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Berlin art diaries: Don’t drink at work

Everyone knows not to drink too much at work events. Fabia Mendoza tells us how she found that out the hard way.

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Everyone knows not to drink too much at work events. A few years ago, Fabia Mendoza (left) realised that the hard way. Photo: Anastasia Lobanova

“Oh man, I’m hungover.” Bella’s voice is raspy. She seemed OK when we left the event yesterday. “After I met together with my neighbour, and we got wasted on the balcony.”

The night before, my husband Ryan and I held an event at the Seibert Collection. The post-Corona excitement had turned every guest into sparkling balls of light. Everybody needed to socialise after the long isolation.  

I unwillingly separated myself from the charming, late-night group of 10 guests that had formed on the couch. 

“Why didn’t you stay at the event?” I ask Bella. “It seemed like such an amazing atmosphere.” 

“We are too old to get completely drunk in public,” Bella says. Especially at work-related events.”

Is she right?

My only spotlight moment of Hollywood-level calibre came to mind. At the end of 2017, I had finished my first underground movie. My budget for this 75-minute mockumentary had covered my airfare to and from Detroit, and that was it. It had been a one-person operation, with myself as editor, director, soundman, cameraman and special effect supervisor. My dilettantism had grown the cast considerably and had enabled me to convince musicians who would’ve usually thought twice before giving their music to a soundtrack for free.

When I was invited to screen my freshly cut movie during the 18th Beverly Hills Film Festival, I was as excited as a puppy. But my screening at LA’s legendary Chinese Theater was a flop. In a last-ditch attempt to fill the empty movie theatre, I had tried – unsuccessfully – to lure in Jared Leto, who was performing street music with his band nearby.

I laid like a carcass on Venice Beach after the screening, looking directly into the sun and feeling content in my failure. It gave me a reason not to do anything at all. I wasn’t sure about attending the  festival’s gala that evening. To compensate for my no-budget production, I had hoped to conquer the red carpet together with my celebrity friend Rose McGowan, but she was sadly out of town.

That night at the televised event, I sat at a round dinner table surrounded by film professionals. My jaw hit the floor as the self-appointed underground filmmaker to my left told me how proud he was about making his latest project with “only” $1.3 million. To my right sat a young female filmmaker who had just screened her movie at Cannes.

Americans are rarely modest about spotlighting their achievements and the money involved, so it can be difficult for a German not to be overwhelmed.

“Aren’t you excited?” My table neighbour poked me.

I placed my glass of champagne on the table. “Excited about what?” I asked, not knowing there was anything to win.   

When the title of my movie, The White House Documentary, sounded through the hall, it was followed by a long silence. “The White House Documentary” the moderator repeated. As I had no crew, nobody jumped up to cheer. 

“That is you, baby!” Ryan, sitting next to me, gave me a shake.   

My fingers were sticky from eating desert with my bare hands, so I wiped one on the tablecloth. When Ryan’s voice finally penetrated my brain, I still didn’t understand that I had won. I thought the moderator had simply repeated the nomination list. But when Ryan screamed that I should go on the stage and grab the award, I realised I was completely drunk.

Ryan pushed me out of my chair. I carried my champagne glass all the way to the stage. After the moderator passed the heavy award to my free hand, he gently guided me towards the microphone. I must have been smiling, because my teeth knocked against the mic. 

I would have liked to talk about the possibility of creating big things from nothing. I would have loved to thank all my friends and all the musicians who had helped me with the movie. I should certainly have made a homage to Detroit, a wonderful and underestimated place. But when I reached the microphone, all that came over my lips was: “Watch your step if you go to the lady’s room, ’cause I dropped a whole bottle of Dom Pérignon in there.” Without looking back at the moderator, I stumbled down the stairs to my table. 

Maybe my friend Bella is right.