Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WAIT: the Thrill of the Festival Circuit

Self-promotion is not my thing. I’ve spent my life learning about film and filmmaking, acquiring skills and honing them in. I didn’t go to film school and I didn’t grow up knowing anyone with a leg up in the “biz.” So when teaching myself how to make a movie became the most realistic option, that’s what I set out to do.

And I love being a student of film. It’s a craft that so few people perfect, because there’s always more to learn. I can talk about this learning process all day, but the one thing I don’t love about filmmaking is talking about myself.

I suppose I’d rather let my films speak for themselves, rather than me speak for them. But that’s the game. The film is complete, and your job becomes getting it in front of as many people as possible. So this is me trying something new. A post where I don’t really discuss Wait, but instead, discuss this bat shit crazy journey Wait is taking me on.

Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood
When I got the email that Wait had been accepted into the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood, I was just about to drive from an ATM in West Hollywood to a sports bar in Sherman Oaks. Once I got over my initial shock, I put on “Wait” by M83 (a song partly responsible for my film’s title), and navigated the twists and turns of Laurel Canyon. I crossed over Mulholland Dr., passed an entrance to Fryman Canyon Park (where I filmed key scenes for my last short, Earrings), “Wait” blared away – it was like a dream.

I was meeting my friend/one of the Wait’s leads, Micah Parker, at the sports bar, so he was the first person I told about the festival. I called my girlfriend and my parents and tried to keep up with the ecstatic words of praise on social media. A few minutes after breaking the news online, my girlfriend, Julie, called to tell me that the festival had already released their award winners, and Wait had actually already won Best Narrative Feature Film. So now you have Micah and I (two guys never really at a loss for words) sitting in a sports bar, utterly speechless. I didn’t have any context for my emotions, it was so overwhelming in the best possible way.
left: Micah Parker, me, Matt Brown; center: Julie and I; right: Andrew Bongiorno, me, Ansuya Nathan
At the screening a few weeks later, everything went perfectly. Most of the Wait family met at a bar a block from the theater, a bar where we actually filmed two scenes for Wait (it’s weird how in a town this big, things can fall into place in such oddly specific ways). As for the screening, it was small and intimate and, despite my ever-present anxiety about watching my own movie in a large dark room with a bunch of people, the film was very well received. People laughed where they were supposed to laugh, gasped where they were supposed to gasp, and even let out a few Ohhh shit’s for good measure.

After Wait played, I participated in a brief Q&A with a handful of other filmmakers. This Q&A was a doozy, let me tell you. One of the filmmakers on stage was so shockingly arrogant, it was actually quite impressive. I mean, this guy was really something. He made a two-minute animated short and spoke about it like it was the best thing since Spirited Away. It was jaw-dropping egotism; crazy entertaining, but so damn awkward. The few times I locked eyes with the other directors on stage, we shared looks of, “Is this guy for real?” A good reminder of the importance of humility.

Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival

I found out that Wait got into the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival (HRIFF) at 6 a.m. on a Tuesday and the first thing I did was throw up. My body literally didn’t know how to handle the information. HRIFF was one of the biggest festivals I’ve submitted to. It’s co-hosted by Quentin Tarantino and routinely attracts notable players in the film game. I still can’t believe Wait gets to screen there.

A few days ago, HRIFF released the winners of their festival, and as I was making my way down the email, I figured Wait didn’t stand a chance. Best Actor, Gary Cole (one of my favorite character actors, who I’ve written about on this blog); Best Actress, David Lynch staple, Grace Zabriskie; Best Supporting Actor, Joe Mantegna (does anyone do Mamet better?); Best Actor in a Short Film, Upstream Color’s Andrew Sensenig (who I interviewed for this blog). Reading these names, I assumed Wait wasn’t on the same level, and that was okay. Genuinely, getting accepted was the prize.

Emerging Actor Spotlight, Micah Parker in Wait. I flipped out. Micah is really good in the movie, but obviously I’m biased. So seeing him be honored in this way is such immense validation of his work. I was so excited I almost stopped reading. When I saw that I had won Breakthrough Director Spotlight, I didn’t think it was real. My vision got blurry, I started breathing heavily – it was insane. I’m still at a loss that all of this is happening.

So, clearly, it’s been an emotional few weeks. This is such a thrilling ride to be on, and I’m so thankful that I have such a kind and sincere group of people supporting me. Thank you. For all the Facebook likes and comments, all the Twitter favorites and retweets, all the messages and emails and DMs – really, thank you. Wait will premiere at HRIFF on the evening of February 14. What better way to spend a day best known for celebrating love?

(Pictured at the top of this post, left to right: Catherine Warner, Micah Parker, me, Matt Brown, Chris Degner, Graydon Stroud, Andrew Bongiorno, Leah Fredkin)



68 comments:

  1. I'm so proud and happy for you Alex. Your work is fantastic man and I'm sure there are many more great things to come! Congratulations!!!

