As I walked from the W Hotel midtown to visit friends in Inman park, I passed through a series of storms of petals -- first white, then pink, then purple. To an allergy sufferer I'm sure this sounds like a nightmare (during my short stay I did hear a bevy of complaints about the sheen of yellow pollen that coated the cars) but to me this stroll was a sensory dream.
The flurries of flowers were accompanied by the warmth of the springy air, the wafting scents of outdoor cafe meals and the sounds of voices against a surprisingly quiet backdrop, their collective dialects reminding me of the lyrics to that Johnny Cash song... where everything is done with a southern accent.
This idyllic two hour amble, which I will admit was inspired by my recent consumption of the Michael Chabon book Manhood and his somewhat depressing description of being dropped into and shuttled around a city without ever knowing it's layout, was the perfect time to reflect on the screening of L!fe Happens, my film that opened the 36th Atlanta Film Festival.
Atlanta was the third city in which I've had the chance to watch the movie in front of an audience. The first time, when it premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, all I could do was notice every imperfection, regret every shot that I hadn't had time to fully realize, worry when laughter spilled onto a joke following a joke- not even recognizing that laughter long enough to obscure anything might be a good thing.
The second time was at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose where, although my nervousness had abated and I was prepared to consciously gauge the reaction of the audience, I was definitely not engaged in the film.
However, last night in Atlanta, 10 months since it's premiere in Los Angeles and 3 weeks before it hits 80 screens across the country, I sat in the back row and was able to genuinely lose myself in the story for the first time. While I was aware of the laughter I was not analyzing it but was, rather, sharing it with my fellow theatergoers. I was watching the characters, Kim (Krysten Ritter) and Deena (Kate Bosworth), struggle with their friendship in the wake of Kim's unplanned pregnancy and new baby. When the festival director, Chris Escobar, called me up at the end of the screening to do a Q&A, I was startled to hear my name.
The film had become it's own entity. It had entertained me and made me forget about the million and one dramas that had occurred in the long, circuitous route to getting it made. I'm not suggesting that there was more drama than usual in the creation of this film. I think any filmmaker will tell you that getting a movie off the ground at any level is an impossibly daunting task that is inherently fraught with disaster -- as is anything, come to think of it, that requires the collaboration of a myriad of human personalities.
When I took the mic, along with one of the film's supporting actresses, Fallon Goodson, and looked out at the Atlantan audience I was happy to see such a diverse group of people waiting to hear about the little movie we had just experienced together. There were people of all ages and races but most importantly there were men! Men who made comments and asked questions! There was an older African American man wearing a yarmulke who emphatically told me that this was "Exactly his kind of movie!"
There were two young musicians in the front row who asked about my decision to use a Chamillionaire song in the opening credits! There was a man who asked if I was more comfortable in comedy or in drama, because the movie is combination of both! "Why has she suddenly started over-using exclamation points", you wonder... Because L!fe Happens can easily and somewhat dismissively be described as a chick-flick geared towards new moms and while I hope that these demographics come out in droves to support the film, it was gratifying to see, with my own eyes, that, despite what any reviewers or Hollywoodies may say, L!fe Happens is a story about people and relationships. It is a story about life.
As I walked through Atlanta today, I had a deep appreciation for the people of this city and a newfound love for my film, flaws and fun moments alike. My favorite question of the night provided an analogy that I will now use in perpetuity when describing this film. A woman asked what was the best moment of filming and what was the worst. The best moment, I told her, was when the 1-year-old actress playing Baby Max (yes he's a she) stood up, as if on cue.
This was a moment in the script we thought would have to be made with movie magic, manipulated through the editorial process to tug on heartstrings. When that little girl, whose name is Jem, stood up at exactly the right moment, the whole crew held their breath and Krysten delivered one of the truest moments of the film.
As for the worst, the truth is, I couldn't think of one thing. I had had the rare opportunity to bring to life a personal story, which I now know, no matter what happens from this point on, has the ability to move people. So the film is like a child, it has become an independent being that I have cultivated, nurtured and now set free and although I can remember all of the good things about making it, like raising a child, I can't for the life of me remember anything bad.
L!fe Happens will open in Atlanta on April 13th at AMC Phipps Plaza 14. For additional showings around the country and to check out the trailer please go to: http://lifehappensfilm.com/