The VG & FNF screening at IMAX

Wow...what a freakin cool day!!

This weekend was a whirlwind of excitement and I want to do it again.

People checking out the "Volcano Girl" poster in the lobby of IMAX.

Close up on the poster. I made sure it was right where everyone would see it. We even made the IMAX people move the huge Harry Potter display for OUR poster - Thanks IMAX!

This is one of my longer blog do you have your coffee ready? Then let's go!

How is Harry Potter involved?

First of all, it was Harry Potter weekend on ABC Family, so you best believe I was watching those movies while preparing for the IMAX screening. I'm pumped for the next one! Will he kill Voldermort?? (I haven't read the books...).

Anywho, watching great movies is always inspirational as a filmmaker. Watching the Potter films got me pumped for my big screening - to have the opportunity to share Volcano Girl with a whole new audience and all of my supporters. Maybe one day I'll have an audience just as excited to see one of my movies?

Never once did I say to myself "how often can you see your film in IMAX?" I said "this will be one of many."

Am I Lame?

I was more nervous to talk in front of a crowd than to show my film. I trust my films. I believe in them.

For the most part, people laugh where I want them to laugh in my films - and jump where I want them to jump. 🙂 teehee. I also knew that both films had been tested by the most critical judges -- film students. If film students believe in your film, then you should be flying pretty high. Unless your film is Transformers... let's not go there.

But - Do I have what it takes to keep an audience entertained by my talking for an hour? Is all of this really as interesting as I think it is? Are my stories funny or super lame? And, God forbid, do I sound cocky trying to talk up how hard it was to make this movie? So many filmmakers I have experienced in the past sounded so "artsy-fartsy" and I HATE it! I will never walk around in all black with a scarf. Not my style.

I do, however, wear black-rimmed glasses. I think that's a necessity if you want to be a filmmaker. Just FYI...

My Goals for the Screening

I spent the morning reworking in my head my goals for the day. We were raffling off a "Night Out at IMAX" to help raise money for "Volcano Girl" to go to film festivals as well as raise money for the creation of DVDs. I needed to constantly remind the audience of the raffle, but I also didn't want to be annoying...

I also wanted to introduce the title and different levels of Executive Producer. I'm beginning my film career and I'm starting strong. I'm ready to make a feature, so I need financial support. Do you hear this determination?? Grrrrr But, wow, asking for money is more terrifying than public speaking!

Those were my goals. I was excited to screen the film, but I needed to keep the goals of the screening in mind. I also needed to remember to have fun. My audience is coming for a good time - after all, the films are called "Volcano Girl" and "Friday Night Fright." I'm sure it would be a different story if they were coming to see "Whispers in the Wind" or "A Heart that Breaks" ...both made up titles of films I probably will never make... but they weren't. They came for fun. And they were coming to learn a bit more about an industry and a person they may not know much about!

Finally Made it to IMAX

Read about the preparation of the IMAX screening here. It was nice to finally get to the screening day!

Sweets anyone? The cupcakes were my FAVORITE!!

We arrived at 3pm at IMAX to set up for everyone's arrival at 4pm. I asked my old college buddies to come help out as well as a few friends of my mom, and we had about 10 people setting up. Needless to say, we were done in 15 minutes and just hung out until everyone arrived.

Around 3:30pm some Power Pass Holders arrived and waited in the lobby. Tim, the "IMAX guy" (he's the IMAX manager but that's what I call him), came to me and told me I had some fans in the lobby. I said "whaaaa?? Really? People are actually here to see the movies??"

I gathered myself and ran to the front to introduce myself. Yes, I'm the filmmaker. No, I'm not the person in the Volcano Girl poster (I get that a lot). Yes, the movies are short, but please stay for the Q&A!

Then I revealed to them a secret...a secret...well, that I tell everyone. So far, both of my movies have my hand in a shot somewhere. In "Friday Night Fright" it's in the background of a shot, but no one has ever noticed it but me. And in "Volcano Girl," it's my hand burning a "V" into the table. That's now my official "thing" -- to have my hand in a shot somewhere --Hitchcock, watch out!

After talking to the Power Pass Holders for a bit, I ran back into Venture Hall, grabbed a brownie and gathered myself once more. Oh that's right, I forgot to eat today...

Here's the Audience!

Around 4pm, people started showing up and made their way into Venture Hall -- the hall where we were holding the Q&A after the screening. There were tons of hugs and thank you's and welcome's. Then I started realizing people thought we were actually screening in Venture Hall! Oh no, no. I watched them as they tried to find a good seat. I ran to Tim, who was running to tell me the same thing. It was very dramatic.

I ran to the front of the room to grab the microphone and announced we were actually screening in the big theater, and we can begin lining up. Everyone zoomed out of there and were in line before I could finish my sentence. I wasn't expecting that, but it was kind of cool.

The line outside of the theater.

I walked outside to see who else had arrived, and there was my old Physics teacher. Mr. Prim (visit his website here) was one of my favorite teachers in high school. We even hid his chalk from him -- now that's love.

Then there was the family I used to babysit for. And the people who used to babysit me. There's the neighbors who get our mail when we're out of town, my friends I hadn't seen since high school, college buddies (Go Tar Heels), fellow local filmmakers, my VIP executive producers, my mom's friends and friends of friends, and a few people that I just didn't know. It's nice to meet you and THANK YOU SO MUCH for your support! ...I hope you like the movie...

