Friday, December 2, 2011

Adventures in Gotham aka "HOLY SH*T, WE WON!"

As most of you know by now, our film GIRLFRIEND, (after a successful run of collecting Audience Awards at various festivals in the US and abroad), became eligible for the Festival Genius Award at the 2011 Gotham Independent Film Awards...

In case you don't follow me on Twitter, here's how it works: After selecting 29 films, the IFP website opened the first round of voting. From those 29 films, the nominees were cut down to the top 5.

After making the first cut, we were officially invited, as nominees, to attend the show at New York's famed Cipriani Restaurant and the after-party at Andaz.

Our competition was pretty fierce... BEING ELMO, THE FIRST GRADERBUCK and WILD HORSE, WILD RIDE were all extremely well-liked films.

To be quite honest, despite the groundswell of support from the Twitterverse, fans of 100 Monkeys, fans of Shannon Woodward (even a tweet of support by Katy Perry, herself, Shannon's good friend)... even after all of that, I still didn't think we'd win. Or perhaps that was just my way of tempering expectations.

Well. We won.

I'll back up just a bit now. Justin and I met up in Brooklyn an hour or two before the event.

We were almost headed out when Justin's wonderful girlfriend Sarah realized that his slacks didn't exactly match his sport-coat (I'm not ratting him out here, he admitted this to an interviewer from Style on the red carpet). Fortunately, he had the correct pair.

Sarah snapped this pic of us before we headed out:

Evan and Kristina would be arriving separately and so Justin and I headed for Wall Street. The event coordinators had told us to allow for significant delays due to the Occupy Movement nearby.

This was actually my first time in the financial district. The area was packed. People everywhere. We ended up there a bit early and decided to walk around for a while. Justin wanted to check out Zuccotti Park to see how packed it was. The idea made me a little nervous because, well, frankly, we were in costume as the 1% that night - no matter how far from it we actually are as indie filmmakers.

In the end, we didn't end up finding the park and we had to get back to Cipriani to meet our new Publicist Sarah (taking over for the fabulous Corie Chu who is out of the country).

We quickly met up with Sarah, Evan, Kristina and her father who Kristina kindly brought as her +1 since her hubby (producer/actor/composer) Jerad Anderson is touring Europe with the 100 Monkeys.

Sarah had all of our invitations and, before we knew it, it was time to head to the red carpet.

This, boys and girls, is truly an insane experience. Here's how it worked: Sarah walks first, ahead of Justin and Evan. She holds up two sheets of paper which read: "Justin Lerner, Nominee, Audience Award, Writer/Director, 'Girlfriend'" and "Evan Sneider, Nominee, Audience Award, Lead Actor, 'Girlfriend.'" As soon as she passes, the guys start their walk and the flash bulbs begin to go off. I had always joked with my wife that if I was afforded the opportunity to be one of the people who the papp's wanted a photo of, I'd probably have to wear sunglasses to avoid having a migraine... or worse, some sort of seizure. On this night, I realized, I needn't worry.

Kristina and I went next. Sarah did the info paper thing for us and, just as with Justin and Evan, we were blinded by a strobe of lights - "Over here! Shaun, Kristina! Look over here, please!" "Kristina! Right here! Look here in the middle!" "This way, guys, this way!"

It's pretty wild. These videos don't begin to do it justice... it's a bit of sensory overload, in reality... but have a look:


We were followed up the carpet by Evan Glodell, director of BELLFLOWER and a very attractive young woman who, I believe, is one of his cast members from the film. Behind them was Beau Bridges who, along with the lovely and talented Shailene Woodley and the great Robert Forster, was there to represent THE DESCENDANTS with filmmaker Alexander Payne.

Near the end of the red carpet, Justin was interviewed by the IFP... In the background, you can see me shooting (with my iPhone) the videos above.

Once we had made our way through the phalanx of reporters and photogs, Sarah guided is to the bar. From there, we wandered the room saying hello to people and talking with other filmmakers for about 40 minutes. The room had giant tv screens at either end as well as in the upper lounge area, and every so often, you'd hear the volume level rise to a fever pitch, look up at the screen and see Charlize Theron or Tilda Swinton... pretty cool.

Finally, they made the announcement that everyone should find their seats.