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    1. Thanks Stergios! You've been so supportive this whole time, I really appreciate it!

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  2. Great news, man! Rooting for you, big time!

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  3. Wow, this is so awesome man. Congrats! Couldn't be happening to a more deserving guy.

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    1. Thanks, Eric! What a kind thing to say!

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  4. Congrats man!!!! I read your tweets through your twitter sidebar and I was like "YEAH!!!" I hope it's the start of a few good things. If it's coming to the Atlanta Film Festival. I'll do whatever to be there.

    That guy in the Q&A who was thinking he was the shit, he must've been a real asshole, wasn't he?

    If I had to do a Q&A and I'm sitting next to that asshole. I'd make faces just to mock him and then own him with words. After all, if anyone is going to be an asshole. It'll be me but in a very comical way.

    Again, congrats and I hope we compete against each other as filmmakers. I'll be the Rock (in his Hollywood Heel role) and you'll be Stone Cold Steve Austin (drinking beer and opening cans of whoop-ass).

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    1. Thanks man! I just missed the deadline for the Atlanta Film Festival, but who knows, there's always next year.

      Regarding that director, there is a really funny picture of me on stage with all the other directors. That guy is talking, and I'm staring up at the ceiling, basically saying to myself, "This guy can't be serious, jesus christ." So, yeah, it was hard to not laugh while he was talking. I've rarely heard such unabashed egotism.

      The Rock vs. Steve Austin - it's on!

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  5. Congrats to you sir! You totally deserve it! I can't wait to see Wait, I'm sure it will be fantastic!

    In the words of the fantastic Michael Shannon, "What are you gonna do next? Now that you've won several awards what's next?"
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GV1zRwwpXJw 29:40)

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    1. Thanks man! I'm really excited for you to see it!

      Holy shit, that bit is fantastic, and so, so true. I was just talking about this last night with a friend... it's so funny how one of the first questions a lot of people ask is "What's next?!" It's like, "Whew, dude, I need to ride this one out." Ha, all good though, just a funny question.

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  6. I've honestly got chills all over. This is incredible; you are incredible! Congrats on your hard work paying off so well!!

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    1. Thanks Elina! That's very nice of you to say!

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  7. Whoa. Congratulations, man! You've worked really on this. I can't think of anyone who deserves this more than you. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks Nickolas! I so appreciate all of your generous support.

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  8. I am so happy Wait has been received this well. You deserve it, man! I can't wait to watch it.

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    1. Thanks Luke! I'm pumped for you to see it.

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  9. Well done on the awards! That is awesome

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  10. Congrats ! You deserve it all and more! :)

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  11. Oh, that's absolutely wonderful!! I'm so happy that Wait is being received so well, you really deserve it. I'm really looking forward to seeing it, and I'm sure more great notices are coming your way. Congrats, to both you and Micah for your awards!!

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    1. Thanks Aditya! I'm really eager for you to see it! Thank you so much for all of your support.

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  12. Congrats Alex!!..:)...I'm not a frequent commenter here but I've been following your blog for a long time..Wishing you even more success in the future!!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kiran! Really appreciate you checking out the site and being supportive of the movie!

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  13. Congrats again Alex. Looking forward to seeing the film.

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    1. Thanks Shane, really excited for you to see it.

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  14. This is great news! I don't know you very well only through this blog but I want to say I'm really happy for you that everything worked out with this project. Congratulations.

    I also wanted to ask you how long did it take you to get to this point since you decided, in a serious and dedicated manner, that you wanted to be a director.

    I'm sure this is just the beginning of something beautiful. Cheers again!

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    1. Thanks so much, Cristi, that's very kind of you to say.

      In terms of me wanting to direct, I've honestly had that dream since I was old enough to know what dreams are. So, literally, I've been talking about making movies since I was about 5 years old. There's never been anything else, you know? This is it for me. My last short film was released in 2012, and most people will see Wait in 2015. It's funny, because three years may seem like a big gap, but I've been working on Wait the entire time. Crazy how time flies.

      Thanks again!

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  15. So happy for you, Alex! This couldn't happen to someone better. You are so grounded, hard-working and realistic, so watching you recieve well deserved success is soo much fun.

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    1. Thanks so much, Julie! Your support and work has meant so much to me!!

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  16. ZOMG Alex!!!! You're such a role model! I am super duper happy for you and I am soooooooooooooooooo looking forward to Wait!!

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    1. Thanks Nik! You're the best. I can't wait for you to see it!!

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  17. Congrats Alex; that's awesome! Can't wait to see the movie, and best wishes on future success with it.

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    1. Thanks, Dan! You've always been so supportive of my writing and filmmaking. Means a lot!

