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Friday, January 23, 2009

Paris Day 16 - pep talk

Like many writers, I have a blown-glass ego - inflated, empty and extremely fragile. Like many schizophrenics, I talk to myself. Today I was walking the streets and stairways of Belleville talking a blue streak, and it was a really lovely conversation, important I think, worth writing down. The subject is an old standby, a genre even - the pep talk. It comes in handy when you are spending six hours out of the day reading really terrible work that you've spent years of your creative life producing. You can't afford a therapist, a life coach, or an MFA program, and your friends and family deserve better, so you talk yourself through it. You buck yourself up. You say, look, Paul, so what if Part III sucks - you'll fix it. Have confidence in yourself. Look at all you've accomplished. Look at what you did with the film, the challenges you surmounted, the setbacks you endured, the discouragement you weathered, the interviews you didn't get and the rejection letters you did, the aesthetic and intellectual prospects you attained in spite of it all. Look how you started from nothing - no funding, no credentials, no equipment, no experience or training, no permission, no nothing - and look at where the film has gone and where it's taken you, from America's finest audience film festivals that nobody's ever heard of to its grandest cathedrals and concert halls, from the side of a barn in Tennessee to the Library of Congress and now to Paris - Paris! - the city that created Messiaen, the city that Messiaen conquered and shaped. Think of it! That le Mairie de Paris, le city itself, the Jerusalem of your creative spirit, has honored your work, has invited you here, has given you its imprimatur and confidence and studio and stipend, its material support and civic blessing - and at this point, exactly at this point, having reached the acme of my pep talk, I stepped directly in a pile of dog shit.

Sleeping on problems in the novel is one way of solving them - caffeine is another good weapon - what worked today was my slightly malodorous walk around Belleville. I was heading toward the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, but there were chains on the gate - a woman pushing a stroller explained they closed it because of the high winds (they don't and really can't do this in San Francisco and every once in a while some bicyclist gets her head bashed in by a falling branch). So I wandered for an hour, stopping only to take pictures of the odd building - the ones I like best look like they should be eaten -

- picking up some just absolutely filthy-disgusting props for La Creation du Monde, pink and baby blue teddy-bear capped Christmas ornaments the size of grapefruits that are hanging above the Eiffel Tower champagne flutes - and the other thing I stopped for was to write down these solutions that kept presenting themselves around every corner.

Toward the end of my walk I stopped at the Petit Balcon Cafe on Libya Street, where I ordered an espresso, got out my notebook, and prepared to jot down a deluge of notes. But once my feet stopped, so did the ideas. Joyce Carol Oates once wrote something to the effect that when her knees gave out, she was going to have to find another line of work. Tonight I settled for the remains of my latest tajine concoction, about an hour hypnotized in front of Sherry Vine's friend list on Facebook (will I ever have 2101 Facebook friends, and, if so, will that stop the hurt?), and hanging those Christmas ornaments above the champagne flutes. I should probably wash my shoe before I go to bed.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.

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