On Sunday, August 15th actor and comedian Hal Sparks was taking a moment to drag out the reading of The Feel Good Film Festivals final Award of the night, Best Feature Film. Earlier in the night, “God’s Ears” had been nominated for Best Director, Best Actress and Best Director but the awards would ultimately go to the deserving productions of Herpes Boy and Eagle’s In The Chicken Coop. As the list of prizes were read that went along with the award, both Margot Farley and myself looked to each other tacitly agreeing that whoever was winning this was going to be looking at some nice support towards their next film. A 60 thousand dollar in kind camera package deal from Panavision, over 10 thousand in kind rental credit from several grip houses such as Camadeus, Hollywood Rentals, ISS Props, etc., and to top it off a big bottle of TETEO Tequila! Nothing says award like alcohol and camera deals!
I was thinking about the day before when we screened the film in the Spielberg Room of the historic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Built in 1922, the place just felt like old Hollywood. This was where Sid Grauman held the very first Hollywood premiere and made me feel in good company with our very first Hollywood premiere. I had had some memorably good experiences in the past with several festivals “God’s Ears” was lucky enough to attend, such as Visionfest, Skip City, Japan and The Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii. What I always kept in mind is what made them so great was the thing being replicated here: awesome staff! These guys at Feel Good were attentive and gracious hosts making everyone feel like they belonged here and they wanted you to stay.
Being caught up in some development of other projects, I could not prepare for the festival like a responsible filmmaker should. I did not bring a poster or stack of postcards or even the cute buttons with a still from the film stating “support Autism”. But I made sure to invite any and everyone I knew, and surprisingly (as with promises to film screenings it can be) most of them showed up. Coupled with the other attendees we were only about three seats short of a full house. As always, the ever faithful cast and crew of Margot, Neil Lisk, Karen Kim, Alex Ballar and Dominic Daniels were there seeing the film for the umpteenth time. The screening was done on digibeta, which even though it lacked the vibrancy and scope of an HD projection was still fairly strong. I sat mainly on the aisle floor so I could get up and pace. I sometimes find watching my work as an actor or director a bit unnerving at times, even though I do feel it is an important part of the learning experience to see what the crowds respond to or don’t.
As the film ended, I was privileged once again to listen to the stories of a handful of people who have someone dealing with autism in their close network of family or friends. I never grow tired of hearing that “God’s Ears” reminds them of someone they know or in some cases of someone they want this person to be. It always reminds me that I managed at least once in my life to be a part of a film that went beyond being just a film and served a greater purpose in at least some people’s lives. Not much more you can ask of your art than that. As the small group of my cast/crew slowly dispersed back into the streets of Los Angeles it felt like one those family reunions that happen every few years where for a brief moment, you all connect, remember and then move back out into that space where time does not stop.
But on Sunday night, the culmination of the event was coming together. Though the audience/film experience in itself is truly the goal of all films, these celebrations can give actors and filmmakers some added validity to all the trials and tribulations of trying to get your film seen by a broader audience. As most of the productions here have yet to see the major spotlight, and “God’s Ears” is no exception, these hard working festivals make those struggling artists feel for a moment they have made it, have been heard and have been thanked for following their dreams. What may on the outside appear to be a group of the same people, in the same rotating industry, all patting each other on the back for a job well done, is in reality a personal reminder from your peers that you made a good choice and stuck to your guns when we all know the voices screaming “get a life” can be the more dominant echo between our ears.
As Hal turned the envelope over to the beautiful America (that would be one of the staffers, not the metaphor to the country) I continued to look at the audience. I had a flashback to writing the script in various Barnes and Nobles or Coffee Beans while trying to envision the words coming to life and now I was sitting with a packed house of people, some of whom have actually seen that vision realized. It felt strange. Odd. But maybe that was just the pessimist buried in me forced to face the reality that some dreams do come true and goals are accomplished when you persist in your ambitions.
If Margot and Kerry Connelly had not started screaming and jumping up and down in the aisles it may have hit me a few seconds later what she had just said (later they would tell me they had wished their camera had been pointed at them as they never had a reaction like that before) but eventually it did. Maybe one day I can summarize and explain what goes on in your body and mind at that moment when there is this kind of profound recognition for an effort that you and a small army of like-wise individuals put their heart in over a brief period of time.
But until then, I will just hope I get more opportunities to examine the feeling before I make an attempt at it.
To all those hard working people at The Feel Good Film Festival, I want to say “Thank You” for all those individuals who followed me on this journey in which this great honor represents. People like you keep us all going.
– Michael Worth