Thursday, February 26, 2015

WAIT: Red Carpets and Handshakes at HRIFF

This has been the most insane month of my life. Getting to screen Wait at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival (HRIFF) feels like a dream. My participation in the festival resulted in three wondrously surreal days that I will never forget. Words simply cannot do those days justice. Or the days I’ve lived since.

A Moment
On Friday Feb. 13, as myself and many of the actors from the film sat down at the festival’s awards ceremony, I leaned over and asked Wait’s star, Micah Parker, if he could believe it.

“Last summer, I was filming you half naked in a hotel room, stumbling around, drunk, and now we’re here,” I said. (Note: that’ll make sense when you see the film.) He couldn’t believe it either. None of us could. Wait was such a labor of love; a film that teased and dared me to make it. The production of the film was met with so many hard days and lonely nights, so to be given the opportunity to celebrate it is really a thing of wonder.
left: Catherine Warner, me, Leah Fredkin, Micah Parker; center: awards ceremony; right: Catherine and I

During the ceremony, Micah and I were asked to give our speeches at the same time. Micah spoke first, accepting his award for Emerging Actor Spotlight by saying some very kind things about me and urging everyone in the audience to come to the screening the following night. He was brief, funny and moving. When I accepted my award for Breakthrough Director Spotlight, I thanked HRIFF for their immense generosity and my Wait family for all their hard work. I called Catherine Warner, my longtime producer/star, out by name, noting that she and I met 12 years ago when we both worked at a Regal Cinemas in Virginia, and how fulfilling it was going to be to screen Wait at a Regal in Los Angeles.

After the ceremony, Micah and I talked with Gary Cole, who was so nice and appreciative of our (many) compliments about his work. Then we bumped into Joe Mantegna on the red carpet, and I gushed when thanking him for his work with David Mamet. I believe that life comes down to moments. And, for me, it’s very important to acknowledge those moments while they are actually occurring. This was a moment. And a great one. Red carpets and awards, movie stars and handshakes. If I never get to experience it again, I’d die happy knowing I got to live it once.

Romantic and Painful
left: Micah and I at the awards ceremony; center: one-sheet poster at Regal; right: Micah and I with our awards
Wait was set to screen at 11 p.m. on Valentine’s Day at the Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live. When I got to the theater, the festival director told me the screening was going to be running a little late, which is common at festivals. By 11:10 p.m., the place was packed. It was really overwhelming, in the best possible way. Most of the people were complete strangers to me – friends of friends, random festival attendees, fellow filmmakers with movies at the festival. I shook hands with so many people, and was told “Congrats” and “Good luck” and “I can’t wait to see it,” so many times that I felt drunk.

As the lights dimmed for the screening, I was able to slip out of the theater unnoticed, which was a very good thing. Sitting in a dark, crowded theater while people watch my movie is something I derive zero pleasure from. I’m much better off pacing the hallway and sticking my head into the theater every few minutes to see (or rather, hear) how the film is being received.

I’m also glad I snuck out because in the hallway, I had a long and pleasant conversation with the director of the festival. At one point he said, “I played your movie on Valentine’s Day because it’s a romance. But I decided to play it at 11 p.m. because a lot of it is just so painful. You really didn’t pull any punches here.” I took that as a compliment. Pain through love (and love through pain) is what I was going for with Wait. Occasionally, unfortunately, those two things have been synonymous in my life, and it was important for me to stay true to that.

The movie was received far better than I could have imagined. It’s always funny listening to an audience while they watch it. The movie is dark and raw, but I did try to inject some humor in it. For those first few humorous moments, it’s almost as if the audience is afraid to laugh. But by the last few, the laughs always feel well earned.

Micah and Wait’s co-producer, Matt Brown, hosted an after party following the screening, which made for another fun and inspiring night. I was able to connect with actors I hadn’t seen in a long time, and we talked until the early hours of the morning about potential projects to collaborate on. When I woke up the next day, I was so appreciative of everything that had happened. I only let myself be down for a few minutes, knowing that on Monday, life would go back to normal.

What is Happening?
WAIT cast, from left: Catherine, Graydon Stroud, me, Micah, Leah Fredkin, Andrew Bongiorno, Matt Brown
But it didn’t. The weekend of HRIFF has altered my sense of normal. I’ve spent every day since the screening hanging out with people I met and reconnected with at the festival. We’ve talked about new scripts and fresh ideas, music videos and features. It’s madness. Last Saturday, Micah and I were invited to an industry party in the hills of Los Feliz (hosted by people we met at the HRIFF after party). “Make sure you work the whole room,” the host told me early in the evening. “‘Work the room’?” I whispered to Micah, stunned. “Where the fuck are we? What is happening?”

It’s a tedious thing, writing these posts. As I’ve mentioned, self-promotion really isn’t my thing. And so much of tone and intention can be lost in print. But trust me, if my tone in this post is indicative of anything other than shock, appreciation and utter bewilderment, then that is a fault of my writing. Making Wait is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it is very, very surreal to watch it be embraced so warmly. Again, words cannot express my gratitude to those who have seen it, and those who lend kind words here (and on social media) reading about it.

After that industry party, Micah and I went to a bar with a few new friends. Soon after we got there, and young guy approached me and told me how much he loved seeing Wait at HRIFF. Turned out the guy was a casual acquaintance of Micah’s, but I had never met him before in my life. I felt like I was dreaming.


40 comments:

  1. No need to be so modest good sir, these posts not only come off being very humble and surprised on your part but I actually find quite educational and inspiring. These posts make me want to get off my ass and start filming more and writing more stuff. The only downside to these posts (in my opinion) is that you make me want to see Wait so much but I know I won't get to any time soon lol. I'm seriously glad things are turning out fantastic for you man, you really deserve it!

