Thursday, May 17, 2007

Austin Stories: The Best Panel Ever

The Best Panel Ever was taken by Susan Bays' Blog

Being the bright folks they are, the folks at AFF realized that a panel with David Milch, Shane Black and Sydney Pollock might attract, you know, more than a handful of people. So they did the wise and prudent thing and moved the venue to the historic Paramount Theatre. Okay, so imagine a cool, old theatre with beautiful Grecian frescos?, murals? carvings? Man, I'm not good at this design stuff. It's just a very cool venue, okay?

David Milch, Shane Black, and to a lesser but still important degree, B.J. and Pollock, had good chemistry. Or maybe they had great chemistry. All I know is it was magic. Remember, I'd seen Milch only hours before and he was funny. He was great. He was helpful. But up there on stage with the Others, he was more than that. I've also seen Shane give good panels, be funny and helpful and whatnot. (Side note: Shane Black and Scott Rosenberg on a panel together is always worth the time. Also good chemistry there, but in a guy-ish sort of way.) Yeah, so, I've seen Shane on panels over the years and I have to say that here, in this instance, he was more than I've ever seen him be. He was present, funny, brilliant, open and raw and yet, he had an aire of a man who's come into his own. He sat up there with Milch and Pollock and he owned his place at the table. That was very cool to see.

The day before TBPE, Sydney Pollack was walking in the lobby of the Driskill. (yes, I just now realized I've been misspelling his name. I'll have to apologize the next time I fawn over him.) Anyway, in the time I was waiting with my kids, Jon and Bryan for my ex to show up, Mr. P. walked by toward the cafe. Jon or Bryan said I should go up to Mr. P. and say something. I didn't. But then, when Mr. P. walked toward us on his way back (he'd bought coffee), I did go up to him. I had nothing to say, really. I just gushed and said hi. I'm such a goober.

Anyway, the point is, if I'd had anything coherent to say, I would have told Mr. P. how much I enjoyed his movies. I think he has a gift with actors and everyone knows actors are crazy which may be why he handled being on stage with Milch and Black so well.

(Again, and for the record, I'm not exactly sane, so my comments on the mental capacities of Mr. Milch and Mr. Black are not judgemental, merely observational.)

You know what was! cool about Sydney Pollack? He started off by saying he's not a writer and he wasn't sure he belonged up there with the other two. That's a cool way to give props to writers. And for most of the panel, unless Barry Josephson asked him specific questions, Mr. P. sat and listened and laughed as Milch and Black spoke. Still, I was impressed with Mr. P.'s attentiveness and presence. What can I say? I'm easy to please.

Okay, so now that I've taken FOREVER to introduce the players, let's see if I can remember why I keep calling this the Best Panel Ever.

I think, more than anything, I'll remember how the panelists took time out of their funny and often personal stories to address the audience. More than once, they pointed out specific examples...they found teachable moments in what was being said and THAT made the panel more about us, the audience, than it did about them. It wasn't just an ego session for three big filmmakers. It was an informative session for all of us. Do you know how cool that was? I think you do, or you can imagine.!

"So anyway, there you go." That was my favorite teachable moment. It was a moment where David Milch, whose mind zips around at warp speed and wanders very strange paths, pulled something from a personal story Shane Black had just told and turned it into something we, the audience could use. There, in that moment, when the audience could have been left with just one example of how a person's pscyhe ends up in their writing, Milch ADDED to the moment by pointing out the value of what wasn't said.

My friend, Glynis, suggested elsewhere that if a recording of that panel is available for purchase, people should buy it. I know I will, if it's available. Otherwise, I'll be left with this feeling that I was witness to an amazing moment in time where three generous, brilliant people came together, without ego or even self-preservation, and gave to others in a way that was inspiring and thought-provoking. That's not a bad feeling with which to leave the Austin Film Fes! tival after nine straight years of attending. Not a bad feeling at all.

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