Tomorrow I am headed to the US to attend the New Jersey Web Fest, followed by a few days in New York, where I will see the B-52s in Central Park and Madonna in Brooklyn. Then off to LA for the first time. I thought this was the perfect time to write about my first trip to the US last year where I attended the Baltimore Next Media Webfest and the NYC Webfest.
I have not done much traveling in my life. I have never really had the money (damn being a struggling artist) and neither did my parents, and my Dad has always thought travelling a suburb over was a long trip. I’d been to Vietnam and Hong Kong, but never to the US and had always wanted to go. When we started being selected for festivals early, I had made a promise to myself that if we got selected for NYC Webfest I would attend. I even started saving a little each week to pay for airfares. So, when the announcement came out, I knew I had to go, plus, we had also been selected for Baltimore and that festival was the week before. It seemed perfect and made me even more determined to make it happen.
November 1, 2018
I am a big child who never sleeps well the night before something exciting happens. My alarm was set for 6.15am, I didn’t need it. My amazing brother, Gary, picked me up and drove me to airport. With the worst traffic possible, I was there after about 100 minutes. I was gripped with both nerves and excitement as I checked in and passed security, naturally after taking the usual selfie in front of the departures sign. It all was quicker than expected and I sat down for something to eat and a wander. Ran into a friend, Gaston, working at the Duty Free, who let me sample some expensive spirits. The day was starting fine. After a wander around, I went to the gate, ready to board.
The flight was good, long, but good. I flew United, which I know some people have a problem with, but they were all lovely (one guy was a bit cranky, but he still had charm). I had planned to do a lot of work, but seats are not really designed for opening a laptop fully and working – plus the lights were out for most of the flight. So, I did a little, watched a lot of movies and attempted to sleep. I think I got maybe an hour, broken into 10 minute blocks. I was so jealous of those that were able to sleep well.
We were only a few minutes late landing in San Francisco. A good 13 and a bit hours away from Sydney. I was a little nervous knowing I had a small amount of time to clear customs and get to my next flight. The customs officers are very serious and I was remembering people said to not crack jokes. Who seriously would think this was a time to crack jokes? The line was long but I got through, got the bags, dropped them off again, got through security and made it to my gate as they were starting to board my flight. Phew.
On the very full flight to Baltimore I was sat next to a chatty guy who was excited I was from Australia. Apparently his favourite pistol is made in Australia. He was very much surprised I had never heard of it and even more surprised when I said I didn’t know a single person back home who owned a gun. He then told me I should check out the strip clubs near the airport if I had time. I was definitely in America.
I finally arrived in Baltimore, legged it to my hotel and had a much deserved shower. Then I was straight in another Uber to the museum where John Waters, one of my favourite directors, was doing a book signing for only a few hours. I rushed there, bought the book and then got to stand in the line for 90 minutes. But it was worth it, I got to meet one of my idols. He was charming and excited when he heard I had just landed in the country.
I went back to the hotel, bought a takeaway Korean burger, got some take out pre-mix vodka and retired to my room. Ready for my adventure.
November 2, 2018
After being awake for so long, sleep came quickly, but I was awake very early. So got up, had some breakfast and then started exploring Baltimore. First I walked around the pier, as well as checking out a Whole Foods. Then went for a massive walk to hit some malls. I wanted to experience America. I had the best time, walking around, discovering new shops and being a tourist (Barnes & Noble was my favourite). I think I went into nearly every shop that part of Baltimore had to offer. For an early dinner, I went to a bike repair shop that doubled as a bar. Chatted to a lovely server about how to tip, had a great meal and an exquisite espresso martini.
Then it was time for my first night at the Baltimore Web Fest. This was my first web fest, my first film festival as a filmmaker and I was nervous. But immediately, everyone was wonderful. Because I’m me, I showed up early. I was first there and was met by Elena, one of the Festival Directors, and was delightful. John and Lena from the series, Marked, were next there. And these two are just wonderful. We were soon joined by Tom from The Pantsless Detective, Katherine from Stellar Hosts and Dre, another Australian, from Blind. I suddenly had a room full of amazing friends.
