Have you ever unexpectedly slept for 12 uninterrupted hours? After an exhaustive week spent ramping up to last night’s private screening at THE DOWNTOWN INDEPENDENT, I did just that.
After setting the theater’s projector and sound to their appropriate level with the team at SNAP SOUND, I walked through the crowded lobby, shaking hands with old friends and making introductions with guests. Curiously, I felt confident that they would become new fans by the end of the night. Amongst the crowd, I finally had the opportunity to meet AIROM BLEICHER face to face (wished it had happened sooner). Airom composed and produced the music heard in the last third of the picture and I look forward to sharing his music and DEKLUN’s when we release the soundtrack via iTunes.
Before the screening, Kevin K. Shah welcomed the audience and invited them to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them, and to congratulate each other for supporting independent film. This ingenious little ice-breaker is something we learned from Saskia Wilson-Brown and her Los Angeles screening series CINEMA SPEAKEASY. To express our gratitude, Kevin gave away 20 free copies of “Model/Photographer” and “White Knuckles” to the audience. After a brief introduction by me, the lights dimmed and HEART OF NOW filled the hearts and minds of those in attendance.
I sat next to Kevin and the film’s editor, Jamie Cobb. We listened for the audience’s unique reaction to the film. There were some unexpected, but welcomed laughs that we hadn’t gotten in test screening it. As well as plenty of moments where you could hear a pin drop – meaning no one in the audience was shuffling, eating or coughing. They were totally in the moment with the characters. When it ended, well… I’ll just say that continuous, unbroken applause is a good feeling.
I loved doing Q&A sessions at festivals for “IFHY“. By the end of that festival run, which took us all the way to London, I had a great deal of practice speaking about the film and was confident in which details the audience would find compelling to hear. But this being my first for this particular picture, it is tinged with uncertainty. I had no idea what people were scribbling on their comment cards at that point. So there was an irrational fear of outright rejection – that they hated it, or worse, felt indifferent – despite the applause. I explained that the spark behind making this film had been the death of my father and that character-defining feeling of being left behind. Further, that I had set out to make a picture about abandonment and aloneness which lead me behind the scenes to a collective of artists that came together as a family to author something bigger than any one of us.
Wonderful questions came in about improvisation, camerawork, the editing process and the sound design as a character unto itself. I was also asked to explain the butterfly motif and quickly refused to do any such thing. It got a laugh but I regret how I handled it. Given the opportunity, I would simply illustrate that it’s not my place to define any “meaning” for the audience, preferring that each person simply determine if it holds any significance for them.
During the Q&A, the audience also had an opportunity to fill out comment cards. It’s so vital to get an audience’s gut reaction, but also to talk with them afterward as their thoughts and feelings begin to settle. The response on those cards is overwhelmingly positive. 90% said they would likely recommend the movie to other fans of arthouse cinema. There was praise across the board for the performances by Marion Kerr and Kelly McCracken, and the rest of the cast. And the ending was cited universally as a favorite scene, even amongst the handful that were largely critical. It’s amazing how the ending was interpreted as very open for some, and as very definitive for others, but universally lauded. I can tell you that split seems to fall along gender lines. Women, I think, see a more conclusive denouement that men generally read as more ambiguous.
As I made my way to the rooftop for the after party, I spoke with Karen Worden of FILM COURAGE and we spoke of plans to appear on their radio show in February. Karen was so enthusiastic about the film that her comment card didn’t offer enough space to contain everything she had to say. Finally on the roof, a few guys on the crew each told me they had welled-up at different points in the film.
When I returned home and settled into bed, I fired up the laptop to check the email and facebook messages that had come in. Most were from people who were unable to attend, hoping to catch the picture at a later time. However, one email came from the projectionist at The Downtown Independent (aka “The Indie”). His words brought a sense of peace about the evening.
‘Heart of Now’ is a terrific film. It is humbling to see good work come through the Indie. This is a film I would be honored to present another time. The issues of abandonment and the subsequent coping mechanisms people employ are dealt with in not only a tactful manner, but also respectably and thoughtfully poetic. What I appreciate even more is the seemingly endless conclusion. It can be ambiguous or sharply conclusive, depending on the beholder.
‘Heart of Now’ has a poignant message that resonates with me personally right now as I deal with similar issues. It was even more striking to hear you talk about the loss of your father as an impetus for the film. My father was taken from me in ’95. Many of the statements made by both Amber and Gabe reverberated deeply, so it only made sense when you elucidated that fact for the audience.
Thank you for bringing ‘Heart of Now’ to this theatre. I wish you, the crew, the production company, and the film all the best as you move forward in bringing this work of art to others.
A calm set in and I slept for 12 uninterrupted hours.
These words will spur me on as I spend the next couple days burning DVDs and Blu-ray screeners for additional festivals, distribution partners and friends eager to give creative feedback. The road ahead is focused on distributing directly to our audience-community next summer. We are designating July 4th, 2010 as “Interdependence Day” where we will usher HEART OF NOW and WHITE KNUCKLES through a series of release windows: Theatrical/DVD/Blu-ray, followed by Cable VOD, then by iTunes/Netflix/Amazon, and finally ad-supported outlets such as Hulu.
One journey ends. Another begins.