Hey folks - Harry here in Toronto, but not for long. I've only seen two movies here - and one I was all over the credits for. The first was Bobcat Goldwait's latest film, GOD BLESS AMERICA - which I'll write up tomorrow if I have the chance. However, as many of you that read this site know... I covet experiences. Emotions. Passion. And today has been a completely awesome film experience, wholly unique and incredibly bittersweet. This day was filled with first time experiences that I'll cherish for a lifetime and motivational setbacks that will power me to never allowing anything to ever get in my way if I can help it again.
First activity of the day was traveling through the streets of Toronto to have the photos of the cast & crew of our film, COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE for the Wire services that bring us so many great images from festivals such as the great Toronto International Film Fest.
After a logistical nightmare to get an elevator to even show up on the ground floor, when George Clooney is talking in the same building is... well, kinda insane. After 25 minutes - we finally got an elevator to arrive at the ground floor. This is a major design flaw in the otherwise amazing building this was all taking place in. But then, like most major film festivals in the world - there are problems. The strength and heart of these festivals are found in their volunteer staffs which find ways to get around logistical problems - and just being patient and non-combative... well it makes life go so much smoother even when it hits you in the teeth a bit.
I eventually found where I was supposed to be, as usual, I was 30 minutes early. So I was put in the green room, where I got to watch Clooney being the charming charismatic gracious funny badass that he is, all while discussing Alexander Payne's THE DESCENDANTS which premiered at the festival - and I hear is amazing. The Green Room was filled with publicist and handlers that were just seemingly focused on their phones, looking up whenever Clooney did a zinger with a laugh. But frankly, being in this room, with all the free stuff that talent can make off with... well, it felt bizarre. I'm never in these rooms at film festivals really. It just was a bit of a caustic experience. THEN... I caught glimpse of our cast arriving in the photo room and rushed to join them.
Instantly, both Yoko and I were at ease, because the folks that are the subjects of our Doc... I've kinda fallen in love with. I've seen a few cuts of the film... about 35 times this year - and the film is very intimate in terms of following these journeys through the magical experience that is COMIC CON.
I never actually met any of these folks, with the exception of Chuck Rozanski, who I've known since before I was 1year old. He's one of those personalities and indomitable spirits that you rarely run into - and later in the night, when I heard the audience just lose it laughing and cheering at a few of his statements in the film... it just renewed my faith in my belief that bringing Chuck to the world is indeed an absolutely necessity.
The first folks we caught sight of was James Darling and Se Young Kang. I don't want to go into spoiler territory, because you really should just discover their tale as it lays out in the film. BUT... having repeatedly watched the film, as I have... I feel like I've grown quite close to these people I've never met. We get to be a fly on the wall of an incredibly intimate experience - one filled with nervous hopes, fears and prayers. All Yoko wanted to do was just HUG them, because she loves them so much in the film. The wonderful part of meeting them... Well, they're folks that have continued to evolve since this film was shot over a year ago - and outside of the stressful situation that James was in, when he's relaxed - hot damn! I wish they lived in Austin. In fact I can say that about every single character we follow in this Doc. They're just people that I would instantly love to be friends with, to introduce to my friends in Austin and to party with.
Then I saw Holly Conrad, ever since I saw her audition piece, I've been DYING to meet her. She's just awesome. She's our MASQUERADE entrant - what I loved about her - was how she comes across with her team of friends that work as a unit on a singular dream. They wanted to make costumes so good - that they would possibly get them noticed. Mission totally accomplished. They RULE! I didn't talk much with her upon first meeting, mainly because folks were being pulled away for the various photo opportunities - and that's just a fascinating process all on its own.
Then I met Anthony Calderon, our collector. He does love his toys - and as a result, I call this man brother. As soon as I started talking to him about my collection of toys - we just diverted into a sub-dialect of geek that only Figural Collectors can really venture into. I was so jazzed to just see him absolutely relax as he found someone that speaks his language. You have to understand - a huge Film Festival like TORONTO isn't necessarily an experience anything like Comic Con. And being put in rooms with the press, flashes going off... it is disorientating.
