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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Film Festivals

The Hitchhiking Movie, the Mississippi Paddle Adventure, and 11 Visions itself are all a joint venture between Ryan Jeanes and Phillip Hullquist.  Therefore, I give to you 11 Visions’ first ever JOINT POST!  No we’re not smoking joints while writing – we’re collaborating on a single post.  This is a tad experimental so if it blows up in your face just send us the cleaning bill.

It was about 3pm when Ryan and I arrived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the Secret City Film Festival. So much to do today: find the theater location, get posters made, update the website, meet festival organizers, find a secluded campsite–what? Yes, we’re still camping! In order to save money on unnecessary conveniences motels provide like running water and electricity, we paddled across the river and setup a tent instead. I think it’s actually better as it’s reducing the withdrawal I might otherwise be experiencing from leaving The River. This is my first film festival, my first “big-screen” premiere, and my first chance to get a real life audience reaction to the film. It’s all very exciting, but I also have no idea what to expect. –Phillip

—–

“Arrived” in Oak Ridge, TN, he says.  More like rolled in on one wheel and a prayer.  Phil and I had just orchestrated an 11th hour comeback to get from New Orleans to Nashville in the first place.  Making the film festival AT ALL was a Mail Mary pass.

2 days before film festival – New Orleans, LA:

Phil:  “OK, I’ve got it.  Since AMTRAK doesn’t go to Nashville, we buy tickets to Memphis and hope someone can give us a ride to the Music City.”

Me:  “Ummmmm, so like do you have anyone who’ll come get us?”

Phil:  “No.”

Me:  “Great plan; I love it.”  That’s not sarcasm; this does sound like a Phil/Ryan plan.  “What about Wes?”  Wes, you will recall from this post, is the guy whom it took four hours to coordinate a ride from Gold Dust, TN to his parents’ home in Memphis.  This is an abbreviated version, but that phone conversation on the riverbank between Phillip and his former roommate (who splits his time between the Music City and the Blues City) went something like this:

5:12pm – Gold Dust, TN – It’s dark; to my understanding Wes said he would have a truck waiting for us at the boat launch.  Unless I’m blind, there is no truck.

Phil:  “Wes, hey, we’re here, um, didn’t you say you could arrange a ride for us?”

Wes:  “Oh, dude, like I totally forgot.  Um, like, let me call my mom and see if I can get y’all a ride.”  Hangs up.

Phil:  “Guess what?”

Me:  “Wes forgot.”

P:  “Yup.”

5:38 – Riiiiiiiiiing.  P:  “Hello?”

W:  Hey dude like I just talked to my mom.

P:  Yeah?

W:  So like yeah she says that she’s making tuna casserole for dinner tonight.

P:  What the hell does that have to do with us being picked up?

W:  Nothing, oh yeah, so like I forgot to ask about the ride.

P:  Wes?

W:  No dude.  (Hangs up.)  I’ll get on it.

6:15 – Riiiiiiiiiing.

W:  Dude, I just watched this youtube video…  Oh yeah, I forgot.

7:13 – Ring.

W:  My brother says he might be able to do it.  Do y’all need a truck or will my compact work?

7:51 –

W:  Where are y’all again?

8:45 -I consider eating my brain.

Wes:  “Yeah so like my brother might be able to do it…”

Phil:  That’s what you said an hour ago!

W:  Dude, don’t get testy, um, yeah, let me, dude you got to see the new clue book from Warhammer!

Phil:  Wes.

12:45am (this is not an exaggeration) – Wes’s brother arrives with a truck (thank god) and a frustrated tale of how it took his brother 4 hours just to communicate to him that he needed to come pick us up.

“Why didn’t Wes just give us your number?” I asked Reilly, his brother.

“That’s a really good question; this woulda gone a lot faster.”

Noooooooooooo scheisse!

Phil and I Reach Memphis (By Train This Time, Not Boat and Not Wes)

Amtrak is speedy and effective.  A nice lady saw me downing Mini Moos and eating sugar packets, and bought me lunch.  People on the train were friendly and cordial and nice and, um, friendly.  I tried to cross cars without shoes and not only the conductor but the passengers implored me to “go put some shoes on, you’s gonna get yo’ feet stuck ‘tween them caws!”  Nice people concerned for my safety.  An old black man was jovial sipping his Budweiser tallboy.  “I likes to talk to sum youn’ people,” he says.  “Main, my daddy always tol’ me, you gotta talk to youn’ people, hang out withem.  Dat way you stay young!”  He smiled ear to ear and had four teeth.  It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had.  My lunch was bought by a coupla old-timers seeing America via train, playing Gim Rummy and eating peanuts.  The energy on the train was through the roof.  Glorious, wondrous, I loved it.

