Snoopy Dancing Before the World Premiere

Anchorage International Film Festival Diary (part 2)

Cool movies and cool people: Andrew Thomas took footage Ralph J. Gleason shot nearly 40 years ago of Vince Guaraldi, shot a bunch of new interviews with jazz artists and cultural figures to make The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi. It’s only showing once, so I trudge over to the Out North Theater (getting massively lost as usual) to watch it Saturday afternoon.

All I know about Vince Guaraldi is that he did the music for the Peanuts specials, so the movie is a treat — and includes lots of interesting material about Guaraldi, jazz in general, and the counterculture of the 60s and early 70s. The Q&A after is fascinating — Thomas lost his house and sunk the last of his money into making the movie.

Later, I get massively lost (again) heading over to the Bear Tooth, where I watch The Temptation of St. Tony, an Estonian art-house movie that has a lot of early buzz. The movie is a classic film festival selection — a surrealistic foreign film gorgeously shot in black and white and filled with plot details that don’t entirely make sense, but hint at some greater commentary about society. After the screening, I hand out MUSH postcards to the exiting crowd. St. Tony is a polarizing movie — half the crowd completely loves it and the other half hates it with a vengeance. Several people ask me to explain to them what happened and what it all means. Later, I chat with lead actor Taavi Eelmaa; he’s in Anchorage to represent the film — and is lighthearted, colorful, charming, and fun (pretty much the exact opposite of his movie).

After a while, I wander over to the Spenard Roadhouse after for an AIFF party. I’m tired, so I doubt I’ll stay long, but the cupcake caterers advise me on cupcake flavors to compliment my beer and then I keep meeting fascinating people. I talk with Andrew Thomas about his time at Rhino Records, meet a bunch of the crew from The Beekeepers (who always seem to travel in packs), talk to a bunch of staff people from the festival (who tell me the presales on MUSH are very good and ask if I can show up at 11 the next morning for a TV interview), and wind up staying much longer than I’d planned. As I’m leaving, I run into Shannyn Moore, who gave me an interview in March for my movie (and had me on her radio show on Friday). She’s surprised I didn’t cut her out of the film. (That surprises me; when I asked her for an interview I didn’t know what exactly she’d say, but I was sure it would be great and would help represent the importance of the Iditarod to Alaska and Alaskans.) We talk for a bit and I tell her the Scott White story — which might just be my favorite thing in the movie.

When I leave, my car is the only one left in the parking lot — so much for just dropping by the party briefly. I find my way back to the hotel and catch up with a bunch of filmmakers and festival people in the bar. I trade screeners with Chris Brown (who directed the much buzzed-about Fanny, Annie, and Danny), which I missed because it was showing at the same time as The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi. (More to come…)

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Yes, I Do Want to be Friends with Star the Reindeer

Anchorage International Film Festival Diary (part 1)

70 plus in Los Angeles when I leave. 8 degrees in Anchorage when I land.

But I’ve pledged never again to complain about weather warmer than 30 below, so I put on my winter jacket and make sure my rental car has a snow scraper. (It’s forecast to snow every day I’m in Alaska.)

After a few hours of sleep, I wake up early and make the 5-minute walk into downtown so I can put postcards in various coffee shops and the Iditarod store in the 5th Avenue mall. It’s all part of the drill when you are your own street team.

I’m thinking about a million things I have to do when I look up and spot a reindeer. The sun isn’t up yet, so I stop in my tracks, trying to process what I’m seeing. It takes about 30 seconds to realize I’m not dreaming or hallucinating. There really is a reindeer right in front of me, behind a fence near the big “park strip” in the center of town. (It used to be the airport decades ago, but Anchorage turned it into a park when they relocated the airport a few miles Southwest.)

A sign on the fence lets me know this is Star the Reindeer and urges me to become Facebook friends with him. I smile. Who wouldn’t want to be Facebook friends with Star the Reindeer?

My new Facebook friend Star

The Anchorage International Film Festival staff and volunteers are all amazing. Hospitality Czar Don sets up an online interview and I set up a bunch of radio and TV appearances to talk about MUSH. I meet a bunch of cool filmmakers in from all over the world, most of the AIFF programmers and staff.

I tell all the Alaskans that I was married above the Arctic Circle in Coldfoot (on the Haul Road) and they all agree that this semi-qualifies me as an honorary Alaskan. I’ll take what I can get.

Lots of press — websites, two TV stations, a radio interview, a couple of print journalists. I drive north of Anchorage listening to the new Ben Folds/Nick Hornby album and get a surrealistic jolt when the song “Levi Johnston’s Blues” starts up just as I enter Wasilla. At the nearly empty headquarters of the Iditarod Trail Committee, I stop in front of the statue of Joe Redington, Sr. for a long time. If it weren’t for him there wouldn’t be an Iditarod and I wouldn’t be here, so I give silent thanks (and then leave some postcards in the entryway). I brought my video camera and a still camera, but they stay in the car. I’ve already got lots pictures and video — and this isn’t the time to get more.

The Opening Night Gala features a screening of The Wild Hunt (adults role-play as Vikings and Elves in the middle of a forest and a love triangle ends with tragic violence) at the Bear Tooth TheaterPub, which features dozens of craft-brewed beers on tap and homemade pizza. As the staff presents clips from some of the films and introduces filmmakers, I look around the place. The Bear Tooth is impressive — huge screen, good sound, and a capacity of nearly 500 including the balcony. This is where MUSH will premiere in less than 48 hours.

After midnight, I discover that my rented Yaris has a warning light to indicate when it’s skidding. Because really, when you’re skidding, what you really need is a warning light to distract you. I drive slowly to the hotel as huge wet snowflakes fall.

Hanging out with a few of the filmmakers and AIFF staff in the hotel bar, I realize I’m exhausted, but thrilled to be back in Alaska. (More to come…)

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Denali (by Matt Hopper)

Ceremonial start of the Iditarod in Anchorage. Song is Matt Hopper’s “Denali” from his new album Jersey Finger.

Check out his music at

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While waiting for the turkey hangover to subside, I made this little Google-Search story:

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Mush! You Huskies Podcast

I was on the Mush! You Huskies podcast talking about Iditarod, Mush (the movie), and the Anchorage International Film Festival today.

Thanks to Robert & Michele Forto — check out the show below (and check out Robert’s Iditarod blog too).

Click here to listen.

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Postcard Post

Click image to enlarge.

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Like MUSH on Facebook

MUSH has a page up on Facebook now… go here and “Like” it!

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Trailer is up

Click on the Trailer link above to view it.

Anchorage screening schedule is up! Click here for MUSH screenings.

And click here for the main AIFF site.

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So Long, Temp Music

It was fun while it lasted, but we both knew it had to end.

Another week of digitally fixing sound, smoothing out rough transitions, replacing the crappy temp music with kick-ass permanent music, two short clips restored, two more removed. 18 VOs redone, levels changed, changed back, then changed again.

And one inexplicable video glitch in the last DVD I burned (like a buffer wasn’t properly flushed).

Also about 8 versions of the trailer (the first one topping 7 minutes, the latest one 3:05) — the final one will go up here in a day or two.

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Anchorage International Film Festival

I’m thrilled to announce that MUSH will have its world premiere at the Anchorage International Film Festival in December as part of the Snowdance program.

When I first started working on this movie, my hope was to have it premiere in Anchorage… and that will be happening in a few weeks.

More info as soon as it’s available — including screening dates and times.

In the meantime, check out the festival — their slogan is “Films Worth Freezing For.”

And they’ve got a pretty spiffy poster too…

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