Alex's NALIP 2012 Ramblings

By LITI Editor Alex Mendoza

Hay! Wait... still dizzy... sorry for the delay on my review... but the letritas in the screen keep dancing on me... no, is not the tequila remnants. It is trying to shake the withdrawal... it always happens... the crashing after the Conference (and the months of hard work before it) is harder than any drug (and I claim the Fifth here regarding experience). The high of being surrounded by sooooo many things I love, for that extended time, is so powerful that attempting a soft landing is always a futile effort. For days after, I am anxious and restless, with the adrenaline taking its sweet time to wear out. At least, of lately, I can feed my addiction a little scourging FB for photos. But what I am telling you, if you were there, you know exactly what I am talking about. 

For those that weren't there; como dice mi Mama, "El que por su gusto es bue..."; but being that I am all forgiven, I will do the, certainly deficient, attempt to describe it from my POV.

Old Friends, New Friends, My Beloved, Inspiration, Advance of Old Biz, Open New Biz, No Lost Biz, Affirm Knowledge, New Knowledge, Reaffirm Knowledge that you are still bien Bruto, HUGE Stars, Bad to Great films (the cachitos I saw). An OUTSTANDING Film (I saw it all). Good Food, Great Butter. Great Drinks (counting the supply provided by AMARTE), Hurt Feet, Little Sleep, Satisfaction on Job Well Done (por lo menos no tan mal hecho), Truckloads of Positive Feedback and Praises (most deserved by Jesus Garcia, Key Art Designer, or Zach Evans, Co-Editor of this newsletter, not me), Laughs, Dance, and last, but not least,... the BEST TACO DE OJO... EVER!!!* Of whatever is of your pleasing. That, of course, counted with my humble and unassuming contribution. Babo... Mistaken if you don't go next year.

*[out of character] For first time readers, my sincere advanced apologies, if I unintentionally offend anyone. For more than 30 years, I have made my living professionally appreciating the female (and some male) beauty, from being an art director in advertising through film distribution to my current businesses. I just pretend to characterize it in what intends to be a lighthearted, comical way. Perdon y muchas gracias. [back in character].

Previous to Wednesday: After working for months, and under sudden changes and strain and after a couple of quick re-adjustments, the production rolled ahead under the wise direction of the Exec Staff and Board (no free adulation in here, everyone should know que asi no juego, I don't do that). Following recommendations made by NALIPsters, the Agenda is smaller on breakdown sessions, larger on network opportunities. By show time, all challenges were overcome and curtains are ready to go up.

Wednesday, Sheraton Universal. Set Up. Running uncharacteristically late, AMARTE (One of my ADD-forced-ventures is the vendor handling the graphic image of the Conference), arrives on venue to the high rejoice of friends and strangers (I'm soooo fortunate to count on my team with Carlos Espinoza). There is immediate personal joy at meeting again the long time core team of staff and volunteers. All dear friends. Get introduced to the current set of slav... err... volunteers, glad to see that several are masochist enough to be back after many years. I pay special notice of a couple of new ones for their cheerfulness and working pace, they work as a team even when not assigned as one. Mmmm, clever... never mind that both are very beautiful. Staging Area and Office set up are accomplished. Back with crew to the studio to finish production of materials at 3AM. Even when next call time is at 7AM, I need to arrange and plan t-shirt collection. So many now that they require planning. Look for them in the NALIP 2012 and related FB photo pages.

Thursday, ActorSummit. Wizard's Theatre. First T-Shirt. Shameless Plug: If you are a performer, even if a seasoned one, this is an event (kind of a warming performance for the Conference) not to be missed. Not only you had a chance to learn, refresh or update your skills to audition, present yourself and network but, as you exited the lessons, you got to immediately benefit from them meeting with casting directors, agents, managers and SAG's diversity people in an audition express format of 9 tables. 