Episode One of After Nightfall was screening that night and I haven’t been that nervous in a while. Nerves are a funny thing, I know the series is good, but something in the back of your mind tells you that you’re not good enough, that in a room full of other filmmakers they will see right through you. It began, had a massive pit in my stomach, and the room cheered when the title appeared. It was received so well, people loved it and I felt so much love. I learnt very quickly that the web series community is so generous, supportive and friendly.
That night we went to the James Joyce Inn and stayed till closing, I think it was 1 something. Apparently, there was a mini tornado that went through Baltimore, someone was killed at the Amazon Warehouse, but I didn’t see a thing. I was making friends and making memories. Also discovering a new favourite drink, the James Joyce Iced Tea. It’s like a Long Island Iced Tea, but instead of Coke, it has Cranberry Juice. I had a few. I was loving my trip.
November 3, 2018
I had big plans this morning before the festival. I wanted to head to a proper mall (yes, this trip was all about festivals, shopping and cocktails). I wanted to get a loud jacket, the kind of divisive piece of fashion that is either loved or loathed. After some google research I was off in an Uber to a long way out of town and found a great mall. It is was the type of mall you see in movies, and I loved it. I got my jacket and went bargain hunting in JC Penney. The line was long and I made friends with other bargain hunters, who were happy that when scanned, my shorts were even cheaper. On the way back I met the world’s nice Uber driver, who told me I was her favourite passenger ever.
Then I settled in for another long day at the festival. It was a chance to meet more awesome people. Cassidy for Adulting and Shea from Trouble Creek, both became fast friends. Loved watching the other web series and hearing the workshops. Though sleep had been tricky, and another Google search saw me and some others making a much needed Starbucks run.
We had dinner at another pub and a cover band was playing. It was so great to hang with these wonderful people who share the same passion. It was also lovely to chat to Neva, the other Festival Director, who told me how much she loved the series, which really touched me.
That became my earliest night, I think exhaustion had finally set in, so bed was early.
November 4, 2018
Boringly I began the day with work. I stupidly promised to do some work while away and had put it off, so I worked on a rehearsal schedule for a play I was directing in February. Then I decided to take a long walk to the theatre where the last screenings and the awards would be held. It was a few days after Halloween, so it was wonderful for this Aussie to walk along and see all the decorations and the rotting pumpkins. I got there super early so I went to an Italian restaurant. Food was okay, but they didn’t serve alcohol because it was a Sunday, strange.
Then it was time for the last day of the festival. We began with some more screenings, was loving watching them. Made some more great friends, Laura, Jody and Jessica from Scratch This, Stacia from Theater People and Neem from New Jersey Web Fest and Neem’s Themes. These people were all delightful.
Then it was time for the awards and I was nervous. The experience was enough, I had loved coming and if this was it, I wouldn’t regret it. I just thought it would be nice to head home with some bling. They were announcing awards for series all together, and they introduced Best Thriller and Best Cinematography in a Drama, and it was After Nightfall. The audience gave a great cheer and it was a moment to remember, such a highlight. So honoured and so blown away to receive the awards, and I was very happy that Nicholas Price had received the award for his beautiful cinematography on the series.
I rang Mum and shed some tears, I felt so blessed. The party started inside on the red carpet, loads of photos and some interviews. Then we moved things back to the James Joyce Inn. I don’t even know what time that night finished, but it was a great one. Had the best night chatting, making friends and memories. It was that night that Drunk Wayne promised that if selected for New Jersey, I would go. And here I am about leave. I had loved every moment in Baltimore.
