- The HCE Video Series
The story below was originally published on Theo’s Roundtable, for which I am contributing writer.
Believe it or not, some of my fondest memories have taken place inside movie theaters. I know, I know—me, Mr. Death to All Theaters, has fond memories of movie theaters. But it’s true. My fondest of all? The time I almost threw up in one.
I began my journey in film as a 35mm projectionist for the now defunct Mann Theaters. During my tenure with the company, I served as a cleaner, a concessions runner, a projectionist, and, eventually, a manager. I also was knocked unconscious, struck by a customer (or twelve), run over by a rascal scooter, and knocked unconscious again, met my first love, and was puked on. Oh, and I fell through a ceiling—but that’s another story. The point being that while all these instances are in their own right good memories, the one that’s the focus of this story is greater than all of them combined. OK, maybe not combined but it’s pretty damn good on its own.
No, my fondest memory came back in 2009 at the Omaha Film Festival in—you guessed it—Omaha, Nebraska. My first film, April Showers, was screening there, out of competition, though I believe it was opening the festival, if I’m not mistaken. Or was it closing it? I can’t recall. Anyway, hours before the doors opened, I was already a wreck, running to and fro like a chicken with my head cut off worried about . . . you guessed it, the A/V equipment. I put that poor projectionist and some of the festival staff through hell. (If any of them are reading this, I am so sorry.) Anyway, I was checking speaker levels, bass settings, and such while also harping on the quality of the projector they were using etc., etc. I was being an ass, for not only would none of it ultimately matter but when you’re an hour from doors opening, what really can be done?
Anyway, the doors opened and a flood of people made their way into the lobby where the festival was serving drinks and such. I did my best to lay low as I tend to become a bit self-conscious in large crowds. I can speak on stage or go on national TV, but put me in a crowded room filled with strangers and I’m basically useless.
The announcement was made for patrons to begin making their way to their seats, and within minutes I found myself standing alone in a semi-litter-filled ballroom-esque lobby space. One of the nice people serving drinks kindly told me to hurry and take my seat for the director was going to be speaking before the film. The waitress unknowingly made one of the most tense moments in my life less so with her simple comment. I thanked her and made my way inside. As I walked down the aisle to the stage in front of the large movie screen, the crowd cheered and applauded. The whole time, I wondered what the waitress must have been thinking. The festival’s director handed me the microphone, and I began to speak.
I thanked the good people of Omaha, my now wife, family members, and such—the usual. I talked a bit about the process and what the film meant to me. I even laid out a plan for a future that would ultimately never see the light of day. The whole time I was up there, I felt this overwhelming sense of pain. On one hand, I was practically bursting with pride, which was painful in its own unique way. And on the other, I was heartbroken, for this was the film’s first official public screening, meaning there would be no more changes. It was over. I realized in that moment how truly blessed I was to even be there, for so many filmmakers don’t even make it to a stage in Omaha, Nebraska—let alone a national theatrical release, which would kick off for my film in mere days. I believe I ended by saying something to the effect of “without further ado”—and in an instant the house lights dropped and the film began…