Nice surprise on how well prettied by NBC-Universal (outstanding corporate support) the venue is. I was not too sure that what I saw on the scouting trip was going to work well; always glad to be happily surprised. Quick set-up. Ooops, equipment malfunction, quickly repaired (you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. You want Him to laugh louder? Don't make any.) No last minute needs. Event starts, hold for a while just in case any start-up need arises (nothing to do with the fact that many pretty people were arriving). I am glad to see, again cheerful and active, the two volunteers that called my attention last night. Wow, very professional and welcoming demeanor, good for them. But, wait, they are prettier than I remembered. Again, working as a tandem, they are triple as effective. I doubt they know how well they do that.

Talking about seasoned actors, I started the Camaraderie Fest, err... the Conference, with one of my best and ooooooldest friends, Hernan de Beky, that thanks to NALIP, we connected again after many years of going through college together. He made one of my top highlights of the Conference. You see, we graduated at the same venue, the Sheraton Universal, in '85 and we recollected all conference long how we, the Latino contingent, marched Pomp & Circumstance absolutely drunk in high doses of Long Island Ice Tea's, throwing solemnity to the winds and then followed the party some 80 of us counting families and friends, in my one-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood (my wife still doesn't forgives me).  Well, back to work setting up the venue. 

I sign in into the hotel, charm the front desk manager with my protest why my photo is not on their wall, got the best room available, POOLSIDE!!! Great!!! I get into my room and rush to open the curtains and darn, my luck... it looks that the East Coasters brought with them the bad weather. I'm positive that the fact escaped the front desk manager, being that this weather is a rarity por estos pueblos. Second T-Shirt.  Evening set up of the infusion lounge for pre-conf party. Third T-shirt. Final walk-through of the floor and meeting rooms. The only major deviation from plans has no apparent impact; plow along. OK, looking good, bring it on. I could go back to the infusion for some food and drinks but too tired to party. Stroll through the lobby bar on my way to the room and meet a paisano (this one mexicano, Omar Chagall), chat a while, reminiscence old Mexico City stories, like last century Mexico City, get a club sandwich (excellent), a couple of tequilas and...  fade out. 

Friday. Conference Opens. Fourth T-Shirt. Morning registration mad rush. Ooops, looks tight back there for a while, quickly thins, now looks smooth, nobody is screaming, good. Team leaders are waltzing inside the corral (in event lingo, the for-authorized-personnel-only area behind public tables). Experience counts. Last minute needs are attended, time to set up the Luncheon. Ooops, social psychology is throwing a curve on me, arriving flow is not following planned pattern, creating some confusion.  Quick retrieval and adaptation of extra signage. Adjust to the natural flow built, plow along. By noon the jump-start stage is over, conference is way on a roll. People coming out of the morning sessions look happy. Good atmosphere is established. Good Vibes are abuzz. The hallway is full of exhibitors; pretty much all guild, network and studio diversity departments are accounted for and actively chatting with attendees. By the way, where is the PGA? A new and interesting one; ATAS is on the house. Mental note, Alex: remember to approach them. Stroll into the Filmmakers Lounge. I can see to my right 4-5 people seated in comfy sofas (I know one of them to be a distributor) screening a film in a portable DVD player. Next there are 3 more screening a film in an iPad. Next there is WGA Diversity having a talk with about 8 people. Now, two people (I know one of them to be an agent), screening something in an iPhone. There is Fernanda Rossi, spilling knowledge by the tons, while at the same time signing books and chasing a very active and curios toddler. Here are two more people screening another film, this one in a holographic tablet (wow, need to eat something soon). More groups sharing knowledge, products and projects. As I say, the Conference is way on a roll. 

MAJOR HIGHLIGHT: Meet with my unequivocally dearest, bestest, non-plus-ultra, supra-cum-laude, mas chingon, friend and mentor, Frank Zuniga (blame him for me being here between all of you).

