Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to party with Bode Miller – on not

I am terrible at throwing a party.

It’s not that I don’t have something to offer – not embarrassed about the food, the conversation, the entertainment, the other friends, nor do I care if the party is for 4 or 400. I’m about typical when it comes to social quotient. I both like being with people and being alone. No shortage of entertainment in either place.

It’s just the logistics of a party. The f-ing details. And the question of why.

Making a film – or any creative endeavor is a little like throwing a party. You invite people you know to participate. You give them a sense of why, when, where, who. Like a barn raising. But, of course the difference is, unlike a barn-raising, many (most??) projects take more than a day, a weekend, a month... So at the end of the party you say, “Hope you had a good time! See you at 6 AM tomorrow for doughnuts and coffee!”

Not a popular closer for most.

But even for the singular, one-off, run of-the-mill party it’s still a basic question of who, what, where, when and embedding the why in there. Do we need to know why we should party? I think it’s handy to know if we’re to buy tupperware, drink like Lawrence, or catchup with old friends, yes.

And there’s the rub. Work to have fun? How come?

Here’s the connection, tangential as it might be. I was talking with a friend about wanting to make a fort for my kids. He said excitedly that he had a fort he was looking to move, his son having gone off to college and the big wide world. My friend is a builder and his fort is solid. Cool for us! But we’ve got to get a crew to move it. Now moving a fort is not quite party material, just needs a few guys to grab corners and heft the thing into my friend’s trailer. But how to make that happen. I stink at throwing parties. One time I invited friends to a party then didn’t show up. True story. That’s when I knew. And it seems especially bad when the purpose is to get friends to do something for me.

I’m actually pretty good on the communication of that last item. It’s a matter of being honest, straightforward and staying away from any guilt trips – YOU OWE ME! It’s the time thing. And it’s THE CIRCLES OF CONNECTION. I bet my cousin in Connecticut could help. Or my brother in Columbus. Or my friend in Massachusetts. But it has to be realistic. A real fort needs people in close enough circles. And then there is the issue of the social circles. A “hefting of the fort” can be a good way to join circles – my local friends, to my film friends.

Connection and the why. The fort needed 4 people to move. Tim, my friend the builder, me and two others. I made a few calls to local friends and could find only 1. So the 2 of us showed up at Tim’s house.

Tim builds houses. So the fort was really a little house. On 7 foot four by four stilts. Around a tree that burned down leaving the fort standing. Amazingly the 3 of us lowered the building to the ground, using the concept of leverage and a deep and abiding faith in God. Once to the ground we realized that there was no way the 3 of us, or even 4 guys heftier. Tim’s built like a house framer, but, me and David are finish carpenters, at best. So we need at least 6 people. A bigger party. For another day of fun.

And it hit me. I like helping friends out. I like hanging out. I like creating. I like helping others create (editing, shooting, writing...). I hate organizing schedules. Does anybody? Some tolerate it better than others. I work with one such person. But I just want to hang out with friends. Hang with creative folks, even those who don’t think they are.

I’ve been out at Sundance a few times. One time I was there for a screening of my Bode Miller film, Flying Downhill, showing at the competing XDance. I was at one of the Sundance hotels looking for a friend, hyping (inviting him to) my screening. And as I was being as cool as possible to fit in – arrogance works as well in a pinch. I could see the buzzing of little parties. One group was assembled around their film and it seemed that some of those party-members sole purpose was to wrangle other partiers to attend their film. Some of the group were solely “ticket-givers” and knew who should sit where. These were professional party people, not amateurs like me. They knew where everybody should stand at the party. And what kind of vodka was in. And out. Don’t know if this was the group associated with another party (film screening) scheduled for the same time as mine. But my friend told me that he had to go to that party, even though he had seen the film and the distributor had already been chosen. He simply had to get more of Little Miss Sunshine. Even though I hadn’t seen it... how could a reckless skier compete with a kid with a great smile, not to mention my hero, Alan Arkin. Our Bode party was good, but would have been better had Bode not been such a good partier (or, at least talked about such before the party).

People who are good at social media look like they are good at a party. But really it’s all about a simple conversation. No problem. My mon, who seems to be good at parties, taught me that many people feel awkward at a party. You just talk. Be yourself. Listen.

I gotta run to find some friends to move a fort! And hang with the kids.

But I do want to pitch that I’ll be working with Sean Hurley and some other friends on the 48-hour film project. We’ll begin at 7PM Friday, June 12 and the party ends Sunday night at 7PM. A movie in hand.

We never had a wrap party for our Bode film because it was moving with us as we went. One such party was in Park City, 2002 after the final Olympic slalom. At 4 AM I walked out from my bedroom and told Bode and the 20 or so others in the living room playing coin games that it was time for me to get some sleep. Thus, end of party. He said “That’s cool.”

We need someone in our endeavors who likes to throw a party. Me, just let me cook and talk. I’ll clean up after. Eventually.

Cause a good party can even help promote climate change solutions. Really.

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