So after the photos - I head out into the hallway and as Yoko and I are going, I see Holly and Se Young staring at my feet and talking with big smiles, so I go up and say, "Yup - they're DISNEYLAND HAUNTED MANSION shoes!" Holly fired back that she knew and was so jealous. You see, Holly also does a Haunted House! This girl so rules. This wound up being one of my favorite moments of the day, because for about 15 minutes I was geeking out with our cast, talking with each - and settling some of their nerves by talking about my fave moments that each of them have in the film.
You see... The cast was nervous. They hadn't seen a frame of the film. What if Morgan made fun of them? What if they became jokes? I mean, Morgan is known for being fun, but tough on his subjects. I assured them that this is a film they are not ready for. I wasn't.
Then Morgan walked up and we all went on this balcony, that just screamed THE MONDRIAN off Sunset, and we all continued to talk. I tried to be as accessible to each of our cast members - because apparently they all follow me on Twitter and read AICN. GULP. Little do they know that I am huge fans of all of them.
When people ask what it was like trying to find our subjects, I can't help but compare it with BUTT-NUMB-A-THON... Going through the video submissions, picking out your faves, rewatching them and rewatching them. Listening to their dreams and then imagining how their dreams stood in the face of the enormity of COMIC CON. I often think along the same lines with BNAT - looking at applications and imagining how the personalities would all interact in that special theater. These folks would all get into BNAT if they applied, not because they're in our film, but because they're the exact kind of geeks I love.
After all this, Yoko and I rushed back to the hotel to transform into our Premiere attire. I had to arrange for tickets to our screening for a couple of members of the press like Elvis Mitchell and some bloke named Copernicus, who had to attend our doc. That Andy was there... I won't lie. I was so delighted, because he's someone that absolutely sees through bullshit, as well as he sees into the Universe. I couldn't wait to hear his take on the film.
Then, right before leaving to stroll to the theater, a potential distributor of our Doc wanted to walk with us and talk about the film. SO... I did. The fun part of taking the pedestrian route instead of a cab - is you run into folks along the way. Like SXSW FIlm head Janet Pierson and the awesome of Matt Dentler. Dear friends.
Then as we began to get close to the theater, I saw RAMONA from Scott Pilgrim walking in the distance after Yoko excitedly alerted me. Seeing RAMONA FLOWERS walking the streets of Toronto was perhaps one of those geek moments that just totally sated me. I hoped she was coming to our film. Then we turn the corner to get to the theater - and there was a group of seriously awesome Cos-players. Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Wolverine, Captain America and others all gathered to hang and chat.
I began smiling even bigger. We go into the Scotiabank Theater... You'd know it from the Movie Theater scene in KICK ASS. But in the lobby, hanging above the entrance to the 3rd tallest/longest escalator in the world was an ENORMOUS Klingon Bird of Prey. Which happens to be one of my all time favorite spaceships. Trek 3 & 4 guaranteed that. Turns out it has been hanging there since then, because this theater used to be THE PARAMOUNT theater - and back in the day, PARAMOUNT had several of these amazing ships made for a select group of theaters around the time of Trek IV. Oh so appropriate. Walking up the stairs between Escalators was a battalion of STORMTROOPERS.
We took the elevator up. When we got out, I talked with a couple of fans that arrived early, then went to the green room to see if any of the cast or crew were there. Typical... I was about 30 minutes early... again. Instead of finding my fellow filmmakers - I enter the green room to find it stuffed with the local contingent of Vader's Fist - the 501st Legion. Stormtroopers, a Biker scout, a Jango Fett, a Boba Fett, at this one point I turn a corner and I see a white clothed female form bending over. I'd bet anything that was Princess Leia... and I hoped she was expressing her only hopes to R2. Alas, there was no R2. We went around to where she was - and discovered a Vader getting set up, then there was SNAKEEYES and SCARLET in their Marvel Comics forms. Then as I was leaving the Green Room to greet folks as they arrived for our film, I saw a man coming in with a Raydeen from SHOGUN WARRIORS costume in pieces come in. I shouted out RAYDEEN!!! At the exact same moment he had caught a glimpse and was basically like, "Holy Shit! Harry Knowles!" I was still more impressed with him. I mean. THAT IS SO COOL. He was my favorite Shogun Warrior - and I've never seen someone do a 9 ft tall SHOGUN WARRIOR costume... especially with awesome oversized fists! I was really hoping they fired off.