Friday. Lunch. Fifth T-Shirt. Robert Rodriguez. Trends on LA Twitter, Robert, not the t-shirt, due to massive quote sharing by attendees. Wait, here are these two again, even better looking than the last time I saw them, sterilizing the lunch (in event lingo, sterilizing is standing at the access to the event to verify ID Badges, once you are inside the sterile area you are assumed to be OK to be there), that's a big responsibility, specially being Bobby's lunch. OK, it is official; I am impressed; they are running fast away from other volunteers for the title of Alexito's Favorite Volunteer. I wonder which one of the two will win.

Robert is enthusiastic and inspirational. In a nutshell: be proud of being independent. He seems to like his audience, talks frankly, with humor revising his career and makes an appassionato pitch for his new channel. I buy it all. Time will tell if we are wrong. 

Friday Afternoon. Sixth t-shirt. Excitement builds in anticipation of FILLY BROWN screening. Can't wait to see it myself. Too many good friends involved. A nurtured around LALIFF and NALIP project. HUUUUGE buzz from Sundance. Infusion (for pre and after screening parties) and AMC theater are all set up. A private party is buzzed around the floor. Danny Rodriguez is throwing an open house at his production house. Address is being shared by handing out little pieces of paper. Danny's parties during Conference time are infamous for being the most fun.

The way things work: ATAS approaches me. Great Ideas. Pay attention to what they have to say and don't miss their coming event May 3rd

Afternoon sessions come out. Again, people seems satisfied and happy, they all rush for the party at the same time clogging Universal's and NALIP's shuttles to CityWalk. I learned that for $5 and showing my NALIP2012 ID Badge we could go in taxi through the parking gates all the way to the closest drop to infusion. Everyone trickles in for food and drinks, mixed with friends and good looking people, networking and project sharing. Me, I have to go back to hotel. Set up of large meeting. Welcome my beloved. Seventh T-Shirt. Back to infusion for a quick bite (no drink, line too long) and rush to make sure everything is still OK at the AMC. It is. Next, Popcorn, Coke, Raisinetes, Adriana on my side, good seat outside of the Reserved Area (of course I could sit there, but better let someone else feel like a VIP). I'm ready. Michael, Eddie, Gina, yes, you guys... I'm ready... lights go dark and... and... and..., as the Admiral would say, FRAKING WOW! The buzz from Sundance is not enough to prepare you for it. Como decimos en mi tierra: UN PELICULON! Pentonto, but very foolish, who misses it.  Again, I do not free laud.

Back to infusion for the after party, break open tequila flask. Congratulate as many involved with the film as possible, where's Gina???!!! Midnight. Wait, where is Gina?!!! No time to change T-Shirt. Jump in a taxi.

Saturday. Very Early Hours. Arrive at Old West Entertainment/Transcend Prod studios. Interesting set up, high beams, all wood paneling, huge lobby, huge staircase towards... an Old West BAR!!! No kidding, the reception of the place is a fully functioning and stocked antique old west bar!!! Is the central hub to executive offices, a huge conference room with a round table worth of the proverbial Knights, recording (vid & aud) booths, and then, when asked where to go, I was shown a secret panel in the wall that took you to a bathroom, no, I don't mean restroom, I mean a bathroom, that included a 4 people Jacuzzi. I don't mind if they offer no benefits. Can I work in here? Old West is a big Hip-Hop producer so we get a great show from some of their artists (sorry can't provide names, I'm Hip-Hop challenged). After some dueling shots (of tequila), we take the 3AM train south (thank you, Diana and "keeper", for the ride) back to the Sheraton.

Saturday. Morning Sessions. Eighth T-shirt. Someone formally complains on the fact that they could not guess the number of T-shirts since they were not here on Thursday. Valid argument, sorry for those on Thursday, but will only be fair to repeat them. They will need to remember if they have seen or not. Thursday's people mutiny, promises of extra tequila appease the mob. This will require my political t-shirts to be relegated to another occasion. Oh regarding the conf? Moves and changes are rolling smooth, no major hic-ups, no screw-ups. Some personal networking, chatting with as many friends I can before Lunch. 