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    1. Thanks man, that was really kind for you to say. Modesty is something that I fear can be lost in print, but I'm pleased that it rang through here! I'm so excited to share the movie with you. Soon enough!

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  2. I'm just so happy for you and I can't wait to see Wait myself! Don't worry about the self promotion, I love reading these posts, and you deserve all good things.

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    1. Thanks so much, Brittani. It means everything to me that you like these posts!

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  3. You win the award for most awesome February, good sir! Congrats! If you need a personal publicist, just send me some notes on your recent life events ha.

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    1. Thanks Tanner! Ha, I will definitely keep that in mind!

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  4. OMG! I'm so happy for you, bro! This is such an awesome dream come true for you. Savor every minute, and keep us updated! We love taking this ride with you. Cannot wait to see the movie myself :-D

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    1. Thanks buddy, really nice of you to say. Your support means the world to me.

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  5. This must be pure euphoria for you. I am so happy for you. These posts are very inspiring. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks Luke! Total euphoria, man. It's madness!

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  6. I am so excited for your success, as I'm sure you know. It sounds like the film festival director really *gets* your work. Sometimes things like that mean just as much as awards and other formal accolades. :-)

    I am not a filmmaker, and it is not one of my aspirations, but there is NO WAY I could sit in a theater while my film was screening. :-D I cringe just reading my unpublished writing to my own husband. Ha ha.

    "Self promotion" is difficult for so many creative people because -- as you said -- it just isn't really you thing. But when you discuss your work warmth, humility, and intelligence -- as you always do -- you're assured of an appreciative audience. And let's face it, we film buffs (and those of us who consider ourselves your friends) eat this stuff up. ;-)

    Can't wait to see your film!

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for this comment. Your continued support fills my heart. Thank you for always understanding my intentions. You really *get* me too :)

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  7. You met Joe Mantegna and Gary Cole! Awesome!!!! It's good to see that you're getting some attention. I don't think I could do the red carpet. I'm too photo-shy and I would probably get nervous answering questions and such. Plus, I don't think I would be inside the theater to watch people watching my own films. I'd just sit outside the theater either playing something on my laptop or play card games.

    Get that film to Atlanta! I must see it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks man!! One of the benefits of being a film fanatic is that when you meet famous people, you can drop the deep cuts of their work. Gary Cole did a double take when I told him how much I loved him in A Simple Plan, it was awesome. He was like, "Everyone your age talks about Office Space." And Mantegna... dude was awesome. I called him "sir" and he was like, "Eh, pal, name's Joe."

      I'd love to have Wait come to Atlanta!

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  8. Your gratitude for where you are shines! I am very honored to know you...and to be a small part of all this.

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    1. You're a BIG part of this. Thanks so much for everything, especially your continued support!

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  9. So happy for you Alex! I wish you all the success and I am really looking forward to watching your movie :D

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    1. Thanks Nik! I'm so excited for you to see it.

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  10. "By 11:10 p.m., the place was packed" That must be a great feeling. Enjoy the festival ride!

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    1. Thanks man! Dude, it was insane. I meant to get a picture of the line, but I was so overwhelmed.

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  11. I am SO incredibly happy for you Alex!! Love reading these posts, and I wish you so much success because you really deserve it. Can't wait until I can finally see Wait! :D

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    1. Thanks Aditya! You're support is so generous, I really appreciate it!

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  12. This is very cool to read. Really happy for you that the movie is doing well. Looking forward to seeing the movie myself.

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    1. Thanks Henrik, really glad it made for a good read. So excited for you to see it.

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  13. "...noting that she and I met 12 years ago when we both worked at a Regal Cinemas in Virginia, and how fulfilling it was going to be to screen Wait at a Regal in Los Angeles." Well, that's just about the most awesome story ever.

    Stay in the dream as long as you can, man. Though I have no doubt that in your case this won't be anywhere near the last one.

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    1. Thanks man. When I said that Regal thing, most of the women in the crowd let out an audible "Awwwww." It was awesome. But it is a crazy life arc, you know? Still can't get over it.

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  14. I hope you savor every moment of it Alex! You certainly deserve it. Really happy for you. Hopefully, we will get to see Wait sometime as well.

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    1. Thanks buddy! Definitely savoring it. It's unbelievable!

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  15. Congrats on the success, Alex. Can't wait to see the film!

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  16. Congratulations! I am so happy for you, you really deserve this for actually having the courage to go after your dreams!

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    1. Thanks so much! I really appreciate your support :)

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  17. Congrats Alex!! What a beautiful piece, I LOVE how you described in detail how you feel about this, I felt like living vicariously through your experience. I've only seen Micah in an episode of Flash, very cool that you found the right actor for the part and that you had a great working experience together. I can't wait to see WAIT and I have no doubt you earned every praise you've received. May you continue to follow your dreams and here's to career longevity and doing what you love.

    God bless!

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    1. Thank you so much for this, Ruth. It really just made my day. I'm so excited for you to see the film, and I thank you again for all of your support!

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  18. This is so awesome, man. Congrats on the awards!

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  19. Wow. That's awesome, Alex! I'm really glad to hear about your success with Wait. That Regal story is the stuff that dreams are made of. I'm super excited to see it. What kind of distribution is it going to have?

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    1. Thanks Nickolas! It's been one hell of a wild ride, for sure. My plan (and this may change) is to release it online and/or VOD sometime this summer. Lot of work goes into that though. Thanks so much for the comment!

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  20. Congrats man! Every post you write on Wait just makes me more excited to see it. Best of luck, and keep living the dream!

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    1. Thanks Josh! That really means a lot. Been quite the ride :)

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