I never thought a five-week summer class at UC Irvine would turn out to be my favorite class of my entire college career.
Upon entering the 15 or so person screenwriting/workshop-style class, splitting up into 4-person groups reading, watching and talking about famous screenplays, and soon writing our very own screenplays of our own, I was quite thrilled that Dr. Marie Cartier required us all to volunteer at Outfest 2014 with her, Los Angeles’ LGBT Film Festival. So-called the “Cannes” of the LGBT community, it was quite an eye-opening and inspiring night.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of “big” events. I’ve been able to attend concerts and meet/interview musicians like the Framptons and Kina Grannis; I’ve been able to cover a red carpet event and hear from the likes of Apl.de.Ap and Jessica Sanchez; but, it was quite different being in a room and sharing the space with professionals within the film industry, from Gary Oldman to familiar TV-stars like Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”), Adam Brody (“The OC”), Gillian Jacobs (“Community”) and Greer Grammer (“Awkward.”).
Music is and always has been my first love. Whether it was dancing to cultural rhythms at 12 or picking up the guitar and recording awkward videos at 15, music was a godsend to me, calling to my heart, mind and ears. Writing was always a natural space for me to communicate thoughts and ideas; and when I was able to infuse what I love into it, I soon found myself doing more journalistic-esque writing, communicating to more people and audiences.
As with any art comes the need for luck and being in the right place, making it an industry that you can do “all the right things” but still find it tough paying for your meal at the end of the day. But, as an artist, you work project-to-project, hoping to get hired onto something, happy to even be doing what you love in the first place (I’d rather be poor doing what I love than robotically rotting my life away).
And so, as my professor has allowed us to see the struggles of being a screenwriter, being the first one on the job who creates the movie–and sets up the blueprint, so to speak–it was awesome to see the entire spectrum of a film’s birth to its end at the screening at the Opening Night “Life Partners” Premiere and Gala After Party this past Thursday night.
Having received a bit of “special treatment” as our professor’s students, we arrived on-scene around 6pm at the Orpheum in Los Angeles. Though our shifts were scattered throughout the night, a few coordinators ended up taking us in as their own, having us wristband and ID the audience for entrance into the 21+ after party, and personally usher the crowd throughout the theater. We had it lucky, I’d say, since we got to personally interact with all of the guests and attend the entire screening itself, together. We had no set shift time, except to work until the lights went out and the program began.
Executive Director Kirsten Schaffer provided an opening speech. Later came special guest Gary Oldman. Then James Schamus, having produced famous films such as “Brokeback Mountain,” “Milk,” “Lost In Translation,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Kids Are All Right” and so much more, as recipient of the Outfest Achievement Award. And then came the cast and crew of “Life Partners” (Susanna Fogel, Joni Lefkowitz, Gillian Jacobs, Greer Grammar, etc.), which was being premiered that night.
I have to say the movie was thoroughly funny. As it opened with a sequence of best friends Paige (Gillian Jacobs)–a strong, straight A-type personality woman–and Sasha (Leighton Meester)–a lesbian, guitar-strung slacker–yelling at each other in traffic, later only to hug and laugh about the situation, the entire audience was already in as we knew what this film was going to entail.
Ultimately being a tale about codependency in a best-friendship, with Paige and Sasha’s friendship taking a shift when nerdy Tom (Adam Brody) starts a relationship with Paige and Sasha is left re-examining her life and going on sucky lesbian dates, the film is sweet and smartly pairs straight and gay pals, making a film that is relatable to all. Laced in an endless Southern California summer, it’s full of endless comedic events and clever character choices, as an “Epic Fail” shirt worn by Paige later on in the film is a moment of comedic gold.
Having had our volunteer shifts off at the end of the screening, we headed for the exclusive 21+ opening night gala after party, which was, I have to say, really something. Never in time would I ever think I’d be drinking with my classmates on a “school trip.” And, with free gourmet foods from Whole Foods, Wolfgang Puck, Tortilla Republic and so much others, the wine-filled jello shots, grits and meatballs, hamburger sliders and shrimp chip tacos were absolutely decadent. And, a bar stocked with Absolut varieties free for the taking was heavenly. I almost–shamefully and shamelessly–felt like a little kid at this high-end event going wild for the food samples.
As Greer Grammar was walking around at the after party, with no one really talking to or noticing her, I knew I wanted to speak with her a bit and introduce myself. I chickened out until a fellow classmate of mine went up to her and asked if it was okay for me to take a picture with her. I ended up saying I love her work, in the movie and on “Awkward.,” and asked about her being at USC (I knew she was a student there). Soon after, the rest of my class went up to talk with her as well and stole the thunder. She was glad to talk to us about college (kind of wish she studied something else besides Theater, so she’d have something else besides what she does), her time at USC and being in a sorority (she’ll miss being with all her friends and seeing them all the time), and how it is being in the industry (don’t give up, you’ll hear “No” more often than not) and having worked with Brody since she was a devote “OC” fan. She was a sweetie and I was about to ask her to take a picture with all of us, as UCI Film Students, until another guy (and his casting agent, I’d assume) swooped in and took her away (which she visibly looked like she was sorry for).
Overall, though it would have been a little out of place to network since everyone at the event was probably already industry professionals and there was no real opportune moment, it was nice to be able to enjoy the atmosphere and environment. It definitely was an eye-opening and inspiring event to share the space with all these industry professionals who feel as passionately about this industry as we do (and feeling like my professor’s children).
Though my interests as of late have kept me a little uneasy–for I find that writing comes easiest and most naturally to me, but that I want to play music one day, work in the industry the next, write a screenplay the other day and work on a production the next–my fleeting projects and interests, though ideal for an artist working from “project to project,” feels a bit unsettling for someone who wants to create instead of floating around in different industries. Though, I am still young. And, as the movie itself has stated that “being 21 was easier,” I’ve still room for fun and mistakes. It’s time to embrace my emerging youth as a hopeful 20-something year-old.