Lisa Stewart, the designer of the "Volcano Girl" mask, takes photos of movie-goiers waiting in the line outside of the theater. (@ecstewart)

Partying it up with Jan Delory (@jdelory) - the raffle lady - and sales extraordinaire! (@PivotPointGroup)

There's "Volcano Mom!" Apparently the IMAX crew called her "Volcano Mom" whenever she came with me to the theater. 🙂 @MarketSleddogg (@PivotPointGroup)

There was a DELAY

No, not a delay in the screening...a delay in the microphone. There was a whole second delay where I could hear every word I was saying repeated back to me. I was talkinnnng soooo sllooowwwwllyyyy. Luckily, Tim let me practice beforehand, so I didn't make a complete fool of myself when talking to these nearly 200 people in the theater.

I felt like I was doing stand up! Hello everybody! How do you feel?! I tried my hardest to stick to script, but that delay just screwed me up. It was a total out of body experience. People came up to me later to tell me they could hear the delay too. It was so weird.

Finally the movies are ON

Here's the part where I get to sit back and relax. I took a few photos of how large "Friday Night Fright" was on the screen:

You can't tell at all that this is 70 ft high... but it is!!

Massive "Andy!!!"
And it was way better quality in the room than what this photo portrays taken from my iPod Touch.

I wanted to film everyone's reaction to the "knife scene" in "Volcano Girl" but it was too dark. Everyone jumped - I promise!

Now it's time to ask questions!

After the screening, I went up and reminded everyone to stay for the Q&A (keep in mind the horrible delay on the microphone!) and I think a good portion of the people stayed. I also pimped the raffle again... so that was an incentive!

About 200 people stayed for the Q&A after the screening. I'm the little dot at the far end of the room.

Just call me "professional speaker."

This was by far the best part of the day.

Actually hearing what your audience thought of your movie, listening to how they connected to your characters, and hearing their enthusiasm for your work is invaluable. It's all I need to keep pushing forward in this tough industry.

As I started talking about the making of "Friday Night Fright," a large noise came from the ceiling and shook the room. It made me jump. Someone yelled out "Don't open the door!" (a line from "Friday Night Fright") and I cracked up! Now that was just plain cool!

I talked about the fire effects in "Volcano Girl," how we get such great actors in student films, and what it was like to work within the USC film program. I tried my best to fill in the audience of the film student inside-joke: The Zemeckis Parking Lot. We are encouraged to shoot in this campus owned parking lot if we want to do anything semi-dangerous. This is where we shot the fire effects.

Then the questions came, and they were TOUGH

I felt like we were all having a genuine conversation about movies. All 100 of us!

  • Are audiences reacting how you hope they would react to your film? (for the most part everyone laughs where I want them to laugh, and I saw you all jump at the knife scene!)
  • What are 3 lessons you learned on "Friday Night Fright" that aided you in creating "Volcano Girl?" (did my teachers put you up to this?)
  • Did UNC prepare you for USC? (!)
  • Do you have to live in Los Angeles to be successful in the film industry? (no...but it helps)
  • Do you ever get to learn from Stephen Spielberg or George Lucas? (no, the Dean keeps them far away from us students...but we do have a lot of other great directors that come to talk to us)
  • What was it like to work with a writer? (he was my friend, so I'm sure it's not your average working relationship)
  • Did you mean to have Virginia say "Lucy, I'm home" like they do in "I Love Lucy?" (yes, but we toned it down for tension purposes. If you got the joke, you got it - but if not, then no biggie!)
  • What was the audition process like? (we had them do some stunts, and I also chatted with each actor to see if we could work together on a daily basis)
  • What type of stories do you want to tell as a filmmaker? (I tell stories about events, characters and themes that I relate to personally and find entertaining, and hope that other people can relate and jump on board! I also tend to stay more in the comedy-genre.)
Josh Eiserike, the writer of "Volcano Girl," came into town for the screening and answered some questions about the writing process.

So Amazing!

There were so many more questions, and my answers were definitely longer than how I am portraying them here. I gave many examples, and I talked more about me personally as a filmmaker rather than making broad statements about the filmmaking process. I know what works for me, not necessarily the person standing next to me, so I talk to that. This is what I have learned in my journey.

After the Q&A, a short line formed in front of me to talk more about the films. This is when you hear honest opinions of the movie, and how your audience personally connected to the story. I was hearing things that blew me away.

One person said "When the news report came on, I knew exactly what type of movie I was watching." Really?? That's EXACTLY what we wanted the audience to feel! You got it!

A woman came up to me with her young daughter -- "What age should my daughter be to start a film career?" Honestly, I started the second my family could afford a camera, but my partner on "Friday Night Fright" was 40 years old. So any age!

The Raffle

Jan Delory took the lead on the raffle. We gave away two signed Volcano Girl DVDs and the "Night Out at IMAX." One of the kids in the audience won a DVD. I thought that was pretty cool! Okay, you can't post it on Youtube now! 🙂

Around 7pm, we were done with the day. I left IMAX so pumped and wanting to do it all again.

We, as filmmakers, make movies for an audience, not just ourselves. We hope our audience follows us on the journey we create with actors, sets, lights, cameras and music. We hope our audience gets what we're trying to say, and then wants to join us for the next film!

- AM

**Thank you to Camden Watts (@cammicam) for taking photos during the event**

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