The Ryerson Theater. 6:30pm. 1400 seats. Packed house. Premiere of my first film, "Thank You For Smoking".
The lights went down and the movie started. We have a fun opening title sequence that uses animated versions of classic cigarette packages. It looked fantastic on the big screen. All the actors got tremendous applause as their credits each popped up.
The first scene came up and the audience was immediately responsive. Laughing. Cheering. Embracing the main character, Nick, and the dark comedy in general. I can’t explain what it feels like to hear a thousand people laughing at something you wrote. Most of the dialogue in the script belongs to Chris Buckley. But every once in a while, one of my lines comes through and gets a huge laugh. It’s exhilarating.
I ran back to the theater manager a couple times to make adjustments to the volume, but the overall sound and projection was great considering this is not normally a movie theater and this was the first day of the festival. The masking on the screen was off, making it so you could see the splices from the negative cut in certain scenes. I imagine this is due to my film being anamorphic which is a rare enough aspect ratio and shooting style, that it wasn’t set up perfectly on day one. Perhaps I’m just being an anal director. It didn’t seem to effect the audience’s enjoyment of the film.
The film ended and by the time the first credit began to roll up, the audience was cheering. The end title theme song is “Greenback Dollar” by the Kingston Treo. Bill Macy, who was sitting in front of me, turned around and said, “How the heck do you know this song? It was old when I was your age.”
I went up on stage and began introducing the cast. Everyone got tons of applause, particularly Aaron Eckhart. Then, I brought up the producer David Sacks and the novelist Chris Buckley. The reception was incredibly warm and almost everyone in the audience stayed for the Q&A.
After we stepped off the stage, Buckley gave me a great big bear hug and told me how proud of me he was. Aaron couldn’t stop talking about how much he enjoyed the movie and all the little unexpected details I added in the cut.
After the screening, we all ran to our cars and headed over to the after party. A packed shin-dig at the Chanel Store on Bloor. They cleared out the whole place and it was packed. We arrived to a mob scene behind barricades. I did a few more interviews and took a few more photos on the way in.
I was brought upstairs to the VIP room, where Sidney Pollock was having a drink. He shook my hand and congratulated me.
Yes… Sydney Pollock. Three Days of The Condor. Tootsie. The Interpreter. I took one look at him and said, “You’re a legend.” We talked a few minutes. I asked him about his Frank Ghery documentary. He was very friendly.
People came up left and right with congratulations. Michael Madsen even said hello. It was a wonderfully vain experience. To be honest, the greatest part is just to know the film is not a complete failure. When writing and directing, there are countless days when you are certain that you will never amount to anything and your current project is simply the evidence for you own demise. A response like this at the end of it all is tremendously reassuring.
I spoke to a few newspaper journalists until my voice went hoarse. Then, I got hungry. But all they had to eat were these trays of snooty hors d’ouvres. Fortunately, Cameron Bright, our twelve year old star, ordered a bunch of pizzas. They saved my life that night.
After a few hours, our PR aficionado, Jeremy Walker, pulled Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, and I to go to a City TV event called “The Schmooze”. It’s a live television event, in which they block off an entire city block with an enormous red carpet that leads to a party inside the television station.
When we got there, the thousands of girls immediately started shouting for Brody… “ADAM…!” Brody is so gracious. He shakes hand after hand. Signs autograph after autograph. Leaning over the guardrail to pose for photo after photo. We were brought to the TV host for a quick interview. She gave me this big, who-the-hell-are-you stare. Fortunately, the actors introduced me. We answered a few questions then headed inside.
Later on, we went to a small party held by Michael Budman, the co-founder of Roots. I was particularly excited about this, as I am an enormous Roots fan. I wore Roots every day of the shoot of “Thank You For Smoking”. I told Michael this and he was impressed. He promised to give me a discount when I go into the flagship store on Bloor later this week.
Around 3AM, I crashed. I went back to the hotel with my wife. In the taxi on the way home, I called room service and ordered hot apple pie with ice cream. No cheese. (For those of you who saw the film).
I woke up Saturday morning and it all seemed like a dream. I went downstairs early to begin my day of press. As I stepped out of the elevator, an older couple stepped in. As the doors began to close, the wife pointed at me and said, “That’s him. The guy who directed the movie.” Then the doors shut. Welcome to my fifteen minutes.
I apologize that this blog has not been up to the minute. I’m sure that if you have made your way to this blog, you must be interested in my reaction to all the recent action surrounding my film. I have been a little busy for the last few days, but hope to be up-to-date by end of day tomorrow.