Monday, May 07, 2007

Attending the World Premier

On Friday night, I attended the world premier of a short film, "Traffic WARden," which I have a small part in. The Premier was held at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) headquarters, in London. This film was basically a showcase for director, Benjamin Johns, and actor/writer, Steve Hart, but they let me be in it too and I got a credit, so that's cool. I invited my artist friend, Jan, to go with me and she graciously agreed to drive, and to bring her camera.
When we arrived, we compromised on seats in the second row of the auditorium. It would be my first time seeing myself in a film at a cinema, rather than on DVD, at home. While waiting for things to commence, I stood up and looked back over the auditorium, trying to see if I could spot any actors I know. I managed to locate one and we gave each other a visual acknowledgement. After continuing to look for a few minutes, some strange man, several rows back, shouted for me to sit down. Why he shouted this is beyond me, as nothing was happening behind me, so I was blocking his view of a blank screen and an empty stage. Pretending not to understand what he was shouting, I waved back at him, as if waving "hello" to a friend. This confused him enough that he didn't say anything else and I, having tired of scanning the audience, sat down.
In the days leading up to this event, I had fretted over what to wear. The invitations hadn't specified a dress code, but as this was my first such event, I didn't know what the protocol was. The start time was 5:30PM, a little early for formal evening wear. I opted to wear a black suit. When discussing it with Jan, I urged her to go for something a little smarter than denim. Ironically, she chose black, as well. I needn't have worried, as the majority of attendees were dressed quite casually. When proceedings commenced, a woman walked on stage in a short evening dress. I was pleased to see that someone else had bothered to dress smartly. Employing a microphone, this woman introduced the film and asked us to remain seated after it ended, as there would be a presentation by the film makers. She spoke with a heavy, foreign accent and I wondered where she was from.
The film was better than the other short I did, although I had a bigger part in that one. This one was longer, running for about twenty minutes. I was surprised to spot my friend, Dave Lee, in a scene. I didn't know he'd worked on the film, as he shot his scene on a different day to the one I did. Eventually, I spotted myself in two scenes, although in the second, you really had to know what to look for, as my back was to the camera. All too soon, it was over and I scanned the credits for my name. Once I found it, I was a bit happier. Benjamin Johns and Steve Hart made their presentation, after the film, then we were all invited to move to the David Lean Room, for drinks. Drinks we had to pay for.
Jan offered to buy me one drink. At the bar, Jan ordered white wine, while I opted for lager. For some reason, they only had Japanese lager. Maybe the manager was Japanese, or something. This is the first time I can recall having a Kirin beer, but then my memory isn't what it once was. I think we were both stunned when the tab came to £8. We wouldn't be having any more drinks, there. We stood in a central location, while I looked for any recognizable faces. Jan suggested that we go up to some strangers and start talking to them. Me being more reserved than she, that idea horrified me. Suddenly, the point became moot. Two women walked up who recognized me. The shorter of the two I knew as "Toxic Bunny," from the "Big Brother" Forum. She had worked on the same day of shooting I had and had recognized my voice then, having heard me on LBC Radio. I was very pleased to see her again, but I couldn't remember her name. I couldn't even remember her internet name, "Toxic Bunny," at first, so, I stood there for an awkward moment, not making introductions. Jan was wondering why I wouldn't introduce her, while I was desperately trying to remember the girl's name. In the end, I think I introduced Jan, then just remained silent, while Toxic Bunny introduced herself. Even now, I can't remember the name she gave. The woman with Toxic I had also met during filming, although I hadn't recognized her at first. Toxic Bunny is a pretty, young, short, dark skinned woman, who looks even younger than she is. She always seems to wear her hair in pig tails, which probably adds to the impression of youth. After a brief conversation, Toxic and her companion went off to search for Judith, a model who had worked with us on the film. I hadn't seen any sign of Judith, but asked Toxic to let me know if she found her.
Jan and I moved around, aimlessly, as I eyed the crowd. A curly haired man approached me. He recognized me from somewhere. Oh, we had worked together on "Seconds From Disaster," last year. He gave me his card and now I know his name is Andrew. In time, we spotted Toxic sitting on a window sill, with her friend and Judith. I led us over to the trio of young women. I was pleased to see Judith again. She and I had subsequently worked on another, feature length, film, "Oh Happy Day," after doing "Traffic WARden." Although Judith primarily works as a model, she does some acting as well. Judith is much taller than Toxic Bunny and was wearing a red dress that stood out against her chocolate brown skin. Originally from Uganda, Judith now makes her home in London. I sat down between Judith and Toxic, while Jan sat on Judith's other side. Judith had said she wanted my number when we did "Oh Happy Day," but when filming wrapped for the day, we got separated and hadn't managed to exchange details. This time, Judith handed me her card, so we could keep in touch. I spoke with Toxic for a time, while Jan and Judith talked. When I turned around, I discovered that, somehow, Jan and Judith had managed to get into conversation with the woman who had presented the screening. It turned out she was the director's wife. I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask where she was from. To my surprise, she told me she was from Mexico. Another North American. Looking at her dress close up, I decided it wasn't a good color for her. It was beige and too close to the color of her skin.
It finally occurred to me that I hadn't seen any sign of Jan's camera. I asked her if she had remembered to bring it. She had and proceeded to fish it out of her bag. Jan took a photo of me sitting amongst the girls. Sadly, the director's wife had moved off by this point. A man appeared in front of me, who acted like he recognized me. I couldn't place him at all. Lurking behind him was a blond woman, who looked like she was with him. I tried to place the two of them, but drew a blank. Then he said something that gave it away. He'd been in "Oh Happy Day" with me. The lurking woman was his wife. I didn't recognize her, because she hadn't been there when I met him. I still can't remember his name and he didn't mention it on Friday. His wife had a camera in her hands and asked me to take a picture of her and her husband in front of this giant mask. I tried to talk my way out of it, suggesting Jan, but this woman insisted that I would be fine. I hate being responsible for taking other people's pictures. I did the best I could with their digital camera. Then she insisted on taking a picture of me and Jan in front of the poxy mask thingy. Jan and the guy's wife then started to take photos of me and the guy. I called Andrew over and had him join in. All the flashes of cameras were starting to make this seem like a real premier.