We were hanging out over by our poster in the lobby - and when Raydeen came out of the Green Room - I just stared at him walking with a goofy shit-eating grin upon my face. But then, he was having some costume malfunctions, and Raydeen's girlfriend, who was a pink Transformer girl with red hair that was cute as a button. Anyway, she was bent over and from our angle... it looked like she was double-fist-fucking Raydeen... in reality, she was helping to pull up his pants, through his crotch plate area... but it just looked so awesomely wrong... Yoko and I just howled laughing. When I communicated this with them when they wanted to have a photo with me, she and he just died laughing too. AH - the fun wardrobe malfunctions of Cosplay lives!
As Yoko and I hung in the lobby, she points out that Roger Ebert was checking out our poster. I haven't seen Roger in person since the Floating Film Festival all those years ago. He was walking with his lovely wife Chaz, and I had to shout out, "Hey Chaz Hey Rog!" - and when Chaz saw me her face lit up we hugged, and Roger smiled and shot me this BIG THUMBS UP. I longed to talk to my friend Rog, but seeing him stand there... after the time he spent in that Wheelchair after all those surgeries... I won't lie. It was a goddamn inspiration. Seeing Roger walking with Chaz is about my favorite thing I've seen. He's had one helluva rougher journey in these past years than me, but he never fails to inspire me, be it as a kid watching AT THE MOVIES, or when he plucked me from the obscurity of the internet to place on his shows all those years ago - where I learned so much from him. And here still, he shows me it can be done. I love that man.
Introducing my wife to Rog & Chaz was just... a dream come true. Chaz is one of those towering women that when you meet her, you realize just how lucky Roger is. Most everyone feels the same way about Yoko for me. I'm so blessed. As are all men with great women in their lives.
As soon as Stan Lee showed up, it became photograph time. Again. So cool to snap shots with my Generalissimo. I can't tell you how surreal it is to be on a first name basis with STAN LEE. This man is one of my internal monologues. Still today, when I read the non-dialogue writing in Marvel Comics... I read it in his voice in my head. I've known Stan for years. About a decade ago, we came close to doing a project together. Tonight we finally finished one.
When Morgan Spurlock joined us - again, it was just cool to have a fellow ginger there, but also - Morgan is so gracious and humble and friendly... genuinely respectful and my number one impression of him through this project is... HE LISTENS & TAKES THE HEART & SOUL TO HEART.
Once we entered the theater - for a bit, I was worried if we'd fill the theater. There was still a lot of seats needing to be filled... but again, I was about 30 minutes early, even in this room. By the time all the Cosplayers marched Morgan into the theater, it was getting tight, and by the time Morgan took his seat, not only was every seat full, but there were people sitting on the floor, lining the stairs on either side, sitting and watching the movie.
So - how'd the premiere go?
Friends... I won't lie. I'm an emotional creampuff - throughout this film - I was tearing up, not just at the film - but the affirmation that came from the audience reacting to the movie. When you watch a film incomplete as long as I've watched this film... to see all the score FINALLY in place. To see all the Animation Finally done and looking so damn great. Matt Haley, who did our poster, did the artwork for these transitional scenes - and man... Had these folks seen the early placecard versions that were just APPLE COMIC FILTER versions... whew. I'd seen a version that had about 40% of these finished, but it has just been in the past two weeks that the shots we needed came in, that the score came about and this was my first time seeing this cut of the film.
I've really been in love with the film from the beginning, but Morgan and his team just really did a great job. The extra footage that got dropped in since the last cut, just really made the film fly. Hearing the audience react was the best part of the experience. Hearing them get caught up in the stories - and then hearing the booming applause as we brought the cast out afterwards... what an experience. I knew these fellow geeks would melt people's hearts. Everyone of our subjects came up to me afterwards with tears in their eyes expressing their bewildered amazement at what they'd just seen. THAT WAS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF THIS.
Too often GEEK DOCUMENTARY subjects get handled in a manner that deflates their personal worth. Here, we really wanted to just show how beautiful this community that we love so dearly... how great our geeky dreams are. How much the disappointments hurt, but how we can never be defeated.