Greyhound is NOT Amtrak

Nashville, TN is one of the few major American cities without passenger rail service.  Why?  Global warming; I don’t exactly know why.  I know the Carter Administration forced some Amtrak cuts in the late 70s (f—ing Carter), but presumably for lack of potential ridership (yeah, I know, no one would be interested in commuting quickly and easily between the Capitol and the state’s largest city) the track between Memphis and Nashville was never to be.  This means that if you don’t have a car, and you’ve got a crapload of stuff, and you don’t want to fly, and you don’t want to call Wes Herndon to pick you up because you might as well jump of a bridge and hope the wind currents blow you and your seven 50-lb luggage items to Nashville, because you have a better shot at that than Phillip’s well-meaning (but mentally vacant) roommate finding the power of focus necessary to come to his hometown (Memphis) and take us back to his worktown (Nashville) in exchange for money or stories or sex (your job, Phillip) or effusive thank-yous.  Wes, I love you to death… Wes!  Pay attention!  Right here!  Yeah, right here (makes eye-to-eye hand gesture with fingers).  Wes, I love you to death but making a PB and J sandwich for you is an all-night operation.  (For those of you thinking I’m being too hard on Wes, just know that I love him and want to have his babies :).  Eat your heart out, Jessica.)

Greyhound is not Amtrak, but that is what Phil and I have settled on.  The festival is in in less than 24 hours and none of Phil’s leads are coming through.  Phil turns to me exhausted:  “It’s gonna cost an arm n’ a leg, man.”  Greyhound wants 35 bucks per extra bag.  F that! Some of you who’ve been reading this blog know I’m into some New Age stuff, the Secret and all that.  In my experience it works great sometimes and it works for shite other times.  One thing I have noticed:  When I need it to work and I’m really intentional about it working, it does.  First I form in my imagination the outcome I want.  OK, brain, here we go.  I’m imagining the manager talking to me and I’m saying to him that I want him to charge me no more than 10 bucks an extra bag, and we get our tickets and everything for less than a hundred bucks. Mind you, I’m doing this right after Phil came to me and said he was just shot down by the clerk for asking the same thing to which she replied, “Um, no, sirrrr, duh policy is very clear.  Whatchu wan’ me to do?  Change duh policy?  It don’t work like that.  Y’all gonna hav’ tuh pay $185.  Look at all dem extruh ba-ugs!  I shude be chargin’ y’all mo’!”  Calm, brain, calm.  We can do this. I go up directly to the evil clerk (buahahahahahahaha!).  “Howdy, ma’am!” I say Texan.  (I always do this when I want to be more jovial and cordial, because Texans – especially Charles Whitman 🙁 and the guys who ran Enron – are cordial and nice.  “Would you be able to check all these bags on this cart and give us our tickets for a hundred bucks?”  I’m smiling at her.  I’m staying present.  I’m asking as if I expect a direct and honest and positive yes.  I know she can say know; perhaps I know she will say no, but that’s okay.  I ask. I expect my response.  I’m using the Secret; I hope to God this works.  “Um,” she ponders (better than the response Phil got), “I just, uh, you need to talk to duh managah about dat!”  I go up to the manager.  Stay present, stay real, this can happen, this will happen, by god I hope this happens.  Shhh. “Hi [insert manager’s name on name tag], I would like to travel to Nashville with all those bags for 100 dollars.”  He looked almost flabbergasted.  I don’t know if anyone had so boldly asked him that before.  He starts rummaging through my bags and talking speedily.  I almost don’t know what’s happening.  Phillip is asking me what’s happening, and I say, “I dunno, but let’s not spoil it; I think this guy’s going to do something; I just don’t know what.  Let’s just go with it.”  He gets half our bags on via the baggage handlers and then says the other half I’ll have to put on myself.  I don’t know why we’re going through this weird process, but…. F it!  It’s working!  I go back to nasty clerk:  “Soooo, how much I owe ya?”

“$1o2.97.”

Thank you, Secret.    -Ryan

—–

Oak Ridge, TN

Photo Credit: Betsy Pickle
The premiere gave us reason to smile. (Photo Credit: Betsy Pickle)

They call it the Secret City. Ryan asks me why it is named such seeing reference to this nickname nearly everywhere. He thinks I know more about the city than I actually do because I told him that Knoxville people make nuclear jokes about the town. Only a day later we would learn much of the city’s unique history while watching Keith McDaniel’s (the Secret City Film Festival creator) excellent documentary about his hometown.

