Just over a year ago (holy cow, has it been that long?) I was privileged to attend the premiere of a film made by a friend of mine named Hilalry Scarl called See What I'm Saying, the Deaf Entertainers Documentary. (It's a really great film. If you haven't seen it, DVDs are now available :-)
That was a real Hollywood premiere. It took place at the Egyptian theatre. About ten million people attended (well, maybe not quite that many, but it felt like it). There were limos, a band, paparazzi, a red carpet, acrobats (no, really!) ... the whole shlemobble.
My premiere last night wasn't like that.
We were planning to show up half an hour ahead of time just to leave some margin, and it's good we did because we hit traffic and only arrived ten minutes early. We were the first ones there. "There" turned out to be an old naval base in Alameda (near where they film "Mythbusters"). We were really wondering if we had the right place. If you can imagine a place that looks nothing at all like the place where you'd hold a film festival, that's what this place looked like.
Until you got inside.
There behind the doors was what has to be one of California's best kept secrets: an absolutely gorgeous art-deco theatre, not quite as nice as the Egyptian, but in the same league. It was at once beautiful and sad because it was absolutely empty. And it was still empty except for me and Nancy when the show started.
Now, my film was the third one of the evening. The first was a ten-minute short music video, and the second was an hour-long film about sustainable industry. By the time the second film started there was still no one there, which meant that not even the people who made the first two films had bothered to show up to their own screening.
I was starting to get a little worried.
To my great relief, before the second film was half-way through people started to trickle in, and by the time my film started there were a fair number of people there (hard to tell exactly how many because it was dark).
Now, I have seen my own film a zillion times. I know every frame, every note in the soundtrack, every syllable spoken, every helicopter flying overhead (sound was the bane of my existence for two years when I was filming). We have a pretty big screen hi-def TV at home with a fairly decent sound system. But watching my film in a theatre was a completely different experience, not just because of the audience (which despite its small size was still the biggest group of people who had ever seen it at once), but also because there was something about the sound system that brought out details in a way that headphones and our home audio system just never did. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was (reverb maybe?) but whatever it was it made a huge emotional impact on me, and I guess it did on the audience as well because they all laughed at all the funny parts and (as far as I could tell) cried at all the sad parts. And when it was done the applause sounded enthusiastic, not merely polite. It felt great. Made the whole five-year long effort worth it.
Afterwards, the festival host called me on stage (he called me "brother Ron" which was the first time anyone has ever called me that, and I thought that was pretty cool too) and we had some Q&A. There were a lot of questions, and a lot of compliments. (If anyone who attended is reading this, I would really appreciate if you would write up a quick review and send it to me so I can put it up on the web site. Thanks!) It was a really great feeling. I can only imagine how Hillary felt in the same position in the Egyptian with a standing room only crowd.
I have no idea where the film will go from here. I'm very much hoping I'll be able to line up some more screenings. If you saw the film and liked it please tell your friends. If you know a film festival programmer or Jon Feltheimer, tell them :-) I'm not much of a marketeer so my main hope of reaching a broader audience is to have it go viral.
Thanks to everyone who attended last night!