September 25, 2010
Well, this blog is just about caught up to the real world. One week ago, Saberfrog had its world premiere at the Cinema Theater in Rochester, NY.
I booked the screening a couple months beforehand, then scrambled to get the movie finalized in time, so I didn't devote nearly as much energy to promotion as I should have. I'd left flyers at the George Eastman House and the Little Theater (the latter only the week before), and also put up flyers at various arty venues and coffeehouses on East Ave, University Ave and Park Ave. I'd also made a special flyer to put up at the RIT film department, promoting the film's RIT connections; John Karyus and I had both been students there, and John Sindoni and I had both acted in Project Nine, a zombie anthology feature film made by RIT students.
The film was preceded by a short promo for vue, an iPad stand developed by my friends at Tango Design. I didn't have any merch to sell at the screening, so I invited them to promote their product and hopefully ship a few units.
I made a few glib opening remarks, and then the film began. The digital projection looked great, and the sound – which I thought wouldn't hold up – was also good, barring a few minor flaws that I hadn't quite been able to fix.
The screening drew a pretty good crowd. The film's animator, Frank Kielar, helped me run the box office, and we sold over forty tickets. Most of the main cast and several supporting actors were present, including J.D. Edmond (Josh), Reuben Tapp (Terrance), Wendy Foster (Aymee), John Sindoni (Garrison), Mary Criddle (Leopold), Diane Conway (Sondra), Jesse Conklin (Josh's boss), makeup artists Tom Gleason and Lance Kazmark, and extras Shawn Gleason, Derrick Petrush and Howard Golove. Sadly unable to attend were John Karyus (Bert), who was in LA, and Liz Mariani (Laurel), who was in Vancouver.
To my relief, the audience laughed pretty much all the way through. Not surprisingly, scene chewer John Karyus got a lot of the biggest laughs, though Reuben was a definite runner-up. The temp agency scene shot on Day 22 played like the studio taping of a sitcom – the audience laughed on cue at all the right places. The notorious record store scene from Day 9 also went down very well.
The post-screening Q&A was a little slow to warm up, but soon people were full of questions about where the movie was shot and how long it took to make. When asked what I was planning to do next, I got a laugh by saying that I was thinking about actually writing the fictitious novels that the main character is obsessed with. It wasn't a joke, though; I am actually working on it.
A trio of audience members, at least one of whom came from Monroe Community College (and luckily was one of the few to find a flyer at the Little), seemed to particularly enjoy the movie. One of them asked me about the true location of the college scenes. “Are you asking where those scenes were shot?” I asked coyly. No, he was wondering if the film's portrayal of academia was based on anyplace or anyone. I just smiled and said, “Let's just leave it there.”
The same audience member asked me if the movie was available for sale. I'd burned as many DVDs as possible the night before so I could give them to cast and crew, but I'd made more DVDs than there were cast and crew in attendance, so I ended up selling several copies of the movie.
The screening was a big success, especially considering the relatively small amount of publicity I'd done. I'd put out some flyers, and the cast and crew had invited their friends to attend, but due to lack of time I hadn't done any real press. The movie was a hit despite this, and there were many people who were unable to attend but asked me if there was going to be another screening. As a result, I am strongly considering another Rochester screening in the near future, since there seems to be a bigger audience that I could reach out to now that the movie is actually freaking finished.
After the screening, I went out to dinner with fellow filmmaker Adrian Esposito and his mom Kristina, along with Frank, J.D. and his wife Laurie. I hadn't seen J.D. and Laurie in over a year, so it was great to see them and catch up. As if on cue, Karyus called me, and I let him and J.D. catch up.
Seeing the finished film with an enthusiastic audience was an out-of-body experience. I'd spent four years writing and rewriting the script, getting actors and locations, juggling a complicated shooting schedule, and editing and re-editing until almost every blemish was gone and every dead spot was tightened up. It was an autobiographical story in a lot of ways, too, that just bubbled out of me during a turbulent period in my own life, so it was somehow liberating to see the whole thing play out as just a wild, fun comedy.
The next scheduled screening is in Buffalo on October 23, 7 pm, at Squeaky Wheel. Admission is $7, or $5 if you're a Squeaky Wheel member. Be there if you still haven't seen the movie, or if you just can't get enough.