Saturday, March 31, 2007

Happy Walter Premiere

Here's where it went down, the first public screening of "Happy Walter" anywhere on planet Earth. Whee-Haw! The Melwood Screening Room is located in a suitably funky and urban part of town, down a street that is more pothole than asphalt. Guess they put all the money into the football stadium. The theater itself has a laidback, academic feeling to it and when we arrived the spacious lobby was packed with folks woofing down the free eats and drinks (as in beer and wine). Zoje and her sister Dev were already there with a group of friends and Pittsburgh-based cast members from HW. A woman I have never seen before walked up to me and said, "Hi, I believe I'm your ex-wife.". This was Vivienne Shaffer, who portrays "Laura Kimball", Happy Walter's first wife and mother of Jr. (Zoje's part). Viv's real husband Frank Carr was there too, also a cast member, he got the plum role of Dave Wisniewski, Happy's childhood friend. I say plum as that character got some of the biggests laughs. Viv and Frank's son, Woody, was there too and when he say me he threw up his hands and yelled, "Happy"! Fun stuff. It was wonderful to finally get to meet some of the other cast members and talk about the film. More and more people poured into the lobby and I was glad to know that the first showing of HW would be for a good size audience of mostly strangers, so for good or for ill we would be able to honestly gauge how it would play. The time finally came to get in the theater, which was a decent size room with good seats and an overall homey feel. It reminded me of some of the boutique style movie theaters I've seen in Europe. The lights went down and the opening short film, "The Loves of S.D. Hawkingson." (director Marc Roman Czornij), lit up the screen. It was a good appetizer before the main course as it featured some quirky humor and art was a major plot element, a good compliment to HW. There was a brief Q&A with the director after the short, then on to the main course, "Happy Walter".

What can I say? From the title shot of Happy rolling some toilet paper into the camera accompanied by Joanthan Young's bouncy, hobo guitar soundtrack to the end credits, "Happy Walter" delivered the goods. The audience laughed in the right places and genuinely seemed to be engaged by the story. Overall, I was pleased at how well acted the piece was, Viv and Frank both did a wonderful job, particularly Viv as her character displays a wide range of emotions, which Viv convincingly pulled off. Besides being my first time on the big screen, actually that's not true as I had a very small part in "Cold Readings", a film that played at the Virginia Film Festival, so to be accurate, the first time with a speaking role on the big screen, it was also my wife Janet's. She plays, "Tatiana Chichikova", an art collector and dealer and she made fine work of the cerebral and spacey dialogue, threatening my role as the "family ham". And what of my performance? I'll leave it to others to judge, but I will say that I am proud of the work I did and it makes me want to do more acting. Look out world! I did find it difficult to watch myself at times and it makes me understand now when I've heard actors say that they don't watch their own films. What winds up on the screen is quite different from the experience of creating that moment on set. The illusion on the screen is both a reminder of that moment, but also, for me seems to lessen the purity of my own memory. The two illusions collide in a weird way , and I felt caught between the two. I got to say that I feel real damn lucky that Zoje gave me this shot, trusted me with such a big role and gave me such useful direction. Where I see other folks try, she has succeed and my hat is off to her. Well done my friend.

So what's next? I hear that HW is being submitted to film festivals and Zoje is working on getting it screened in Rochester, where most of the cast lives. Somewhere down the line, I hope the DVD is available for folks to buy and I'll certainly be posting that news if/when it happens.

And for me, well I've recently found an acting school in my town and I think it's time to get more serious about this acting thing. I would love to do a Sci-Fi or Horror flick, so you never know.

Stay tuned.