Saturday. Lunch. First T-Shirt Repeat. Last minute change of plans, create a quick rush, solved. The susodichas and aforementioned are present on responsible positions, looking beautiful and performing to the level I always knew they had. Ron Meyer, Uni Studios Pres & COO, is the keynote. A somber lookout. In a nutshell: they don't know how and they have quit trying opening the Latino market for Latino films. Worse, to talk to them you need an agent; your gardener may know one. Couldn't be in more contrast from yesterday's keynote. With all due respect to both, I subscribe to Robert's philosophy, more than to Ron's. 

Saturday. Afternoon Sessions. Second T-Shirt Repeat. Is smooth sailing, nobody rocks the boat, please. Set Up for the Gala. Distribute 18 half bottles of 1800 between staff and close friends working as volunteers. Third T-Shirt Repeat. Final stroll through the hallways talking with friends before breakdown of exhibits, set up and sterilization (do I need to explain this one again?) for the Gala. Wait, wait... finally, Caraja, there is GINA!!!! Run to hug the IT GIRL of the moment. Make sure all my friends are looking. Assure her that the IT will be forever. Esta muchacha has stolen each and every scene she has been until today. Don't believe me? Wachale any two flicks she has been in. Specially FILLY.

I am asked to serve as the Gala introduction announcer, I humbly decline, will be to much for my fans. In panic I run to the floor to find Hernan (my friend I spoke earlier about) that is an experienced, awarded and famed voice over professional, to do me la balona, as a favor to me... no fee, no per-diem, not even an extra plate. He agrees with pleasure and, oh, do I look good with the production.  Rush to change, wondering if I should wear the final T-Shirt under my formal Guayabera. Discard the idea, tonight is Rita's night...

Back with my beloved to the Ballroom. Notice the two of them now with their Gala dresses and Mama Mia!  My now good friends detain me, because we have not been sterilized (no wristband). I scream: "I no need no stinking wristbands!!!". They call security on me. I pick up my wristband. Just didn't want them to be distracted from their well-done job. Got seats and then go for the drinks (key maneuver on any event like this). Doing line for drinks, Hay Dios! (asi, bien gay), who is scarce 9ft from me, glowing in charm, beauty and good humor? Dona Rita Moreno. My wife: "Anda, tomate una foto!" Me: "No. I never bother them. They have enough, besides, I will spend my life taking photos with celebrities." Back in the room, good pals seat with us and then new pals are met in there.  Dinner is served, the sirloin is divine, the fish not so. Service is excellent (worth multiple tips). Everything else, good to great, special mention to the butter. We are ready... you can start the show... lights go dark and...

Remember that professional, EMMY awarded announcer, I was so proud to have suggested to the production? Dumb head, he fumbles a line... we had so big of a laugh afterwards. Joe Hernandez-Kolski fires up the show from the get go. Funny, on theme and contemporary, many references to the conference, entertaining and having a good time himself.

Estela Awardees (Up and Already Arrived Talent); Patricia Martinez de Velasco, Ari Luis Palos y Erin McGinnis; beam pride as they pick up their prizes. An "Esoteric" (can't find a more fitting word) Salsa group performs. Jerry Velasco gets his well-deserved advocacy award, and this time, certainly because he also knows is Rita's night, gives a gracious and short speech focused on helping those that need our help now. Good for him. And the time comes for the climax of the night. Joe comes on stage dressed like... ANITA!!! And goes off in a modified rendition of "I wanana live... like Rita Moreno". He got me in tears laughing. Then La Chaparra de Oro, Lupe Ontiveros, gets the stage and, of course, more laughs ensue. Then she welcomes to the stage Dolores Huerta, that gets a standing ovation, gives a short but sweet speech and then in turn she introduces Rita. La Octagenaria (80 yr old) blows the stage dancing salsa as she comes up!!! And then... what a speech. Honest, Frank, Funny, Inspirational, Hopeful. Can't wait to see her one-woman-show coming up soon.