November 5, 2018
After my final hotel breakfast (man they were amazing), and a coffee with the Scratch This ladies, it was off to the Train Station to catch an Amtrak to New York. I got there way too early, but just loved hanging out there, people watching and going to the Dunkin’ Donuts. The train was late but I loved being in the midst of everyone rushing around. Then the train arrived and man, these seats were better than the airplane seats. I finally finished that rehearsal schedule I needed to do and watched the scenery. Loved passing through Pennsylvania and Jersey. The woman next to me asked why I was taking photos of train station signs, and when I told her I was an Australian tourist, suddenly I had new best friends in her and her husband. Had a great chat to them, and we arrived at Penn Station, they didn’t just tell me where I needed to head, they showed me. American hospitality is wonderful.
After we both got a bit lost, I finally met up with my best friend, Charlene. She had arrived a couple of days earlier and I was so happy to see her and explore this city she loved so much. We checked into the hotel and went to a café for our beloved coffee, though we were struggling to find a good one.
That night we headed to the theatre to see the interactive event, “Sleep No More”. Another epic night for us, the show was good, but it was before the show where the memories are made. While I am at the bar asking the staff what cocktails they recommend, Charlene had accidentally dropped all her cash in the toiler and it wouldn’t flush. We ended up with those drinks for free, and these smoky cocktails were amazing. Then, embarrassingly for Charlene, a staff member arrived with an envelope of slightly wet money. He had fished out the notes and tried to dry them, bless him.
After the show we went to a classic American diner and made our way to the hotel. I loved New York already.
November 6, 2018
Day two in New York and Charlene and I planned a big adventure. We were out early for breakfast, this was probably the best coffee on the trip, we may have also snuck a breakfast Mimosa. We went to Times Square and had a great shop. Then we kept walking, stopping for the occasional cocktail. Had an amazing appletini at an Irish pub and an average sour lolly cocktail at Dylan’s Candy Bar. We ended up in Bloomingdales where I got an amazing facial treatment (and spent a heap on creams).
We left at 8am and now it was 6pm and we had to race back to the hotel, because Jacinta Moses was arriving. Jacinta is our amazing friend, and plays my wife, Justine, in After Nightfall. We caught a cab and beat her there. The three of us went to a sports bar and had these cheap tacos and margaritas (this trip was about trying all the drinks). They were all wonderful. We finished the night on top of the Empire State Building, even though it was foggy and we couldn’t see much. Another winning day.
November 7, 2018
Our earliest start yet. Charlene, Jacinta and I decided we would try and get into the audience of the Jimmy Fallon show. When we’d visited the NBC shop the day before, we heard that you could line up for standby tickets the next morning. We got there at 7.30am, we were 7th in line, not sure what that meant. As the time passed (they took names at 9am), the line filled, a lot. We were glad we got there early. Our names were taken, we had to be back at 3pm to see if we’d get in.
We had a nice breakfast (good coffee still alluded us), and went to NBC for a Studio Tour, which was fun. Jacinta and I even got to make a talk show where she was the host and I was the guest. There was a bit more shopping and we returned to NBC. There were people everywhere. The people who had booked months ago were let in first, we just had to wait. We were told that some days heaps of people are no shows, Halloween the week before saw 60 not show up, and other days only 3 don’t show up. After an hour and a half, we were let in. Only 13 got in that day, so were lucky we were 7,8 and 9. It was fun to watch, Jimmy was great and the guest, Eddie Redmayne was charmingly British. The warm up guy was a dick, but it was a great experience.
We then hurried back to the hotel and we met up with PJ, our sound designer, who’d just arrived. We went with him and met up with my co-producer, Nicholas Price, and his Mum, MJ – who also just arrived. Nick had been shooting in Far North Queensland, so couldn’t go to Baltimore, so it was good to have him arrive for the NYC Web fest. We went to Chelsea and had dinner. Lovely food, horrid service. The guy was new and not good at his job, he kept talking to us, desperate for the tip and as he was collecting our money, that was all he was talking about. But another great day in New York, I really didn’t want to go home.
