NOTE: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and just realized I never finished it. Whoops.
When Marty Lang told me a couple of weeks ago about the rough cut screening of RISING STAR, I figured he was talking about a small affair--10-15 people in addition to the cast & crew, some box wine, surveys, that sort of thing. But, as the date approached, it became more and more clear that wasn't the case. My first clue was the fact that there'd be trailers of fellow indie films (which is something that if you aren't doing at your screenings, then shame on you). Then, a rumor that Gary King might show up (He didn't. I think he's hiding from me.). [EDITOR'S NOTE: He was not]
During production, RISING STAR worked out a pretty interesting deal with the Mark Twain House in Hartford. They were allowed to film there essentially for peanuts. In exchange, the Mark Twain House would get to screen the first cut of the film, and keep all the box office. This is exactly the sort of mutually beneficial thing filmmakers love. Plus, this is a venue that has a pretty consistent group of donors and patrons--low-hanging fruit for filmmakers, as Miles Maker would say. It's exactly the type of audience a guy like Marty wants to find.
I hit Hartford around 3pm the day before, and we immediately jumped in Marty's car and headed down to Rhode Island to, you know, finish the rough cut. The editor, Alec Asten (who someone should cast next to Pericles Lewnes in a buddy comedy) was kind enough to let us add his house to the trip, although he was really more interested in hearing more about Mattson Tomlin's "monster sex scene". He had heard the Film Courage interview (it seems a lot of people from RISING STAR did) and was incredibly interested in how this whole thing was supposed to work. Who isn't?
They finished up the edit around 6am, slept for a couple of hours, and then it was back to Hartford. But, as we were testing the DVD, word came in that the screening had sold out. Who the hell sells out a rough cut screening? In Pittsburgh I couldn't get people to come see Sundance films for free.
The screening, which ended up having an overflow crowd of the cast & crew in a second theater (which ALSO sold out), went off without a hitch. The principles did a Q&A which seemed to be pretty informative for them, as there were a couple of points where the audience was nearly 100% in agreement. And afterward, we did a little debriefing with lead actor Gary Ploski and Marty Lang.
Up next, we head back to Maine, where we'll visit with Andrew Brotzman's NOR'EASTER. As I write this, I'm on a ferry, heading to the island of Vinalhaven. Don't worry, I stopped at L.L. Bean on the way up. I'm definitely going to need some better gloves for this one.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.