Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Film Critics Don't Throw Pastries (A Scanner Darkly, 20June06)

Last week's movie adventure may have been a bit nerve-wracking, but that, it turns out, was nothing. On Monday afternoon, I got an email reminding me of a Tuesday morning press screening. Now, the difference between last week's screening and this week's was enormous. Last week's screening was a promo/press screening. That meant that those of us who were actually there to review the movie were caught up in a sea of Normal People -- people who somehow won passes from the sponsoring TV/radio stations. We were incognito. A press screening, on the other hand, is just press.

From what I imagined, this press screening would be a crowd of people who all knew each other -- and who would, inevitably, look upon me as an interloper. And I was terrified to face the wrath of a room full of film critics (two words that I've done everything to avoid using in describing myself -- to escape the snobbish, cynical connotations). But I didn't want to chicken out, either. So I said I'd be there.

On Tuesday morning, I took my shower while listening to some Dave Matthews Band to calm my nerves. Then I stood in front of the closet for about a half hour. I ended up going with the same old white cords (promising to take myself shopping before the next screening), since it's the only thing I have that's somewhat casual without being denim or capris. I paired it with a new blue T-shirt, and I called it good. Professional, but casual.

Then I made myself some coffee and spent an hour or so imagining the worst until I was completely freaked out, almost to the point of pre-performance vomiting. I shakily put on some makeup and topped it all off with my lucky lipgloss. Then I left at 10 -- an hour before the screening, and about 25 minutes earlier than I probably needed to leave.

Once I got to the theater (which, incidentally, I'd never been to before, me being, until this point, mostly a Cheap Theater kind of gal), I drove around for another 10 minutes or so, attempting to find a parking space that wouldn't get my car towed. At 10:45, I wandered down the street to the door to the theater and into the empty lobby. I informed the girl there of my intent, and she asked, "Was that door unlocked?" I guess it wasn't supposed to be -- but thank goodness it was, or I would have had no clue what to do. Apparently, press initiation involves finding the theater's back door -- and I got off easy.

Eventually, others started to arrive and casually grab some of the coffee/bottled water/muffins that had been set out. Filled with the liquid courage of my previous cup of coffee (though more than jittery enough already), I made my way to the concession stand to help myself, hoping that I wouldn't get pelted by muffins for doing so. As I approached, a man stopped me and asked, "Are you Kristin?" It was...let's call him...John. The wonderful man who had finally helped me hunt down all the necessary contacts. I was relieved to meet him -- because it meant that there was at least one person there who might not throw pastries at me.

The crowd was pretty divided: young guys in baseball caps and flip-flops, and older, more scholarly-looking guys. Noticeably absent were women my age. In all, there were maybe three women. But, actually, I was okay with that. I'm usually more comfortable with guys anyway. So I joined their circle to listen to them debate old movies and discuss the recent screening drought -- until it was well after 11.

I was informed that the screenings always start late -- not until Bob, the Top Dog of Local Critics, shows up. If someone were to begin the pastry-pelting, my guess is it would be Bob. Either that, or Bob would be so indifferent toward my presence that he would stomp on my foot while walking past. But I didn't actually see the infamous Bob. I don't know if he ever actually showed up, but the screening -- one of two that were actually screening at 11 (much to our surprise) -- eventually began.

For the most part, we all took seats on our own, usually on the aisle. Only two pairs of guys out of the 10 or so of us in the theater sat together. I had a feeling that one of the pairs -- the two guys who had shown up shortly after I had -- were new, too. Or at least they had mistakenly thought they'd be able to take notes during the movie. I wish I could have -- to help remember some of the little details -- but it was way too dark.

After an hour and a half or so of trying (despite the coffee running through my veins -- and my bladder) to sit quietly, without having to get up to go to the bathroom, I was relieved to find that the movie was over. We all wandered out into the lobby, many heading straight down the hallway leading to the (ah-ha!) back door. I hung around, debating whether or not to stick around for the screening of the other movie, which was scheduled to start...in a while. But it looked like I was the only one still hanging around, so I began to change my mind. Not only that, but with other screenings on Wednesday and Thursday nights, I wasn't sure I could handle all the movie time.

As I was beginning to feel seriously uncomfortable, sitting alone in the lobby, pretending to take more notes on the movie, the other screening ended. I found myself chatting with a few of those who were coming out, sharing notes on our respective movies. I spent some time talking to a couple of great guys who do a radio show -- and who informed me that I have a pretty good radio voice. And, they added, they're always looking for guest reviewers to fill in when one of them is out of town. They don't often find hip young women in the field, they pointed out, and if I'd be interested, maybe I could make a guest appearance.

Terrifying (so much so that I'm guessing that I would actually vomit before that one), but totally cool. I told them that I'd be willing to give it a shot. And why the heck not?

So, as it turns out, film critics don't throw pastries. They're actually quite friendly. Perhaps, with time, I'll actually be okay with calling myself a film critic -- but definitely not yet.

Next time, though, maybe I'll pass on the coffee. I think bottled water (or maybe a glass of wine if you have one, thanks) is more my speed. And who knows -- I might even try a muffin.


Post a Comment

<< Home