In 1999 I started making short films that I could accompany live. I’ve made about 30 but didn’t think of using words like “director” to describe myself until 2005 when Roberto Ariganello, the president of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT), said “We should make a retrospective of your films sometime”. I felt drunk by this unexpected compliment and soon was imagining my retrospective.
Unfortunately a year later Roberto accidentally died, a horrible shock to all who knew him. In weeks after that I was at a party and found myself talking to a filmmaker about his death. I wasn’t a fan of this particular filmmaker’s work but then she leaned in and told me “You know,” she sniffed ” he wanted to do a retrospective of my work”. What a guy. In a way credit for me being in Italy touring goes to him because he planted that bug to consider my visual work something saleable.
Later I learned there are grants to offset the costs of travel to see a retrospective or a premiere of one’s work – poof and that’s how I got to Italy. These promoters in Genova are screening a retrospective of my films and they supplied me with the paperwork The Canada Council needed.
We only had a small crowd but they loved the films even applauded during songs when I hadn’t yet reached the ending. What’s more beautiful than performing in a theatre instead of a bar. I invited the whole audience (and their families) to come along for the rest of the tour. The three promoters promised we would do more business in the future. Matteo, Anna and Allesandro who couldn’t speak English but he also has a band and they too are on the bill this evening. They’re concerned about feeding me, turns out Anna lived in London a year or two and she is a vegetarian (the only vegetarian I will meet in Italy). They take me to a trattoria which is authentic and lovely and they made sure there is a choice for me – pasta in mushroom sauce and it rocks and we’re having a great time. Occasionally the owners and various staff poke their heads out and point at me, they want to see what a man who doesn’t eat animals looks like.
We return from dinner to finish setting up the show and I realize I forgot my video screen at Stefano’s apartment. I’m amazed I’ve made two major mistakes in two shows. How could I miss the screen it’s integral. We’re ok tonight, it’s a theatre with a massive screen but I explain to Stephano we need to change our plan for tomorrow and add a 90 minute detour back to Milan before Salerno. He’s doesn’t want to change anything, says the postal system can send it to me for $40 but he doesn’t know with certainty just says maybe it might work that way. I’m sorry he’s upset but if I have to sleep less or drive more that’s the way it goes, not a high price to pay for the security of correctly presenting the show as planned and practiced. My screen can adapt in numerous ways, small, large, rear or front projection. Other places will have screens he says but I know from experience if they’re too small or permanently angled weirdly it means omitting half the show.
It’s like when people want me to play piano and reassure me it’s ok because they have a keyboard. But I play piano, I play inside the piano, I play with waves of harmonics, I play with controlling the dynamics of hammers hitting strings, I have technique(s) around this. A keyboard is an electric machine with a piano interface replaying recordings of pianos. For my pianistic purposes it’s not even close but to try and explain that to people is pointless and they think I’m a prima donna. Instead I tell them I’ll play guitar and sing.
Though my part went very well it wasn’t so good again for Stefano and he tells me later how the fault was the audience. Not sure right now who he despises more me or them.