Umbrafest Excerpt



(Your Local Premier Indie Horror, Suspense, and Thriller Filmfest)

“Now, what shall we call this new sort of gazing house

That has opened in our town where people sit

Quietly and pour out their glancing

Like light, like answering?”



“Yeah, but Rumi was a poet hundreds of years ago, so he’s obviously not talking about theatres, Wes. He didn’t imagine that people would be gazing at movie screens,” said Arti. She was busy bundling her coat tighter around her short frame, fighting with the thing for being a size too small. The late fall breeze found its way through gaps, regardless. She gave up, adjusted her glasses, and leaned against the side of the classic-yet-fallen-to-disrepair box office of the Théatre Lumière.

Wes was wobbling atop a stepladder next to her, fishing around in a box for letters to fix to the marquee. Thus far his pale, spindly hands had managed to lay out a sign that said:



“Shit’s sake,” he said. “They never put enough Ys and things in here. Like Scrabble. Then you try to put a few extras in to even it out, and the next time you need a Q or Z, there’s fuck all in there.”

He climbed down, tucked himself into the alcove of the theatre doors and rummaged around some more, lifted a Y piece in mock triumph, and went back up.

Arti thought he looked like a pale white stickbug up there. He was an alright guy, as far as reclusive little movie nerd boys went. There wasn’t much free time to follow that thought, however. He and Arti (and, unfortunately Sammy as well, who could forget Sammy?) were all digging down into the last of their task lists. Being production crew for the premier indie horror filmfest in western Canada meant non-stop, barely paid, labour of love type work filled their afternoons and evenings.

This year Arti had tried to cozy her way into some of the programming and distribution, though Syndey the boss man had claimed most of that for himself, delegating the less interesting work out to the three (and only three) festival workers. So, on to marketing–making posters and manning the web pages and searching for volunteers–she went. When Wes came by the office that day to ask for her help, she took the chance to take a break and definitely not because she fancied some time with him.

“Well, they still had plays and shadow puppets back in wherever he was from, right?” Wes’s tone had taken on the pointedness of a defensive know-it-all.

Cute, but not really, thought Arti. “He says ‘gazing house’, as in self-reflection, acknowledging all the stuff inside you as enough to make yourself,” she said. “Gazing at yourself, past others and the rest of the world. He could have included the stage too, I guess. Losing oneself that way.”

She felt like like a bit of a hypocrite, lecturing when she was working the festival to avoid the same in her courses. She felt bad about also leaving her mother alone more and more this month, but it would be over in a week, then back to what passed for normal. Back to attempting to be a good student, then home to look after maan, just the two of them to fill the space. She pulled at her coat ineffectively.

Wes barked out a laugh, making the ladder creak. “Well then, that describes movie buffs pretty well, I’d say. Coming to these hallowed halls of light and shadow to drown out the shuffling, sad zombie hordes of the world at large.”

“Except most people do that at home nowadays,” said Arti. She cursed herself for not remembering her scarf.

“Ah, but have we as people not always craved a social experience? Enjoying true artistry together, yet alone? A theatre, especially one so storied as our Lumière, makes for the perfect sort of gazing that old Rumi would have gone nuts for.” Wes had moved on to placing an E, S, and now an H.

“Which is why you championed putting ‘The Lost Adventures Of Vexx?’ into the schedule?”

“An undisputed, unappreciated classic. I accept us choosing it as a backup. I suppose we do have to keep to the theme. And even if it means passing over your latest psycho-thriller eastern Belarus films, then I suppose we’ll get by.”

Arti bumped the ladder ever so slightly, trying not to grin. “Is it too much to ask for a little culture among all the B movie slashers?”

“Hey, you voted in favour of showing parts 2, 3, and 5 of the Dr. Crowe Saga along with the rest of us.”

“Well,” she stopped to consider a retort. “Dr. Crowe does rule.”

“I knew you had some taste in you,” Wes called down. “And we’re done, I should think.” He climbed down in short order and they gazed up at his handiwork.

“’The eyes have it’,” snorted Arti. “Somehow it just looks right up there, unlike on all the posters we made.”

They stood, shivering in silence for a long moment.

Then, Sammy Park practically burst out of the double doors, trailing a gauzy grey shroud of a designer scarf, expensive looking eyeglass frames perched above a tiny, pointed nose. Arti shuddered. Sammy’s enthusiasm felt like getting a massage with ground up glass at times. And with a week left before showtime, she somehow had kept it for all of her waking hours.

“Hello!” Sammy had an uncanny way of elongating and sucking dry any standard nicety from her greetings. “My two lovely partners. Have I got news for you!”

“Popcorn machine’s broken again?” Wes, not missing a beat.

Arti highly suspected that Wes got along with Sammy because he wanted to make out with her. Her and her stupid, smooshy, pointy-nosed face and ugly-ass, expensive sweaters. But they were closer in age than he and Arti, which she tried not to think of. It was bad enough feeling older than most of her second year classmates. And even if Sammy knew her film history and had industry contacts everywhere, there was only so much camaraderie Arti could find.

“Absolutely not. Probably not. Whatever. You’ll never guess who we got as a last minute guest for the weekend. Guess. Go on.”

“Has to be a director,” said Wes. “Not too famous, but someone with enough star power to get you excited.”

Arti thought some and said, “Or a producer friend of a friend. Or she dug up an old actor from one of your many exploitation movie series.”

“Oh,” said Sammy, pushing out her lips. “Close, yet so far. I guarantee you will freak. Out.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Vance. Upton. The second and by far best Dr. Crowe of them all.”

“Holy shit,” said Wes. Arti had to agree.