Thanks for Nothing, COVID 19
I was supposed to watch “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” in a Moscow movie theater today, in fact precisely while I’m typing this, “sheltering in place” this Saturday morning New York time, which is early evening Moscow time.
I was looking forward to seeing my film with subtitles in the Cyrillic alphabet, and hearing my answers in the Q&A translated into mellifluously guttural Russian. But for now I will have to make do with this screenshot from the festival program.
I was looking forward to posting a little blog piece about how my short film was skipping from Las Vegas to New York City to Moscow in just eight days. Instead I am now writing how it once was going to hit that trifecta, before a certain world-wide pandemic got in the way. I know, in the scheme of things, my little festival disappointments don’t amount to much more than, well, see Bogart above, but let me just quickly recount what woulda been and how it drip by airborn drip turned into an ain’t gonna be.
Last weekend “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was scheduled to screen in Las Vegas at the “Reel of the Dead” film festival, part of the “Day of the Dead” Horror convention. A Friday evening screening was scheduled, and the festival director told me she planned to re-screen Tell-Tale during the closing night party late Saturday.
I would have loved to go to Vegas again and check out the horror convention – I imagine thousands of scarily costumed attendees on line for autographs from Linda Blair and Richard Dreyfuss – but Ed and I already had plane tickets to fly to Berlin and Moscow the following week, and logistically and economically it seemed too difficult. However I have friends in Vegas whom I gave my convention/festival passes. They were going to attend for me, take pictures, and report on how it all went for the blog.
Well, COVID 19 happened, and the festival has been postponed. To June. For now.
The New York City premiere of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was scheduled to take place just a few days after Las Vegas, this last Wednesday, March 25, in the Anthology Theater on Second Avenue, sponsored by NewFilmmakers NY. All movie theaters are, of course, shut down now, but three days before that general order came down for New York, on March 13, a Friday the 13th by the way, I got a call from Brandon Ruckdashel, NewFilmmakers NY’s program director. He told me the Anthology theater had already decided to shut down through April and NewFilmmakers NY were rescheduling their screenings. However would I agree to have my film live-streamed on their Facebook page at the original March 25, 7:45pm start time? I said let’s do it, and you can read about the live-streaming and watch my Q&A here.
The day after the NewFilmmakers NY screening, Thursday March 26th, Ed and I were to fly to Berlin. But on March 12th, Trump closed off travel from Europe. Yet American citizens were still allowed to travel to and from Europe. So theoretically we could still go to Berlin, see my mother, my godsons, and also still take that low-cost flight to Moscow we’d booked to attend the Russian International Horror Film Festival. “We have no Coronavirus in Russia”, the festival director had cheerily assured me by email just a week before the Europe travel ban. He also hinted at having something special planned for us and wanted to make sure we would attend. Earlier the festival had provided us with special invitations to facilitate our getting visas for Russia. The visas ultimately cost us far more than the Berlin/Moscow airline tickets.
But then, also on March 12th, I got a text on my phone. In Russian. Cyrillic letters. Google translate’s camera function on Ed’s phone helped us decipher that our Berlin/Moscow flights had been cancelled. All flights from Europe to Moscow had been cancelled.
Yet direct flights from New York to Moscow were (and are still) ongoing. United Air changed their policies to allow no-fee rescheduling our booked Berlin trip within twelve months. Maybe we should just postpone Berlin, but still fly out to Moscow for the weekend (flights were surprisingly inexpensive)? Yes, there was a time, short though it was, when such considerations still seemed within the realm of the possible and reasonable. But within a few days, Putin announced anyone flying into Moscow would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Ed and I had already figured we would do that upon returning to New York from Moscow if we chose to attend the festival and stroll in Red Square while attempting to keep six feet distance from everyone else. But there was no point in “flying to Moscow for the weekend” if one was going to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.
I wrote the festival explaining that we would not be able to attend anymore. And then the next day we learned the Russian International Horror Film Festival was postponed to October.
So the internationally metropolitan trifecta of Tell-Tale screenings over 8 days turned out to be just one little Facebook live-streaming instead. And I have now spent almost every minute of the last two weeks at home, except for two or three grocery runs.
But don’t cry for me. It is after all just a hill of beans in the scheme of things. The festivals and screenings are still scheduled to take place, just later, sometime. I feel sorrier for the first graders I teach at the Childrens School, whose original opera performances were yanked away from them the week they were to take place, after they had worked on them for half a year. Officially school in New York City is still scheduled to resume April 20, but the unofficially official word this week is that schools will stay closed for the rest of the school year. That means the operas will not be performed. The fat lady has sung and nobody heard.
That to me is far sadder than postponed screenings of a film that is completed and can still and will always still be viewable. All that work the children put into writing and rehearsing their operas, and just as they were about to perform them, it’s all over.
A somewhat larger hill of beans in this crazy world.