The other day I pulled out a leather bound journal of about forty film ticket stubs from my time out in Seattle, in another life when I was working in marketing for a tech start-up. One of the requirements was that I “had” to live in Seattle for the first four months or so–not a bad way to usher in the millennium, I must say, since I flew from NYC around November 1999 and left around February 2000. The company put me up in a condo for that time and gave me a car, so most of my nights were spent around the city, watching films in art houses. From the looks of my journal, with all the movie stubs taped in it, I averaged about a film every two days. At the time there were still a lot of small cinemas, houses almost, and I was usually by myself in them watching French movies.
I have been lucky in that I have lived in four of the bigger major cities for extended periods:
NYC–1998-2013 (lived in the tony suburb of Greenwich, CT, and worked in Manhattan)
Seattle–1999-2000 (still resided in CT but worked remotely)
Los Angeles–1994-97 (worked for E!, Back Stage West and garnered my first literary agent at ICM)
Houston–1992-94 (did my MFA in Fiction/Playwriting here)
In all of these places, film has been a big part of my life. I was the Director of Programming of the Greenwich Film Festival from 2003-05 and directed “The Development,” which I also wrote. But I attribute my film education to something more than running the festival or even going to movies in big cities: libraries. At the Greenwich Library I caught up on hundreds of French, spy and Western films, and now that I’m in Asheville, I find gems at the college library where I teach. I’ve never been a subscriber to any DVD company. I don’t need to have anything like this because I find so many movies without them. Lately, I will go to Orbit in West Asheville for an occasional month-long subscription, and I love the Fine Arts Theatre in town where I just saw Miles Ahead.
At one point I think I saw 500 plus films a year, then I stopped going for about a year. Not sure why but I remember going on a reading binge–or being fed up with the lack of quality cinema. I had even taught screenwriting/film production at SUNY-Purchase where I was a creative writing professor for three years. This past summer I studied Calvino and in The Road to San Giovanni, he talks about the miracle of film and how it was such a part of his life.
Film is a bit of a disappearing act for a reclusive like me. If I catch an indie at Fine Arts for a Friday matinee before all the rude, tourist talkers populate the audience, I can sit in the very front row, not see any texting and vanish. Sometimes when I leave, it’s raining. I’m lucky to live in a city where I can walk home from the movies. All these movies and cities in my mind. I wonder how big the mental reel could ever become.