While film premieres may seem glamorous on the outside, they are always stressful and hard work for the people involved in the film. As a filmmaker, I get stressed a few days before the premiere. How will people react to the film? How can you drum up more publicity? Will it be sold out? I would like to say that it’s usually very bad etiquette for friends to call filmmakers for last minute tickets… because we don’t have them! We are lucky to not pay out of our own pockets to get people we need into the screening like press and people useful to our future.
On the day of White Frog’s Hawaii premiere, Chris Lee, my producer, opened my bedroom door at 5:30am after I had only slept for 4 hours. I crawled out of bed and into the shower to get ready for the 7:30am interview for the Hawaii Now’s Sunrise show. We left the house around 6:30am and went to pick up my actor Booboo Stewart and his father/manager Nils Stewart at the Sheraton. We got to the station around 7am and chatted in the green room waiting to get on air.
“Booboo, it’s important to do this so we’ll sell out the show tonight,” said Nils as I admired the Stewarts’ dedication to the project. White Frog was our baby.
As yesterday’s ticket sales were about 60% sold, we had to sell another 165 tickets today. I was getting nervous as they were wiring us up. What would they ask me? It turned out that the host did most of the pitching for us, which I appreciated. The few minutes of the interview passed quickly.
After the interview, Chris took us out to dimsum in Chinatown. Afterward, I went home to crash while Chris took Booboo to go swimming with dolphins and Bryan Singer and his gang who were in town on a writing retreat.
Before the premiere, I had dinner with my friends Chris Chan, Brent Anbe and Lisa Yamamoto, the co-directors of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival. We went to Gazen Izakaya and ordered their homemade tofu dishes. Lisa put a lay around my neck as I greeted her. It was so sweet.
When he we got to the theater around 8:30pm, there was a long line outside the theater. Young girls were mobbing Booboo who had several lays around his neck. Chris was running around anxiously trying to get all his guests inside the auditorium. Bryan Singer was also there with his gang and Chris introduced us.
When we walked inside the auditorium, I had no doubt that the theater was sold out. It was the same auditorium that we sold out for the world premiere of The People I’ve Slept With at HIFF in 2009. Offender Anderson Le introduced the movie and then I gave a quick introduction and thanked the cast and crew who had come for the screening: Booboo Stewart, Ellie Wen, the writer/producer, Fabienne Wen, the writer, Chris Lee, the producer, and Keoke Tavares, our star production coordinator who got us the Mercedes sponsorships among others.
After the movie started, I noticed Chris was texting by the entrance of the theater. When I walked up to him, he seemed stressed as it was his first public screening of the movie.
“Why aren’t people laughing?” he asked.
“It’s just five minutes into the movie,” I said and walked out for something. I was hoping to get a drink at a bar but there was nothing open within walking distance by the Dole Cannery. I went up to the concessions counter and got two giant scoops of gelato instead.
When I walked back into the theater, Chris was still anxious and he told me, “No one walked out yet.”
“That’s a good sign,” I said and sat down in the worst seat of the house, the farthest seat at the end of the first row in front of the screen. All the actors’ faces were stretched out of proportions from my perspective.
As I started digging into my gelato, people started laughing. When the credits rolled, the woman next to me was wiping her eyes with a tissue paper. I guess it didn’t go so bad after all. It was all just in our heads.