#17 You Never Forget Your First (Film Festival)

Validation. We all need it. Sometimes it’s for free or discounted parking. Sometimes it’s to say, “You’re not so crazy/terrible/stupid. You actually have something here…” With the movie, I often felt “crazy/terrible/stupid.” Honestly, it’s never really stopped since the day we started shooting. There are just occasional moments of joy and happiness. And now that the movie is coming out, I’m gonna tell you about some of those moments of joy and happiness, and how we got there.
You can use whatever metaphor you like: wandering in the desert, searching in the darkness, drowning… Film Festivals are the oasis from the predicament that most independent filmmakers find themselves in. Film festivals are the manna from heaven. The light at the end of the tunnel. The life saver.

Killer Party played at fourteen film festivals (as The Shower). Each one was unique and wonderful in its own way. I’m going to reflect on each festival (well 13 out of 14, actor/producer Drew Benda will reflect on Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival) and share some of the stories that saved our movie and gave us the validation we needed to keep moving forward.

#1. Shriekfest http://www.shriekfest.com

2013 was tough year. You don’t know how hard it is to make a movie until you make movie. I was angry, disappointed and filled with regret. There were plenty of times during that year when I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t. Mostly because we had raised almost $50,000 for the movie. This wasn’t something I could just wash my hands of. I had to see it through. We kept editing. Kept adding what we could. And we reshot a couple scenes. On top of all that, Rachael and I had a new baby. So I had far less time and far more responsibility than a year earlier.
By August, there was a tiny flicker of hope for the movie. We did a lot of different cuts, tried a lot of different things. There was an 81 minute version that started to feel good. I submitted that rough cut to Shriekfest, pretty close to their deadline.

I kept editing, and on the advice of a friend who edits features, worked toward a 75 minute cut of the movie.

On September 3rd, I got a voicemail from Festival Director Denise Gossett, telling me that the movie had been accepted into the festival, but because it was a rough cut, she wanted to know if it was finished.

It wasn’t. I hadn’t locked picture. Since we hadn’t locked picture, basically everything else in post-production still needed to be done. SOUND. COLOR CORRECTION. SCORE.

And the festival was in 30 days.

That’s a lot of work, and not a lot of time. Especially when you don’t have a lot of money to pay people.

There was some debate of whether or not it could be done and if we should even try. I went back and forth on it myself.

Denise needed an answer, they were going to announce the selections.

The movie had taken a lot out of me. Strained every relationship I had (at least if you were part of the movie, haha). I felt like a rubber band stretched to my limits and I was close to snapping (If I hadn’t already). It had been a hard year. A dark year. (On top of the movie, one of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer. My movie and the pity I was feeling for myself felt foolish in comparison.) Rachael made a doctor’s appointment for me because she was worried about my health. My blood pressure was high that day. The doctor asked what was going on and I told him. He said, “Well, that would explain it.”

Shriekfest was the light. They said “Yes” to us.

And we said “Yes” to them.

And we pulled together and did everything we could to get the movie done in time. (This was a recurring theme throughout the entire process. We pulled together and got things done.)

The actual festival was as magical as could be.

An opening night party. Great crowds. Excellent features and shorts.


We were part of something bigger than ourselves and it felt wonderful. We were filmmakers.

We had our world premiere at 6PM on Sunday night and we sold out two theaters. (And had to turn more people away.)


Our cast and crew were there. My mom, my brother Frank and sister in law Kelly flew out from NJ/NY. Friends from our years out here in the L.A. wilderness came to support us. It was a dream come true, especially after what it took to get to that moment.

Our World Premiere at Shriekfest.  Just the first step in a marathon.
Our World Premiere at Shriekfest. Just the first step in a marathon.

This wasn’t the end of the journey. It was only beginning.

But that first “Yes”, that validation from Denise and Shriekfest, picked us up off the ground and got us going again.


Author: Alex

A married waiter/filmmaker with two kids.