That lesson came back to me tonight. Above, I talked about the bittersweet experience of the night. First, as soon as I entered the actual screening room, I realized I wouldn't get to share the stage with my fellow filmmakers because... well there were stairs that my chair just wouldn't friendly navigate. Then when we made it over to the after party for our film... their elevator wasn't functioning and I was basically left to personally celebrate elsewhere. Yoko was upset for me, because... well, while profoundly disappointed... I mean, I really really really really wanted to be a part of this party... this was just a constant reminder that my belief that I had to get back to Austin tomorrow, so I could go right back to work in Rehab... well it is what is important in my life. More than anything else. Not getting to do this party, reenforced every bit of pain and effort that I have to endure to rise out of this chair for a final time. I've spent the past month and a half working 5 days a week, 2-3 hours a day, doing stuff that I can't imagine I actually do. I will not be in this chair forever, and disappointments are fuel for the fire of my rebirth.
Rather than be dejected, I teamed up with Yoko and Copernicus and had drinks and fellowship, where we didn't bitch and moan a bit. Instead, we talked about everything going on in Andy and mine's lives. A 3 hour conversation that well... Living in different cities... it doesn't allow us the luxury of having much of these days.
As for missing the party - just wait till people experience the Closing Night COMIC CON party we'll be throwing at FANTASTIC FEST this year. I for one will party mightily that night... and I'll have Rehab the next day to sweat it all out of me.
I'd like to thank everyone that made this experience today such a fulfilling one. I have to thank Stan Lee for not only inspiring this whole project to come about... Not only for always being the most amazing guy to chat and hang with. But for making me dream such amazing dreams... for being the voice on that Marvel Record Comics I had. For being the voice in all those late 60s and 70s Marvel cartoons I watched. And for being STAN LEE.
I have to thank Morgan Spurlock & his team at WARRIOR POET for bringing me here, for putting up with my concerns, obsessions and beliefs throughout this filmmaking process. To Joss Whedon for adding the much needed steam he brought to the project. But most of all - I have to thank Thomas Tull for inviting and basically insisting that I come aboard to ground the project and to bring my particular perspective to this world I so love. This is a singular experience that I'll never forget being a part of.
After the film - I met several fans that were moved to tears by just how beautiful our world of fandom is. After an eternity of denigrating geek humor & sad sack stories - we have our film. I know my name is on the film, but if I didn't love it, I would have pulled my name off the project. And I would have been nasty about it.
I love this obsessive compulsive world of the "Popular Arts" as Kevin Smith puts it. I love how much the audience turned on Kevin over the film. When he initially showed up, there was some derision. By the end of the film they were cheering him.
I also have to thank my wife Patricia for enduring my obsession with this project for the past year. And I, of course, have to thank my dad, Father Geek, Jay Knowles. Everything I am, I owe to him. He raised me in Geek Culture before it was known to be that. That I can say I was at Comic Con in 1972, that he introduced me to Chuck, whilst I was in diapers. That I grew up in the warm friendly world in fandom - it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging, that I find so many people lacking. I have a peace in my life and an ability to celebrate the awesomery of this culture of ours because I was never shown the ugly side. He came to my school to indoctrinate my classmates, we held giant movie marathon sleepovers with like 12 - 14 friends geeking out to 16mm film, the action figures, the video games, the comic book shop that I was raised in, the Renn faire years and for being the rock that I held onto as my family experienced divorce. He'd send me care packages of movie make-up, print outs of computer programs to write, he told me that while I lived on the Ranch with my mother, that I should devour the material I was locked away with. Over 100,000 comics, 1000s of paperback books and about 4500 VHS tapes recorded at 6 hr speed with 3 movies to a tape. I don't know what he thought I'd do with that knowledge, but he not only provided it for me, but showed me how to use my love and access to the awesome history of all these things we love, to make friends and to geek out with the best of em. So thanks Dad!
Lastly - and most of all - I want to thank everyone that appears in the film, that allowed us to shoot them, that trusted us with their lives, names and images. It is a scary thing to let yourself be as exposed and real as these people did. So THANK YOU! I hope as all of you see this film, you'll have a bit of Comic Con to call your own. Not everyday can be COMIC CON, but now - you'll all experience the laughter, the suspense, the surprise and the tears that come from just a silly wonderful documentary about the geekiest place on Earth!
Now... I have to sleep, I have to geek out with a friend in the morning!