November 8, 2018
We began the day on the hunt for Australian coffee. We went to an Aussie café nearby, but it wasn’t opening. We waited, and an American lady came up and Mum yelled at us for not wearing thicker coats. When she heard we were Australian, she proceeded to tell us, in great detail, about the sunscreen she orders from Australia. After giving up on the café, a quick Google search found another place, a little far away, but we walked. We got to go past Grand Central Station, which was lovely. We found the coffee place, had a chat to the Aussie barista and happily drank the coffee. It was great for America, would have been okay here. We then did more shopping, the Doc Martens store saw Charlene and I splurging and then I ticked another item off the bucket list and went to Mood Fabrics (Project Runway fans will understand). Sadly, Swatch the Dog was not there.
That afternoon we took an adventure to Queens and headed to the Museum of the Moving Image, where they were having a Jim Henson Exhibition. I loved The Muppets as a kid, who am I kidding, I still love them. So how great it was to see some of my favourite characters. We then caught the subway back. Charlene and I were so worried we would get lost, we had to get on three different trains, but with the help of lovely locals, we were so proud when walked up the steps and we knew exactly where we were (at our favourite store, Bath and Bodyworks). As a JLo fan, I was also excited that we had ridden on the 6.
That night was a great one, we had the launch party for the NYC Web Fest. What a lovely festival, and the Festival Director, Lauren, is a very special lady. The launch event was a great night, we were there from woe to go. Glad to catch up with some of those who were also at Baltimore, but also meet some great new people, including Meagan from Seeka TV, Ned from Hunted: Encore, Pat from Homesick and Andrew and Robert from A Gay Victoria Affair. I love a good party, and this one was world class.
November 9. 2018
Started the day at a lecture as part of the festival, it was on funding feature films. Considering I was trying to fund a feature film, it was the perfect workshop for me. Then the day became about our screening, which was bloody exciting. They played Episode Two and it was great to sit amongst our peers while it played, and they laughed at the jokes. And there was a big clap. Phew. I get so nervous before screenings.
It was wonderful that my Uni friend, Nathan McBain, came to the screening. He is living in NYC and managed to get away from work in time to come, that felt special. He then took us all out for traditional New York pizza. Tasty as hell.
Then came one of the highlights of the trip. We went to a hidden cocktail bar, a speakeasy. We buzzed on a door, a woman came out, looked us up and down and took Nathan’s details. We went up the road to a crowded bar and had a drink and then Nathan got a text, there was a table for us. We went back and were let in. What seemed so unassuming at the front was massive inside. We got our own table with curtains for privacy. The cocktail list was the longest I had seen as was just delicious. A wonderful finish to a great day.
November 10. 2018
Charlene and I went and did a bit more shopping, just for something new!! We ended up at some markets in Bryant Park, where they also had built an ice-skating rink, it was lovely. Then we went to an Off Broadway matinee. We saw, “Apologia”, which starred Stockard Channing and Hugh Dancey. What a wonderful piece of theatre it was. At the end, everyone left, but Charlene and I hung around stage door. Just as we were about to give up, Stockard Channing came out. She is all glamour and truly fabulous. She spoke to us both, was delighted we were from Australia and loved it. She even presented her gloved hand for me take. It was brilliant.
Then it was time for the NYC Web Fest Gala Awards Night. It was a flash event in a Chelsea bar with an open bar, yes, that is my version of heaven. We were all dressed up, and I was nervous as hell. But it was lovely make some more friends, especially awesome Aussies, Sarah and Phil (Magdalena) and Luke and Marc. The competition was so fierce, I truly didn’t believe we would win. But we did, we picked up the award for Best Mystery / Thriller, and to make it even more special, Festival Director, Lauren, presented our award. This was the dream trip.
The night was late, drinks were had, laughs were shared and friends were made. I was a happy man.
November 11, 2018
Let’s get something straight, I did not want to go home. We started the day at the Aussie café we had tried to get into a few days before. Then I went for a wander and tried to go to lots of shops I hadn’t been too yet. I was having such a good time, that I was going to be late, so I had to run back to the hotel to meet the girls. Clearly going home was not my priority.
We flew out from Jersey to Texas, before flying home. It was such a brilliant trip, everything I hoped for, and so much more. And now, I ready for my next adventure. What will this hold for me? Don’t worry, I’ll blog about it.