Premiere: It’s a Wrap!

Countless people on the night asked me how I was feeling. I must have replied earnestly but without 100% lucidity because I was, in truth, incapable of feeling anything more than impressions, so strong was my focus on the execution – the “doing” – of the event.

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It’s only in the come-down of the event that sense emerges, that meanings take form, that any sort of reflection or evaluation happens. To summarise, I’ll say that the dominant notes in this emotional chord are relief, gratitude, horror and elation. And something warm and melty beyond measure.

…relief, gratitude, horror and elation…

Of course in the state of retrospection, the negatives hit you first. Three moments I could have done without are:

1) The sound not playing

My number one fear… actually… materialised. (How could it, after I’d mental-noted it so fiercely as to (surely) jinx it out of possibility?!) The introduction had gone smoothly, my segue slick enough, and I hit play, and it played… silently! Bm bm bm!

What followed was a 5-minute agonising wrestle with the laptop, but Russell was in his element. My garrulous MC rose to the occasion by bursting into song, bantering about the weather (prompting giggles given his past life as the ABC TV weather man) and his encounters with Hugh Jackman, and who knows what else.

Russell was in his element. My garrulous MC rose to the occasion by bursting into song…

I swore that the audio gremlins were to blame; having checked the playback feverishly beforehand, there could be no logical explanation for its failure now! – nor, it seemed, an explanation for why it “chose” to start working again after desperate, directionless fiddlings. To cut a long story short, I do have a theory now – a rational one – and this is both a relief as the world makes sense again and a sting because of the blame to myself implied.

Anyway, a big lesson to take is that things are logical, and troubleshooting should always start with a review of the simplest cause. Remember that! Check the basic settings first. Have faith that things – technology, at least – abide by the principles of reason.

2) The rock concert next door

It was slightly off-putting to have big bassy sounds filtering through the auditorium, and I fretted that the viewing experience was undermined by this constant breakage of the fourth wall.

To be honest, it probably was, and it’s disappointing for me as the director that I had to fight for my audience’s attention. I had a strong impulse to whip out my magic wand Flitwick-style, to seal off the world and immerse the audience in the world I’d created on screen… to lock them into that headspace and none other. But hey, even a dimmed capacity to feel is a capacity to feel. If they could comprehend and feel affected at all, I am not complaining!

I had a strong impulse to whip out my magic wand Flitwick-style…

3) Not enough food

Granted, I dawdled on my way out of the theatre, but by the time I’d entered the foyer I was greeted with completely empty plates. My faults were both underestimating the turnout (budgeting for 100 guests, not 150) and grossly misjudging a reasonable food-to-people ratio.

My lovely caterer Luan and I have learnt plenty from this experience. However, I’m told that those who did score a bite were much rewarded, so go Luan!

The Premiere wasn’t perfect, that’s for sure. But it’s fitting, too, because that’s really a reflection of the whole journey of making this documentary. Stuff went wrong, but the thread of what went right is even more powerful. I’ve much to be grateful for, and my top handful of soaring moments of the night were beautiful indeed.

…the thread of what went right is even more powerful. I’ve much to be grateful for, and my top handful of soaring moments of the night were beautiful indeed.

There are my highlights of the evening:

1) The way the documentary was received

People enjoyed it, people were impressed by it, and most importantly of all, people were affected by it – emotionally and intellectually. If their remarks can be taken at face value, they were prompted to feel and to think.

People enjoyed it, people were impressed by it, and most importantly of all, people were affected by it.

For the last few months of promoting the documentary and its Premiere – actually, throughout the whole process of making it – I’d nursed a quiet dread: a fear that I was building up to nothing, that it was all a farce, that I had no “product” behind my efforts and no leg to stand on when it came to actually delivering the goods. Would tonight see me crash and fall? Had I been orchestrating my public humiliation?

I’d nursed a quiet dread… Would tonight see me crash and fall? Had I been orchestrating my public humiliation?

But the Premiere vindicated my efforts. It validated my project. And for that I am thankful, elated and humbled beyond description.

2) Russell and Carmen

Russell Woolf was the MC and Carmen Lawrence, an honoured guest. Having them on board was not just a score, but on the actual night I truly realised that I was in the presence of consummate professionals. Wow.

I truly realised that I was in the presence of consummate professionals… I couldn’t think of a better note to tie up the themes and set the tone for discussion afterwards.

Russell is a Master of Ceremonies to boot – a true professional, bringing huge personality, humour, fun and energy to the proceedings. And Carmen spoke so beautifully, so eloquently and so (it felt) perfectly in her final closing address and response to the documentary. I couldn’t think of a better note to tie up the themes and set the tone for discussion afterwards.

For the umpteenth time on this project, I realised that the shine of others is the substance of your project’s own shine. Russell and Carmen brought class and character to the evening, and I’m exceptionally grateful to them both… and just a little star-struck!

…the shine of others is the substance of your project’s own shine. Russell and Carmen brought class and character to the evening, and I’m exceptionally grateful to them both… and just a little star struck!

3) Talking to the guests: friends, family, strangers

There were faces I’d seen anytime between one day ago, one year ago, and never. I’m particularly stoked that on most occasions we cut through the niceties to have substantial conversations – nourishing, rewarding and fun.

I loved hearing the different responses and the energy bounced off by the screening. Everyone has a different wavelength, I think, but it’s stunning to experience the full spectrum – and an honour to have supplied the prism.

4) All hands on deck

Phil, my right-hand man; Lauren, right-hand lady; Luan, caterer; Gary, photographer: a superb logistical team that pulled the night off to a tee. My stress levels simmered at a cool 100 Celsius thanks to conscientious prior organisation and the support of my awesome team!

A whole bunch I hadn’t recruited beforehand showed their true colours, too: Tom McCleery, Clare, Pumps, Mum, Steve, Bec, Moe, James QZ, Friberg, Em and more were the finest help I (mostly) didn’t ask for but could not have done without. You guys… legends!

A whole bunch I hadn’t recruited beforehand showed their true colours, too… legends!

I’m dazzled by the array of high notes of the night, which were the above and others:
…surprise flowers from Maree and the anonymous gifter
…the sight of the queue to the ticket table (“People came!”)
…the ticket sellout beforehand; the rise of the waiting list
…the news article in Western Suburbs Weekly

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…having Darren and Anneka there as they featured in the documentary
…surviving the director Q&A
…raising enough to cover event costs and undertake modest further distribution activities
…shutting down my laptop to see “Battery Critically Low” (so the whole time it was plugged in, the powerpoint…?!) and feeling heart-stoppingly, chillingly lucky to’ve evaded the disaster that might have been; I credit Steve’s lucky giraffe!

…heart-stoppingly, chillingly lucky to’ve evaded the disaster that might have been.

There are no other words now but thank you: to Carmen, to Russell, to everyone who attended, to everyone who supported me before, during and after… and to what/whom I owe but don’t know.

The idea of the humanitarian engineer is the beginning and end of this all, and I hope we go forth with that image central in our minds.

The idea of the humanitarian engineer is the beginning and end of this all.

Thanks for playing a part.

sheena