited me on just the same. To be clear, I had a lovely time, but I just find it very strange that I of all people spent a half hour talking about women’s issues on the radio. I promise to research people from now on.
The Dallas screening is tomorrow night, and I’m a nervous wreck. My parents live in Dallas, and this will be the first time they see the film. A few of my old friends from high school and college will be there as well, including my high school physics teacher, who I was extremely close with. He was very proud of me when I first went to Engineering school at UT, and I’m hoping he’ll be just as proud to see what I decided to do instead. The theatre sold out yesterday, so they bumped me up to a bigger theater and there are still a few tickets left. I predict that I will completely break down during the Q&A when I try to recognize my parents and ask the audience to give them a round of applause.
I’m really going to need a pint.