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  18. Congratulations, Alex! I'm so, so, so, SO happy for you!

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  19. Alex, I still follow your blog, though I have unfortunately stopped commenting regularly because I'm busy/lazy. But I have been following your updates on Wait; I cannot tell you how happy this news makes me to see you living and actively creating your dream! You truly are an inspiration to me and many others who too want to be a part of this industry in a few years. I don't know why but I feel a little bit teary. Maybe because we see you as one of us? Congratulations, man, and keep going. We're rooting for you!

    It sucks that you missed the deadline for the Atlanta Film Festival. I guess the rest of us will get to experience your film another time. The wait will be worth it (pun intended).

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    1. Teddy! Great to hear from you man. I'm so appreciative of the fact that you still check out the site, and I completely understand that you don't have time to comment. No problem at all.

      Thanks so much for such your kind words here, it means a lot to me. You've always had the nicest things to say about my filmmaking efforts. Thanks man. And yeah, a shame about AFF, but I definitely want to get the film out there as soon as possible! Thanks again for stopping by!!

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  20. Congratulations, Alex. You've obviously worked incredibly hard for all this and it's just unbelievably awesome to see it all pay off in this way for you. I eagerly await the day I go to my favorite Chicago movie theater to see "A Film On By Alex Withrow" on the big screen.

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    1. Thanks Nick! Man, that'll be the day, huh? But who knows!

      Thanks again for all of your kind comments about my writing and Wait. They mean so much to me.

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  21. This is just so lovely and inspiring to read. I'm so happy that everything is going so well! Really cannot wait to see your film and I'm sure it will get many more accolades.

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    1. Thanks Sati! You're so kind. Not gonna lie, really looking forward to a potential Visual Parallels post :). Though I wouldn't know which movie to compare it to!

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  22. Heartfelt Congratulations Alex! Thanks for posting this great news! Remember to keep working hard, continue being kind, and always show gratitude. You are a fine example to all!

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    1. Thanks so much! Always always always show gratitude, certainly. A wise man taught me that a long time ago ;)

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  23. This is just the beginning for you. ;-) I am so proud and excited for you, and I can't wait to see the film. And I'm feeling very clever right now -- ha ha! -- because when I first stumbled upon your blog and Earrings a couple of years ago, I knew you were going to be successful.

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    1. You're so kind! Thank you so much for all of your words of encouragement over these years. You really helped me get through Earrings and your continued support means so much to me.

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    2. I did?? Thank you so much for saying that. ;-)

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    3. Oh absolutely! Your support really came through over your comments and emails. Thanks again!

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  24. Wow! That is so amazing! We knew you had it in you and you deserved it but still it is great to be actually appreciated! So happy for you!

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    1. Thanks buddy! Really appreciate that! great to hear from you, hope you're doing well!

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  25. This is so exciting! Congratulations and I am greatly anticipating watching your film. And I wasn't kidding about buying you that drink if you end up at the Maryland Film Festival!
    (sorry if this is my second comment, but I don't see my first)

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I'm so excited for you to see the movie.

      I'm bummed to say that the Maryland Film Fest fell of my radar and I missed the final deadline. There are sooo many fests to keep track of and I guess I just missed that one! I'm from northern VA, so maybe we can meet up sometime when I come home!

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  26. Congrats! Sorry about that throwing up, but that must be the excitement!

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    1. Haha, thanks! Hey, when it's that good of news, I suppose that reaction is acceptable.

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  27. Having followed your progress intermittently on your blog, I feel like an insider and I am pleased for your successes. Yeah, I know who that guy is.

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    1. Wow, thanks Richard, that's a very kind thing to say. Really appreciate it.

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  28. Congratu-fucking-lations!!! I'm so happy for you. Can't wait to see it for myself. Of course, I don't "know" you, but when you read someone's thoughts nearly every time they're willing to share you feel like you do. In that sense, it feels like these great things are happening to a friend. And I couldn't be more proud. Great job, Alex!

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    1. Thanks Wendell! Really cool of you to say. I'm so thankful for your support and kind words throughout this process!

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  29. What a cool post. It tells your story. I continue to be so very proud of you and happy for you. Congratualtions. You have worked so hard for this. Plus, it feels as if it was meant to be......
    Julie

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    1. Thank youuu! Glad your comments are coming through now. Thanks so much for your continued support and encouragement! :)

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  30. Huge congrats again man! It's awesome to see how your film career is taking off. Glad I've been here since you were working on Earrings. I'm usually late to the party! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Josh! You've always had the nicest things to say about my work. It means so much to me!

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  31. Very cool. I hope for your continued success because I admire your passion. A labor of love will rarely go unnoticed.

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    1. Thanks so much, I really appreciate that!

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  32. My wholehearted (belated) congratulations!

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