For the showing of The Hitchhiking Movie on Friday afternoon, I sat near the front inside the expansive Playhouse Theater. Ryan chose a seat near the back…apparently to spend time observing the audience response instead of being immersed within it. Everything is larger on the big screen; the opening titles almost look over-sized to me, each shake and small movement of the camera translates into a larger movement when projected 16 feet tall. But it’s great–glorious even. Our audience is laughing throughout, feeling the pain of the journey, and applauding the successes along with us. A film critic from Knoxville described the movie as a “crowd-pleaser.” Many people have traveled from all over to visit this festival, but we PADDLED every day for a month to make it there in the nick of time. The reactions were perfect.

Then this story: on Saturday morning a woman named Meghan working at the festival found the need to describe a dream she experienced as a result of seeing The Hitchhiking Movie. As I recall from her account, she also got picked up by “Sammy” and later on met her husband-to-be. So now we’re not just inspiring people, we’re giving people nightmares! If anyone else can confirm that our movie induces strange dreams, please report in the comments below. If you haven’t seen The Hitchhiking Movie yet, you can order a copy at IndieFlix.     –Phillip

——

Yes, Meghan, um, that was a little weird; and, as you know, we’re a coupla straight-laced guys so quit freaking us out like that. 🙂  Thank you, Meghan, also for buying a copy of the movie; hope you enjoyed it.

Keith McDaniel has really jazzed up the festival this year (so I’m told):  He’s got corporate sponsors, he’s got big-name talent (Elaine Hendrix – Knoxville native and star of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion – “I invented Post-its!” – is there as well as Mitch Rouse – director of Employee of the Month, probably one of the most kick-ass movies I’ve seen in a while).

My Date with Elaine

This is a rather bizarre experience.  Betsy Pickle, the Knoxville movie critic Phillip mentions above and author of ze photo abuv yor head, calls me over to speak with someone after the screening of Mitch’s Employee of the Month.  Holy crap, I think, that’s a goddamn movie star standing there! I wouldn’t say I became tongue-tied but I did become awful shy when Betsy introduced me to Elaine Hendrix.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi.”  Awwwwkweerrrrrrd.

“Um, so like I dug Romy and Michelle.”

“Oh, good.”  She’s probably done like a thousand things since then, but that’s the only thing I can think of right now.  So, Elaine, if I came off like a douche, sorry, but I really did like your role in that movie.  Oh, an’ kudos on your short mocumentary The Cloggers (don’t really know how y’all can see this one yet – wait till it’s out of the festivals – but just imagine Spinal Tap pared down to 7 minutes and about cloggers instead of rockers.  Good job, Elaine; very funny.

I really didn’t know what to say to this girl.  She certainly isn’t model hot, but she is hot with steely black eyebrows under beautiful, bleached blonde bangs, a beautiful smile… I was smitten.  Betsy, bless her heart, saves me and starts pitching The Hitchhiking Movie to her.  “Oh really?” she replies.  A goddamn movie star is interested in me!  Don’t F this up, you slimy bastard.

“Uh, yeah,” I say and totally drop the ball.  She looks at her watch, and I want to jump out a window.  “Pull up, goddammit, puuulll up!!!!”  All right, brain, we’re gonna pull this one out of the gutter and land it safely on the runway. I push my shoulders back and puff out my chest.  Ahem, I can do this, movie star or no!:  “Hey, Elaine,” I say suddenly confident-ized, “you’re mockumentary was very good, I gave it a 5/5; I know you said during the Q and A you liked documentaries, so I have one for you.  I know people have been pushing their stuff on you all night so I wont push anything on you.  This [Phillip shows up with a DVD] is for you to enjoy.”  She says thank you, and it is genuine.  Betsy tries to explain to her that she wants her in a short she’s going to direct in Knoxville to which Elaine demurs.  She’s been ghermed all night (ha!  thanks, Jim, for the term; told ya I’d use it all the time!) and wants to go home.  By fate or god or failing to pay the electricity bill the lights go dim, and Elaine makes a break for the door.  Good cue. “Phil,” I said later, “do you think she’ll watch it?”

“I dunno, probably.”

“Probably will.”  And if not, F it.  Just as the Doors said, “We did the Ed Sullivan Show, man!” I can say, “I talked to the co-star of The Parent Trap, man, I frikkin’ talked to the co-star of The Parent Trap!”

I met Mitch Rouse outside the theater and asked him to tell me a little bit about being on the Second City Stage in Chicago with Stephen Colbert and Nia Vardalos, which he did.  Very unasuming, kick-ass fellow.  Thank you, Mitch.  Like I said, Employee of the Month was a good movie.  OOOOOOO I want to spoil the ending for you so bad… so I won’t.