As the crowd started to wind down, the director announced that anyone who wanted to could join in on moving the party to a nearby location; a bar at Waterstone's book store. Our only problem is that we had left Jan's car parked in a location where we could only stay for three hours. We decided to go get the car and move it closer, now that it was after 6:30, and some street parking was free. By the time we got to Waterstone's, everyone I knew had left. I got Jan and myself a drink of water, each. There was an inner circle of people hanging around with the director. I hoped his wife would notice us. If we could get talking to her again, she might pull us into the inner circle group. This failed to happen and Jan started complaining that she was hungry. I suggested a cheap buffet I have passed a few times, in Chinatown. Jan agreed, saying she didn't want to spend a lot of money. We walked from Waterstone's, through Piccadilly Circus, towards Leicester Square. Turning up Wardour Street, I found the place I was looking for.
The restaurant is called Mr Wu Chinese Restaurant. It features an all-you-can-eat buffet for £4.95. It's a small place with a limited buffet, but the food is hot and tasty. Where else can you find a hot meal in the West End of London for such a low price, without eating fast food? I wanted to pay for dinner, to balance out for the £8 drinks tab that Jan paid. However, upon arrival, I quickly spotted a sign that said no cards. Pointing this out to Jan, I asked if she wanted to find somewhere else. She said it was okay and I could owe her. Chinese restaurants always remind me of my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, because she was half Chinese. She loved eating in Chinatown and referred to Chinese cuisine as, "real food." I eyed up the Chinese waitresses with suspicion. We were seated, then started on the buffet. I was surprised at how much she ate, as Jan's so small. She's about 5' 2" and a half, and thin, but she made a sizable impact on that buffet. As we both struggled to finish the last of our meal, a commotion broke out. I heard the owner shout at a couple of Indian men, saying, "I'm not in a good mood today, so get out!" The bigger of the two Indians said he was going to complain. The owner responded by saying, "go ahead, complain to whoever you want. Complain to Tony Blair. Complain to George Bush, if you want. Now, get out." When the Indian men were at the door, I herd what sounded like shoving. I wondered what the disturbance had been about. Speaking to the owner as we paid the bill, he explained that the men had refused to sit at the table he had directed them to sit at. Instead, they tried to sit at a table that was already taken, but whose occupants were up at the buffet. When the owner directed them to move, they started arguing with him. He said, "I sell cheap food, so get a lot of trouble." I was impressed. A full meal and a floor show, all for less than £10. Mr Wu is at 28 Wardour Street, London W1D 6QN. If you go there, just make sure you sit where they tell you.

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