On a brisk August morning I stepped out into the gate of the Las Vegas airport and suddenly had to weave through rows of slot machines and a few patrons taking their daily medicine. Sweet Jesus, they don’t waste any time in this city, I thought. I had other plans, I was there to attend a premier of The Pinch, a movie my attorney claims I did some visual effects for. That sounds reasonable to me, no need to argue with the man. This is a rare kind of indie, The Pinch is a crime story about an errand boy for the Mob who decides to hold his boss ransom to get the kind of big money he feels he deserves. Charging through the terminal I was anxious to check into my room.
Luggage in hand I found myself at the counter of the Linq Hotel, one of the more modest spots on the strip….. but my arrival was poorly timed. It was after 11 but my room was not ready yet. While the staff cleansed my bed of whatever horrors the prior occupant had left behind, I decided to check in at the festival, the Action On Film Festival the locals call it. Any well intentioned reporter of the filmgoing public is nothing without his press badge. Being a frugal, indie filmmaker I slung a suit over my luggage and walked over to the theater under the hot Nevada sun.
This was no ordinary venue, the Brenden Theater was part of the Palms Hotel. You have to shuffle through the casino and past a food court and there it is. The wall of the lobby emits a neon glow with the words “Brenden” and “Theater” in pink and blue lettering. Those two words took turns lighting up, like a middle aged couple fighting for dominance. Beer and wine are available for a price, lobby cards and posters for independent movies are everywhere….. this whole scene is not for the faint of heart.
A woman is behind the counter tossing out Filmmaker badges to the eager animals lined up. At the moment, she is my only contact for the fest. “Excuse me miss, I’ll just get out of your way here, I should have a press badge under Curt Wiser.” She thumbs through a binder of names, then gives me a stoic look. I show her the email from one of the festival directors that stated my badge is ready to be claimed. The woman asks me to wait while she calls up the ranks. Far be it the time to tear into this lone volunteer with some outburst like “Do you know who I am? I was invited here to see some film and write some words, and not even Kubrick’s ghost will stop me!” But I did not say that, cooler heads prevailed. I chose to study the lobby cards for printing bleeds while the fate of the whole trip rests on a phone call. Try to blend in man, don’t let them see your fear.
Thank the stars, one voicemail and a text reply later I had my press credentials on my neck. I put my feet up during a screening of a documentary about real life super heroes who roam the crime filled streets looking for validation. It was not a bad way to wait for the Vegas sun to set. The premiere of The Pinch was two days away, that was ample time for me to cover the festival and for this young man to get into trouble.
This was my first time in Sin City, so I really wanted to take it all in, get a lay of the land. I would not have to do this alone, in one of the many fine restaurants inside my hotel I was eating dinner and started to talk with the woman seated at the bar beside me.