Whoa.. Did that just happen? It seems like Oct 17 was a night that I was dreading for over a month.. slowly approaching, but when it arrived.. it was over before it began. The week started off with a bang.. both of my parents were able to fly in from Arkansas to help bring in the birth of MADISON COUNTY! Not since film school have I had both parents in town at the same time.. It was a wonderful and relaxing feeling.
My parents have never been to a movie premiere.. hell, I have only been to a few in my life, but my parents definitely didn't know what to expect.. neither did I. As the days got closer, I saw a couple of films before at the festival, one of which I absolutely loved.. DEADHEADS. If you haven't seen this little zombie, buddy comedy-- do so. ASAP.
But as the days grew closer, I could tell that my parents were just as anxious as I was. My Mother is the type of Mother that takes on the burdens of her children.. so she could feel my stress. My Father is the supportive type that sits back and says "whatever happens.. I'm proud of you". But for the first time in a long time that wasn't enough for me. I was about to show my movie to what felt like the world.. but in reality if was a few hundred people. But I knew it would be bigger than that because what these people said would be posted on the internet.. for all eternity.. or at least until the next Steve Jobs of the world invents something that replaces the internet and we're all erased from recent memory.
So on the day of Oct 17, I woke up a nervous wreck.. I knew the time was counting down. I started to go through my head "will people like this moment?", "what if they hate this?", "what if that joke doesn't play".. It was a nightmare. But that's just my OCD talking. In reality, I was pretty calm on the outside.. as the sun went down, it was time to meet the friends and family for dinner before hand. That was a major comfort because I was able to get a couple of drinks inside me that definitely eased the nerves.
Walking up to the theater, I saw a few familiar faces that were on their way and my stomach instantly sank.. that's when it was real. People were coming to the theater tonight to see MY movie.. OUR movie.. this thing that we created a few months ago.. They made no other plans and spent their own money.. and most of them weren't even my friends! It was an adrenaline rush of feelings.. When I got to the lobby of the theater, there were already about a hundred people or so and having heard that the number of ticket sales were only around 300 at the time.. I didn't figure it would change much.. boy was I wrong.
Upon arriving at the theater, I was informed that some of our "VIPs" weren't going to get in due to ticket sales.. Apparently, most people had waited til the last minute to get tickets before the event.. which is fine and typical LA fashion.. but we'd been pimping this premiere for the better part of a month. So my first mission was to find tickets to get for people I didn't even really know when apparently there weren't any tickets left. So what's to do? Take tickets from people who have already seen the movie.
I ended up giving my ticket up, my parents tickets and a couple of other really close friends.. and after that debacle was taken care of (all while trying to talk and mingle with friends, family, etc-- sorry if I seemed rude), I hit the black carpet for a little publicity. The people on the carpet were so awesome and a blast to talk to. They all seemed really interested in the film and were amazed at the turn out.. which by this time had nearly tripled.
When I got a chance to look around the lobby, I saw that it was literally wall to wall and there was a line going around the lobby like Jesus was signing bibles. After a few quick chats on the carpet, chatting with my manager, friends, family and future producers, I noticed everyone starting to funnel into the theater.. I was ready to lose it (not to mention, I saw Todd Bridges standing on the carpet doing interviews.. who knew he was a horror fan? Ha!)
I was pacing around the lobby as the last few people went through the door. I looked at my phone and realized, we were over an hour late.. I felt like shit. "Great, now people are going to hate this because they had to be here an extra hour", I thought. The PR people from the festival kept telling me "We'll let you know when to go out and introduce the film.. you'll be the last one in the theater". Great.. I'll go in and see how the crowd is.. as I'm walking into the theater, I hear the announcer say "We're going to have the film's writer and director come down here for a second".. and I froze. No one gave me any notice! I'm not ready! But my legs just carried me out onto the stage and luckily, Daniel and Ace were behind me.. so I didn't feel like a dipshit.
