Trains, Planes and Automobiles - the 7th Renderyard Short Film Festival, Logroño, La Rioja, Spain
Due to attend the 7th Renderyard Short Film Festival, being held in Logroño, La Rioja, in northern Spain, I was grubbing about in the dark early on Friday morning making last-minute preparations for my trip (I was going to say 'flight', but as I was to find out, it was going to heavily involve tubes, taxis, trains, cars, buses and Shank's Pony, too).
I would be there to lend my support to the production team of "Makers | Our Story", a documentary on the UK independent film industry being showcased at the festival, which IP Performance have supported and part-sponsored, and for which I have provided some stills photography. I was also keen to find out more how this largely-educational project about British filmmaking was to be promoted and distributed outside the UK, and if possible I hoped to make new contacts among producers, directors, post-production facilities, film schools and colleges.
Friday 25th November 2011, 06:30, Home: Up in my office, I'm checking the last of my emails, any early-morning tweets, and seeing if the blog has garnered any comments. 0. That's encouraging, it means I can probably speak/write freely about this trip.
Checklist: laptop (as soon as I can get offline and power it down), pendrives, phones, chargers, camera, lenses, CF cards, card readers - all present and correct. Either packed or wearing: obligatory traveller's crumpled off-white cotton jacket, de-riguer media black teeshirts, button-down shirt for any normal interactions, lesbian shoes*. No luvvy hat! Horrors! Oh wait, I have a cloth cap - I can wear that backwards, I remember "The Truman Show"...
I'm taking a couple of books for the journey - Karl Pilkington's "An Idiot Abroad", and Bill Bryson's latest. That way I should be equally well covered regardless of whether my travel itinerary takes me into "unprepared pillock" territory or the rarified plane of urbane seasoned traveller.
I leave the house in darkness. No-one's up. There's no point in waking them to say goodbye.
*Comfy brown leather brogues with thick soles, for extended periods of walking/being on your feet.
Friday 25th November 2011, 09:45, Heathrow T3: Made good time here, and now have plenty of opportunity to look about. It's a bright, sunny, brisk morning. There seem to be a lot of men in large black/tan fedoras and long leather coats about. The clean-shaven ones look like Gunther von Hagens (of "Bodyworlds" notoriety), the beardies like Terry Pratchett. I'm guessing they must be German. I see a bunch of American Airlines staff struggling with giant wheeled aluminium "AA"-logo'd flight boxes. I don't make the connection until much later. Maybe they were clearing out their lockers? I breeze through passport control and security check, which is a big surprise to me. Heathrow has come a long way since I last used it (I normally favour London City).
Friday 25th November 2011, 15:30, leaving Abando Central Station, Bilbao: The flight over was... interesting. I'd never heard of this airline (Vueling) before. The plane was a mess. Some of the seatbacks were missing and also the cladding on the seat arms, revealing the cantilevered joints and springs inside. The stewardesses didn't bother with a pre-flight safety demonstration, and whilst claiming to speak English, didn't understand pretty fundamental airline expressions like "airport" or "landing". In a wonderful comedy flashback moment, the third such "English-speaking" stewardess summoned to my side shrugged and said "I'se sorry, we from Bar-the-looona". But at least the flight got in on time.
At Bilbao Airport, no-one spoke English either. The promised Metro station didn't exist; the buses did, but I couldn't work out their precise location, nor the timetable, in time. I had less than an hour to get to the central station, so had to risk a taxi. I say risk, because the Estación de Abando Indalecio Prieto is known simply as Bilbao-Abando, and jumping into a cab and shouting "Abando!" sounded like a foolish thing to do, and probably a local in-joke. As it was, after a repetitively circuitous and expensive taxi ride, I wasn't dropped in the middle of nowhere, but at the station, with ten minutes to spare. And driving past Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum architecture (twice) was awesome.
Once again, I found no English speakers on the station platform, but at the ticket office a nice helpful lady spoke some French. The ticket voucher I had been sent was invalid. I bought my ticket, no messing around now, let's make it a return. The train destination I had been given was also incorrect, and I nearly missed the connection - luckily the train is a three-coach affair, so it was easy enough to sprint to the right carriage, find the only door, and swing on. I'm now pulling out of the station, past more representative Bilbaoan architecture.
Friday 25th November 2011, 19:30, Hotel Ciudad de Logroño: Just got to the hotel after 12 hours of solid travel, exhausted! It took a bit of walking around and taking wrong turnings before I found it. But I'm here now, and I'm glad the room is nice, which is the main reason I didn't want to share a room or dorm with the production team at their hostel.
I should have realised when I saw the three-coach train that I wasn't boarding an Inter-city express service, but man, was this slow. Long halts at stations and sidings in bleak industrial towns, 30mph in between them. Occasionally I'd see a quite pretty mock-Alpine lodge (with terracotta roof tiles) or two, but then they'd be crowded out and dwarfed by postwar factories and industrial units. As we worked our way inland and started getting up into the mountains, the human eyesores were left behind and the terrain became more rugged, with jagged peaks jutting out over old, wild forests and fast-flowing streams. I saw eagles circling on thermals high above the cliffs, and could easily imagine wild boar and other ancient beasts in those woods (although the only other living things I saw were donkeys and geese on the occasional farmsteads).
After nearly three hours we arrived at Logroño, and I alighted. It took me a further half an hour to get out of the station and find a crossing point to get me onto the right side of the tracks. Clouds of cement dust, cranes and building sites everywhere. I don't know whether they're demolishing, renovating or building.
So, I'm in the hotel, unpacked, and looking to make contact. Amadin and the Makers production team are eschewing the festival tonight (it's featuring animation shorts) and want to meet at the Café Bretón where they're working on scripts (of the presentations they'll be giving on Sunday night). It sounds like after that's out of the way, they want to party. I don't think they've been up long. Jesus wept...
Oh, and by the way, Bill Bryson's no bloody help at all. His latest is called "At Home", and is about the history of the household, which just makes me homesick. I fancy a mature cheddar cheese, ham and tomato toastie, done properly, under a gas grill.
Saturday 26th November 2011, 04:00, Hotel Ciudad de Logroño: A few final jottings before I lay my head down to sleep (or pass out). Allowing for the time difference, I've been up for 21 1/2 hours straight. The lads were in the Café Bretón, opposite the Teatro Bretón, crowded around a MacBook Pro. I let them buy me a half litre of Estrella, then slumped in the corner and let them get on with it. At some indeterminate time later they decamped to their digs, the Hostal La Numantina, via a supermarket to pick up armfuls of cheap plonk to keep us going through the night. It was at their lovely, understated hostel that I met Alexandra Sufit of Lexitricity, music video director and all-round good egg, who accompanied us in the early hours to the Submarine Bar. I don't think I made a particularly good impression. I bailed out as soon as politely possible, and suspect they're still there now. The "Makers | Our Story" team and I have agreed to meet at the Café Bretón at 1pm tomorrow. We'll see...
by Pierre | 2 December 2011
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