The long, relatively narrow deck is covered with people and equipment. SXSW Film Executive Producer Nancy Schafer works the crowd. She is the assistant to Producer Maggie Renzi on Limbo, a movie shooting here in Juneau, a movie written, being directed, and soon to be edited by John Sayles. I'm visiting. The scene involves an escape from a boat, and shivering in the freezing Alaskan water are two actresses, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Vanessa Martinez. David Strathairn leaps into the water. The actresses are shaken by the experience, but Strathairn hardly seems bothered. Later, Sayles reminds me that Strathairn had a lot of experience working in water during the filming of The River Wild. Setting up the shot is a long elaborate process, involving lining up of the boat and cameras. Nancy works by delivering information and picking up information. Sometimes this involves paper - a form, letter, fax - but mostly it is verbal. The army of 70 works efficiently; the film is getting made.
Usually, watching people make a movie is as much fun as watching carpenters build a house. The idea is exciting, but most of the work is repetitious. The magic that ends up on the screen is rarely in evidence during the creating. Making movies is hard, intensive work. Shooting on the water, however, was new to me and watching the work proved fascinating (though we got into trouble when we climbed up on a boat to get a better view and were called on it by the boat's owner).
Alaska proved awe-inspiring. Even in the deepest Utah wilderness, the most isolated Maine shoreline, or the most desolate area of West Texas, you can smell civilization and know that it is really not that far away and more than likely heading in your direction, moving slowly like a glacier but moving. Even if you're surrounded by hundreds of square miles of mountains, it still feels as though they are under a secret siege. In Alaska, you think that civilization is holding on by its fingernails, the land is more likely to change you than you to change it. The more you meet Alaskans, the more you know this is true.
A week later, during North by Northwest in Portland, I'm standing in a packed club with a line of people waiting to get in, watching Daniel Johnston. In a way this seems too odd, that Johnston really is a star, that there is this crowd and this line hoping to get in (probably most of them never heard of The Beach). Standing in a dark, sweaty club, Johnston, wearing a parka and backed by a local band, kicks off with a searing version of "Live and Let Die." Earlier in the evening, he had told me he was going to cover some Beatles songs, but I wasn't prepared for this.
I come back and the cover story is Robert Bryce on Bill Aleshire. I respect Aleshire, but his independent county stance strikes me as odd. The fact, not the opinion, is that more and more the boundaries between the city and the county will exist only on the official map; in reality, there will be little distinction. The city and the county will be one and the same, as they really are already, but the population will become even more complementary as the city builds out and the county builds in. Aleshire's recent proposal for separate EMS services, though perhaps rhetorical, was indicative of exactly the opposite direction from which we should be headed. Although Aleshire is a lame duck, his aggressive politics will have a long-term effect on the county. Bryce explores the nature of those politics.
Sunday at Waterloo Park is the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, one of our favorite events of the year. Free hot sauce and free music, along with lots of food and drink for sale, and even more free hot sauce, will be available. Come, sample, kibitz, enjoy; it should be a good party and everyone is welcome.