Show ends. Rita gets mobbed; no amount of security could avoid it. Even Dolores Huerta has to rush away not to get pushed by the mob trying to reach Rita. She literally couldn't stand from her seat for more than an hour with an endless line of admirers approaching and kneeling next to her to take a photo. I can't get a decent shot of her. I climb the stage for a better angle of her, she looks up, we make eye contact, she smiles, I wonder why, she mouths "Salman Rushdie", I smile too. You know, I get confused with the author of the Satanic Verses quite often (not a good thing). But this time, I do not care, since it gave me the opportunity to connect with her.

Leave the room and smooch on the foyer. My beloved lets me know she is going nite, nites. As we walk out we coincide with Rita's leaving so we tag along with the entourage. Until she notices me again and then I say "No, I'm not him" She smiles with a face of what-you-think-I'm-dumb? "I know, but you certainly look like him" Me: "But he got ugly". She laughs heartily. Me: "Can I take a photo with you?"  She: "Of Course!" opening her arms. So I don't always take photos with celebrities, but when I do, is with grand slam winners...

Go to the room accompanying my wife, I wonder if I should crack open another t-shirt, naaaahh, no time, much to party still. Instead I just pick up the 2.5lt Corralejo Tequila bottle I have as house reserve and head for the party. More camaraderie, tequila shots, dancing and all around just be gay (on any sense you may wish) and merry. From the ballroom to the lobby bar, where CBS' Barbara Matos guesses the correct number of shirts up to then, she wins a tequila bottle on the next conference.  By then I find myself with no more ammo. No, is not that I am a drunk, what I am, is generous. Bar closes, panic ensues.  I get several texts asking where is the after-after-after party. I don't know!!! Hysteria grabs the venue. I get a saving twitt, is on room 153, quick texting, re-tweeting, posting and some sotto voce and the natural order is restored.  So then is to room 153 where about 60-80 of us partied inside a room and a little patio outside, until security came for the third time at 3:45AM, to kick us out. Great, now we can go to sleep, because there is no better way to end a NALIP after-after-after party than unleashing the forces of law and order. For a moment I thought I could declare OCCUPY NALIP2012 starting with that room. A good friend dissuaded me.

Sunday Morning. Last T-Shirt (Ninth) to be shown. Last two meetings, vacilon with the few stragglers and start wrap. Closing Town Hall gets on the way, feedback is positive and constructive. One more in the bag, amigos. Now, just to the difficult task of choosing Alexito's Favorite Volunteer, and these two don't make it easy. OK here we go..., de tin, marin, de don pingue, cucara macara titere fue... naaah, both, Mariangelica Cuervo and Linda Elena Tovar, are officially inducted to the Alexito's Chicas Club after winning the Alexito's Favorite VolunteerS Award. 

Oh, I forgot, in between all the above, I, with friends, strategized how to open the Latino market for Latino films. We have the answer, looking for serious money (hint, hint, Robert). Interested? You know how to contact me. With others, fixed the environmental crisis, simple, just reduce waste and we may be doing a doc on it. Yet, with others we resolved why the male of our species is not the prettiest of the genders, as in with any other species. I closed one business deal I have been chasing for months, strategized on his next event with a long recurring client, remained another OF MY SERVICES, yeap, key function on a conference. Even me, anyone, is forgettable [back in character], or everyone can be forgetful. Opened two real possibilities of good new clients, consulted (making money for it) with three producers, consulted (without making any money for it) with a dozen more, introduced the son of another friend and mentor of mine, Demian Barba, with half the floor. All those I did are under promise to help him, as much as they can. He is a very, very good cinematographer (and, again, I do not freely laud. I have seen his work). 

OK. Finish wrapping up, load van (actually just look as it was being loaded). Promises that we will be seeing each other soon. Me, being a hermit, may be not until NHMC's MediaCon. Hugs, kisses, tears and goodbyes, crash in my room for a long siesta. Thanks Ruth for the service, patience, help and the late check out. Unwillingly wake up, carefully inventory and pack the T's collection, leave room, go to office to pick up straggling stuff, turn off the lights, close office, return master key, go home. Ahi nos wachamos el ano que entra. Taru... tonto if I don't see you there next year!