I grabbed the mic, not knowing if that was what I was supposed to do, and opened my mouth.. what came out was whatever is in the video below. I kind of planned out a couple of things to say and a "Thank You" or two.. but that was all out the window when I saw that there wasn't an empty seat in the house.
So after mumbling and fumbling through that, I ran to the top of the theater and watched as the promo played.. finally, I was shown my seat, right in between my parents-- which was nice and our logos came on.. a good cheer for each one, which I was proud of.. and then the first frame of the movie came on. My heart was pounding and as Katie was hit over the head with a shovel.. I heard people scream and cringe.. I let out a breath that I had been holding in for what felt like 2 years. It worked. People reacted.. that's all I could've wanted or asked for.
Luckily, the rest of the film played that way.. people laughed at the jokes, people actually JUMPED at the scares and when the real horror kicks in.. they went with it. I was surprised at how the movie played and what things got laughs and what things worked and didn't work.. It was as if I was learning so much about myself and my movie right there in the theater. It was probably the most educational experience I've had in a really, really long time.
Before I knew it.. "Written and Directed by Eric England" came on the screen and people were clapping.. It was weird, it was like I had just gotten laid for the first time. All I could think was "it's all down hill from here". Just like I explained in my previous blog, it was like I just had sex and now.. people were going to tell the whole world about it. How good my sex was, what I knew how to do, what I didn't know how to do.. The most intimate, personal things to me were just on a screen for hundreds of people to see and now they were at will to rip them apart.. but I was okay with it. I didn't care. I even felt a couple of awkward stares as I walked out of the theater from people who either didn't like the film or didn't want to feel obligated to approach me. It's like that moment after sex when the guy cums too fast and he's scared to try and get close to the girl for a while.. he's embarrassed.
But I couldn't tell if they were just being shy or embarrassed for me.. for the movie they had just watched. As people began to exit the theater, I got a few hand shakes and pats on the back.. some of the more memorable ones were from directors that I really respect and admire.. They told me they got my movie. They got the pacing. They got the tone. They dug the style and choices.. all I could've ever asked for.
I didn't care if everyone in the room hated the film, I just didn't want them to treat me any differently because of it. After the premiere, we hit the Formosa Cafe for drinks and picture.. I was still numb. I didn't want this night to end.. I was on a high. I went home that night and fell asleep instantly.. and like that, it was over.
The following days were all over the place.. lots of congratulations.. lots of e-mails.. lots of wondering if people liked the movie, wondering why I wasn't hearing from certain people, but it was all fine. The world didn't end and the response was as good as I could've hoped for. Is MADISON COUNTY better than The Shining and going to be remembered as one of the greatest horror films of all time? Probably not.. but people didn't hate the film, or more importantly, hate me for it. My first film.. a learning experience that I was honored to share with several hundred people as the ONLY film to sell out SCREAMFEST 2011!
An encore screening was added to the schedule due to popular demand. I don't think anyone was prepared for the short notice.. but even with only a days worth of notice, we were able to get close to 200 people back in the theater for another great and successful screening. It was late, again.. but we decided to go through with the Q&A.. which can be found online, my interview is below.. (The Q&A contains MAJOR spoilers.. so beware). The last night of Screamfest was probably my 2nd favorite of all my nights.. I got to see some great movies, my favorite being THE INNKEEPERS and enjoy the awards ceremony where my new friend, and extremely talented filmmaker Paul China won Best Director for his feature film CRAWL! The film would also take home the Best Actress award and Best Cinematography-- more than well deserved.
VIDEO INTERVIEW AFTER THE MADISON COUNTY ENCORE SCREENING
The night concluded with drinks and fun.. the way it should be. Surrounded by the people you love and enjoy being around. People I made the movie with and the people I'm going to continue making movies with. This being my first festival, Hollywood was the best place to premiere.. with all of our friends and people we admire there to support. I can't wait for the next film, the next festival and the next adventure.
'Til Next Time,