I met a lot of people at the first-ever Hero Complex Film Festival last month, but one of the most memorable was Nico Rolke, a German film student who had jetted halfway around the globe to be at the event. I invited him to write about the experience, and he jumped at the chance. — Geoff Boucher
When I told my friends and colleagues about my plan to fly to the Hero Complex Film Festival four weeks ago, the thing I heard the most was: “You are crazy!”
One of my friends said, “Let me get this straight, you’re flying to Los Angeles all by yourself in the middle of the semester, leaving all your work and projects behind, just to see two directors on a stage answering some questions?” I told him I had to go, since Scott and Nolan are my two favorite directors and the fact that they would be in one place in one weekend — well, I could not pass it up. Thinking about all of this while sitting on the plane to Los Angeles, I did start to get nervous for the first time. But I kept telling myself that I would regret it if I didn’t go and would never find out what this trip could have been like.
When I arrived at the Film Festival on Friday, I immediately got my entrance bracelet and entered the cinema and watched “Star Trek IV.“ I quickly got very excited just sitting in the famous theaters above the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the first time, but then I really realized what I had made the long trip for when Leonard Nimoy entered the room, and people flipped over it. They applauded and screamed until he got seated and started answering the questions from the host, Geoff Boucher. Nimoy presented himself as relaxed and funny, and it was great to listen to him and the host. It put me in a very good mood, and I got even more excited for the second and third day with Nolan and Scott.
After the Q&A session, I got back to the main hall and started to wander a bit and was about to exit the cinema when I walked by a circle of people. I thought to myself: “Wait a minute, wasn’t that the host of the festival?” I returned and noticed that I had been right; Boucher and a group of people were chatting, and I decided it would be nice to join them. I talked to a guy who soon introduced himself as Eric Vespe, or Quint, and he told me about his website, Ain’t It Cool.
After a bit, Geoff said to the group: “Why don’t we go upstairs?” Everyone agreed and followed him. It turned out that they were heading to the VIP section of the event. Thank God we were such a big group of people, and the bouncer didn’t realized that I had no VIP bracelet! So I entered the VIP Lounge with them and immediately felt another wave of excitement. It was a nice room with its own bar, and it was decorated with pictures of Marilyn Monroe and George Lucas and other during their visits to the Chinese Theatre. People started talking about how great the evening went, and I listened to their conversations.
I was so afraid to be kicked out of the section if someone realized who I was that I barely talked and tried to be as invisible as possible. Of course, someone recognized that I was there after a while. It was Geoff Boucher, so he came over and asked: “Well, who are you?”
I told him: “Basically, I am a film student from Germany…” I began to tell him my story: I had found out about the film festival from a girl who was trying to show me that Twitter can be useful to find things you’re interested in. She told me to come up with something I wanted to find out more about and I said: “Christopher Nolan.” She typed in his name, and we found the tweet of a guy who was talking about the Hero Complex Film Festival. Once I read it, I immediately bought a ticket and booked a flight.
Boucher seemed confused. “Wait, so you came all the way from Germany for the film festival?” He seemed impressed, and one of his friends joked, “Geoff you didn’t know you had fans in Germany!” Boucher introduced me to people around the room like Los Angeles Times entertainment editor Rich Nordwind and comic-book writer Ed Brubaker and his wife, Melanie Tomlin, “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola and his wife Christine Mignola, and writer Leo Partible and his wife, Lori Wahlers. I talked to them for a while and had to retell my story until people started to leave. Before I could go, Boucher came to me and said: “Why don’t you come back here tomorrow and if I can I will introduce you to Chris Nolan.” I gasped and said: “Sure, that would be more than nice!” I thanked him and left, but I didn’t really have high hopes. I thought that he maybe just said that to be nice and would probably not even remember me on the next day. Well, I was wrong.
The next day, I went to the VIP Lounge and a bouncer stopped me and said that I didn’t have the right bracelet. I almost returned, but Leo and Lori saw me and told me to wait; they went and got Geoff, who came out, pointed to me and told the bouncer: “That guy is in!” I was stunned. I went inside and had a great time talking to the same people and meeting new ones, like Noel Clarke, an actor from the “Doctor Who” series, [and] Mark Tonderai, the director of “Hush“; he told me about his movie and that he had seen a private screening of “Inception” and how good it was. When Nolan suddenly arrived, just five minutes before his appearance, everyone stopped talking immediately, and the room became totally quiet. I was silent myself — I was shocked to see him in person. Christopher Nolan was standing there just a few feet away from me. He talked to Geoff for a while and then seemed ready to go onstage. Everyone was standing there looking at him ready to shake his hand.
I felt kind of stupid surrounded by all these people who were much more important than I am, so I stepped back. But Geoff nearly pushed them aside when he lead Nolan to me and said: “Chris, you have to meet this guy, he just came from Germany to see you.” The director looked at me and seemed quite interested. “Oh, really?” I was speechless and nervously shook his hand. I had a million questions, but all I could do was stare at him and say that I was honored. He continued on his way, shaking the hand of everyone. I followed him with everyone else to the high entrance of the cinema and was standing directly behind him when the trailer of “Inception” was shown and everyone screamed. It was an unforgettable and magic feeling.
The Q&A session was great. Nolan managed to show the right amount of teaching and personal opinion, in my point of view. It was interesting and informative at the same time. But I guess even if he would have done a bad interview, I would have loved it. After it, I returned to the lounge before I headed back.
The third day went down as great as the first two. I waited in the VIP area for Ridley Scott, and when he arrived everyone got quiet, just like the day before. I followed every one of his steps with my eyes. He is a legend to me, and I wanted to see him as much as I could. Again, I got really nervous being so near to one of my role models, so I was thankful that Geoff helped me again and introduced me to him! “It is an honor to meet you Mr. Scott,” I stumbled.
He asked: “So you are from Bavaria Film [Studios] in Germany?” I almost laughed. “No, no I am just a regular film student.” “Well then, a pleasure to meet you, thanks for coming here!” Again, I was speechless and almost gasped. I know that he was just being nice to me, but Ridley Scott standing in front of me saying that it was a pleasure to meet me — I can’t put in words how I felt at that moment. Someone behind me said, “You just met Ridley Scott!” and patted me on the shoulder.
We entered the cinema and the Q&A session was as great as the others. Scott was surprisingly open and talked about a possible “Robin Hood” sequel and that he wanted to do a Western in future. When it was over, I returned to the VIP section and started thanking everyone for giving me such a mind-blowing experience, especially Geoff, of course. I collected a lot of cards and contacts, and Leo invited me to the Comic Book Sunday, which turned out to be a great experience as well. I also visited the L.A. Film Festival, where I went to a poolside chat and saw a few independent movies.
All in all, I have to say that this trip couldn’t have turned out any better for me and that I’m very thankful for everything that happened to me. So thank you to Geoff for your Hero Complex and for bringing me a step closer to my dream! I know I will be at the festival again next year. (You can read the full story of my trip soon on my new site.)
— Nico Rolke
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Photos, from top: Christopher Nolan at the 2010 Hero Complex Film Festival. From left, Melanie Tomlin, Nico Rolke, Lori Wahlers and Leo Partible. Mark Tonderai, Ed Brubaker and Noel Clarke. Geoff Boucher interviews filmmaker Ridley Scott on stage. Credit: Los Angeles Times
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