Conclusion (That’s Spanish for Conclusion)

We had a great time.  People were coming up to us, as Phil stated, asking us if we “really” were sleeping in a tent.  Hotels cost 50 bucks!  What would be the point.  You ain’t talkin’ to a rich man!  Many people loved the Hitchhiking Movie.  Though we cringed through the intro which took too long and the music issues and the sound issues and the issues issues, it was great.  The premise itself was compelling enough.  My on-camera-ness seemed to be compelling enough.  We did a good enough job of editing for it to be enough.

The people told us so.

And I believe them.

Thank you to Keith, Dana, and Natalie of the SC Film Festival.

It was great.

Thank you to all who’ve chosen to follow us after the Mississippi Journey.  Told ya there’d be more cool stuff happenin’!

And thank you to Elaine and Mitch.  I think you taught me that I stand on two feet just like you do, and if I work (even though I’m 6’4″) I might one day get to be as tall as you.

THANK YOU FANS!  LOVE YOU!

Ryan

The Hitchhiking Movie to Premiere at Secret City Film Festival

The Hitchhiking Movie
The Hitchhiking Movie

Nashville, TN — September 24, 2009 — Nashville based filmmakers Ryan Jeanes and Phillip Hullquist are premiering their first feature film The Hitchhiking Movie on October 9th at the Secret City Film Festival in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The movie follows the pair’s attempt to cross the entire continental United States in less than a week, using nothing more than their thumbs.

“After over a year of work on this project, we can finally see The Hitchhiking Movie play on the big screen,” said Hullquist, who also served as editor for the film, which is already receiving positive reviews and press. First time filmmakers often times get bogged down in the overwhelming amount of work involved in actually completing a movie, but as Jeanes explains, “The real work is done in the editing room.  Successfully filming our hitchhiking adventure was an accomplishment, but I was more excited when we had the finished product.  The positive reviews have just made the experience sweeter.”

“Before we left for the trip, people told us we’d be stabbed or murdered,” Jeanes says. “Very heartening.”  The 101-minute feature film chronicles the filmmaking duo’s experiences as 23 complete strangers stop on the side of the road and take them from New York City towards Los Angeles. (You will have to watch the film to see if they actually make it.)  “I had already bought two return tickets from L.A.” Jeanes continues. “We had to make it or we’d miss the flight back.”

The pair created the website 11visions.com which not only sells their DVD but also highlights their current adventures which include a kayaking trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River. Adventure travel seems to be their mainstay, but as Jeanes explains, “I think many people have the desire to leave their current existence and do something crazy. Where most people stop at that impulse, we actually go do it and get it on film.”

The Hitchhiking Movie is funny, insightful and full of unexpected surprises.  Hullquist explains, “I was a one-man crew with no script, so it was challenging to set up the shots we needed to make the film. We wanted to capture the realism of being like any other hitchhiker on the road, so our camera gear was kept to a minimum.”

What about the danger? “That’s what we wanted to dispel,” Hullquist says. “This is a realistic portrayal of hitchhiking unlike what you see in your average horror movie.”  ”There’s no blood and guts,” Jeanes adds. “The only real fear was whether we could make it before the deadline.”

Entertaining scenarios abound in this documentary:  A hysterical yet attractive young woman offers to drive them all the way from New Jersey to Los Angeles, a Seminole Indian entreats them to smoke his prayer pipe, a rowdy, one-eyed construction worker instructs on the basics of train hopping, and the pair finds themselves desperate in Denver with over 1000 miles to travel and less than 48 hours in which to do it.  If a real life adventure is your thing, this film is for you.

“A lot of people probably aren’t going to finish watching the movie and then go stick their thumbs out on the side of the road,” Jeanes points out. “The beauty is that The Hitchhiking Movie is for both the armchair and active adventurer. You can share in the fun without ever leaving your house.”

But Jeanes and Hullquist aren’t stopping there. Just two months after the DVD release of The Hitchhiking Movie, photography for their next film began in Minnesota. Their new film is titled The River is Life, and it tells the story of people they meet while paddling down the entire Mississippi River. A third documentary, a lighthearted exploration of heaven, hell and the idiosyncrasies of religion, is also in the works.

Tickets for The Hitchhiking Movie as well as more information about the festival are available at www.secretcityfilms.com. To purchase a DVD for home viewing go to www.hitchhikingmovie.com, or visit the parent website www.11visions.com. The film is available in streaming video and DVD which includes bonus scenes, an audio commentary from the crew as well as a special “drunk commentary.