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ShoWest Diaries: Day One

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In which our intrepid reporter spends all day with Talking Heads stuck in her head (“and you may ask yourself… how did I get here?”) and a hapless cinema employee must abandon his post protecting the loose candy bins from ravening Hollywood executives in order to chase our intrepid reporter away from the Icee machine.

It is reasonable to ask how I convinced my (completely delightful) overlords to send me to ShoWest which is, according to itself, “the most prestigious and longest running convention and trade show for the cinema exhibition and distribution community.” As with most library stories, it starts with books or, more accurately, Book Expo America, the annual convention of our nation’s publishing companies designed to tempt booksellers, and librarians, into buying their wares by marching lots of famous authors into their midst and otherwise plying them with food and swag. Every year I watch as my book-buying colleagues head off to New York or L.A. for a week of bookish hedonism while I, the movie buyer and therefore not really “BookExpo” material, get to hold down the fort, crankily.

So last year I mentioned to our new (completely delightful) assistant director that since my colleagues get to go to BEA, I really ought to be allowed to go to a film industry conference, didn’t she think? And to my amazement, she DID. She told me to find one, and go. And that, Talking Heads, is how I got here, although I can’t say I know exactly what to do now that I’m here.

Monday I go to pick up my registration and try to get a handle on what my game plan is. ShoWest has a few distinct categories of activities, many of which are happening at more or less the same time, so I must decide. Am I here for the free movie screenings? Am I here for the trade show, wherein a convention hall full of vendors will not very successfully attempt to sell me new theater chairs? Am I here for what I like to call “Dining With The Stars,” wherein several thousand conferees pile into a swanky hotel dining hall to eat swanky hotel dining hall food while studios award famous people suspicious sounding awards, like “The ShoWest Visionary Award” (Robert Redford) or the "Coca-Cola Consumer Choice Favorite Movie of 2007 Award" (Bourne Ultimatum)? Am I here to attend educational sessions like “Getting the Most out of Your Theater Insurance Dollar” or “Is That a Credit Card Interchange Fee in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy To See Me?” (I did not make either of those titles up). Am I, in the words of the great philosopher Gretchen Wilson, here for the party, of which there are more than one?

I decide that I’m here for some combination of movie screenings, Dining With The Stars, and swag gathering. There will be parties of course, a totally unavoidable occupational hazard, but I will perhaps not include those in the official report to the Library, for its own sake.

Monday night is my first opportunity for movie screenings at the ShoWest Showcase of Independent Film. I arrive at the appointed location (the back entrance of Bally’s) to catch the shuttle bus to the movie theater reserved for the event. I’m wearing my conference badge and press pass (thanks, Blogcritics!), but I’m still nervously awaiting someone shouting YOU! You’re not One Of Us (whomever that might be)! YOU are clearly a LIBRARIAN! To the cataloging dungeon!

I scurry onto the bus and grab a seat as incognito-ly as possible. Shortly thereafter the adjoining seat is occupied by a woman on her cell phone trying to track down a package. I figure out from the conversation that she is a UPS rep who works exclusively for Fox and somewhere, out there, are some missing Eddie Murphy standees. This leads to my first awesome random thing overheard at the ShoWest.

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