News and updates about SKIN
Anthony Fabian and actress Alfre Woodard attend the SKIN Centerpiece Gala at the PAFF, Culver City, Wednesday 12th Feburary 2009It seems nothing ever happens quite as you expect in this business - the lesson being, expect nothing and anything might happen. Anticipation is inevitable - in my case, irrepressible. The Centerpiece Gala at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival in Culver City was a much anticipated event in the SKIN calendar - an opportunity to showcase the film in the filmmaking capital. It’s true, we’d screened last November at AFI Fest’s Arclight Theater in the heart of Hollywood. But this was special: a whole evening at the midpoint of an established festival, dedicated to SKIN.

A few weeks prior to the PAFF Gala, I was contacted by a publicist, Stacy Hess, who’d been lent a copy of the film by a friend and was passionate about working on it. I liked Stacy immediately; she had a fiercely positive energy, a sense of fun and a fearlessness about her. During our first encounter in a cafe at the Sundance festival, I pointed out an important US distributor who was sitting just behind us. Without hesitation, Stacy got up as Mr. Distributor was leaving, introduced herself as my publicist and told him about SKIN and why he must see it. She extracted a card from him and told him she’d be in touch. I knew she meant business.


Stacy and I made plans to maximise the impact of the forthcoming PAFF Gala - invite celebrities, taste-makers and high profile executives and alert the press. We were soon joined by John Johnston, a highly experienced location manager (who worked for six years on the series, 24) and my tirelessly enthusiastic composer, Helene Muddiman, as ‘team SKIN’. Bill Wynn, who had reached out to the African American community at the request of AFI Fest, also offered to help with the PAFF screenings. Lists of guests were drawn up, press releases were issued and plans were made to ensure the screening and after-party were the best they could be. We enlisted support from the UK Film Council, who agreed to sponsor Sandra Laing’s attendance at the Gala. This was a major coup, as her presence has an enormously powerful effect on an audience after a screening. I also contacted Eric Dorton of Barefoot Wines, who put me in touch with Bill Powers from Sebeka - a South African brand imported by Gallo. They kindly offered to supply wine for the after-party. Little did I know what a storm those gleaming bottles would create...

Sandra arrived Monday afternoon, two days before the Gala, sans luggage. She’d been told by South African Airways in Johannesburg that her bag would be checked straight through to Los Angeles, although she knew (because  we found out in advance) that she would have to collect it in Washington D.C. - her point of entry in the US - go through customs and re-check it for the flight to LAX. In the event, her bag was neither in Washington nor in Los Angeles, and it took United Airlines and SAA three days to track it down! She got it back just hours before the gala. Fortunately, we’d been shopping, so whatever happened with her luggage, she wouldn’t be left wearing the same clothes she’d travelled in on the red carpet.

Aïda, a lovely shop assistant from Senegal, helped Sandra pick out a few outfits on Wednesday morning, and just as we were paying, a couple came up to Sandra and said ‘Are you that woman? You have white parents, right? We saw you on TV last night!” They’d seen the George Pennacchio interview on ABC nightly news, which we recorded at the end of Sandra’s first day in LA (

Stacy and I told PAFF the good news about the wine sponsorship. This turned out to be a poisoned chalice, as far as the festival organisers were concerned. They had cut a deal with the restaurant hosting the after party: they’d do the food, but the event had to be subsidised by the guests at the cash bar. Our sponsored wine was unwanted. Unable to countenance a party where the guests had to pay for their drinks, I kicked up a fuss. This lead to emergency meetings and much heartache, as it seemed the only answer was for us to take our guests and sponsored wine elsewhere. Thankfully, an eleventh hour solution was found, which made it possible for us to enjoy our excellent free wine AND attend the deliciously catered party, along with everyone else... But I’m getting ahead of myself.

PAFF Chief Babu, Sandra Laing and Alfre WoodardThe Gala. We had a lot of rsvps - high-profile actors, industry types, benefactos and other influential people had all responded to the call. Our guest list, with over 100 names, was graciously accepted by the PAFF organisers without a murmur. South African Consul General, the Honorable Jeanette Ndhlovu and her guests were in attendance, as well as a team from the UK Film Council US office. The general public also seemed to be streaming in and I couldn’t imagine how everyone would be accommodated. Perhaps not surprisingly, several guests who had confirmed did not show up. But we still had more than a full house. I was astonished to find, as I made my way out of the theatre after the introductions, several rows people standing at the back of the cinema - all still there when I came back at the end for the Q&A. In fact, the entire audience stayed until the last of the end credits, and when I asked Sandra to join me at the front of the auditorium, there was an audible gasp and the entire  crowd jumped to their feet for a five minute standing ovation.

The Q&A was long, people were full of praise for the film and asked thoughtful questions. One PAFF board member said it was the best film she’d seen at the festival in 17 years. The party was abuzz with excitement and we are all looking to the Awards Brunch on Monday with anticipation - but no expectations.

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