I started the evening at a different table than the GIRLFRIEND crew and was seated with my friend at table 41 with the good people from RBC Bank, a co-sponsor of the event.

This is the view from my seat:



My friend, who I was seated with, is a well-known and extremely well-respected filmmaker, in addition to being a former Gotham Award nominee himself (not to mention Oscar© nominee!)  He was, most assuredly the reason I had such a great seat. In fact, he had served on one of the Jury's for the awards that very night. As actors Oliver Platt and Edie Falco began the festivities, he was feeling quite confident that the award would be ours. As I mentioned, I wasn't. Still, I was enjoying it all.

As it turns out, ours was the first award of the night! I actually hadn't looked at the program for the evening, so I had no idea that it would happen so fast!

When Zachary Quinto (who I'm a huge fan of) and Sarah Paulson (also a big fan of) took to the stage to introduce the nominated films and the short clip package, well... I got nervous. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win. My friend put his hand on my shoulder. "You guys are going to win it. I can feel it," he said.

I should mention at this point that my friend had no access to results other than in his own category (Ensemble), so he really was just being hopeful and supportive...

We watched the clip reel with that amazing audience and fellow nominees. Finally, the moment arrived...

"...the Audience Award goes to... 'GIRLFRIEND'!"

I couldn't believe it! I looked at my friend who had let out a huge roar when they said "Girlfriend"... He smiled a huge smile and said, "Get up there, man! Get your coat and get up there!"

I could kind of hear Zachary Quinto calling out names... I know I heard Justin's, but that was it. Only later did I find out that he said all of the producers names as well.

I stood up, shaking my head in disbelief as I put on my coat. What you can't tell from the live feed is that there were more than 800 guests at the event slotted into gigantic round tables of 8 people each. I scanned the crowd toward Table 8, where Justin, Evan and Kristina were seated and watched as they made their way through the crowd with the same stunned expression I had on.

We reached the stage. Here's how it looked as it happened.

As we walked off, I shook Zachary's hand and Sarah Paulson's, thanking them. I was still in shock, but I did find a moment to be amused that I had just done what I had seen so many other winners do on various award shows - look around after the speech and be confused as to which way to walk off-stage!!!

I realized that I had left my phone at the table and was SO BUMMED because we got taken immediately upstairs to the press room for the post-win interviews which meant that I wouldn't be able to take the calls that I knew were practically blowing up my phone just then.

A funny thing happened on the way to the press room - our IFP chaperone was leading us upstairs when a very large Secret Service type tried to block our entry! Our chaperone assured the man that we had won and, after a moment of consideration, he finally allowed us to pass.

We took photos backstage with a couple of gorgeous Russian girls who were repping Standard Vodka - another of the evening's sponsors - while Evan signed some autographs and took some pictures. Justin got whisked away to do an interview with Filmmaker Magazine and then, while we waited, we helped ourselves to some more drinks and snacks - Being the first award, we were missing dinner!

Once we had completed our interviews, we headed back to our seats. A short time later, I joined the team at Table 8, where I was introduced to the very gracious producers of the other nominated films in our category.

The rest of the night was pretty great, I gotta tell ya. We talked with the other filmmakers, watched as Gary Oldman and Charlize Theron got their tribute awards... laughed at Patton Oswalt's hilarious conversation with her - she made him stay on stage with her while she gave her speech - and generally just enjoyed the night.

When the event came to a close, we milled about for a while talking to various celebs - Felicity Jones (winner for Breakthrough Performance for LIKE CRAZY and the one serious upset of the night), John Hawkes, Alexander Payne, Jim Jarmusch, David Cronenberg, Elizabeth Olsen...

Evan had his eye on two or three people he really wanted to speak with though, and he got them both:

Evan and Christopher Plummer.

Evan and Stanley Tucci (Sorry it's hard to see!)

I walked over as Evan was wrapping up (what I'm told was about) a 10 minute conversation with Mr. Tucci - the man was soooo nice and so kind.

Finally, we made our way over to Andaz for the after-party.

No pictures from that. What happens at Andaz stays at Andaz. : )

In all seriousness, it was amazing. We got to talk to a ton of celebs, including an actor who gave one of my favorite supporting performances this year (and who got nominated for a Spirit Award the next morning!). It was an amazing night!

Evan headed out as things began to wind down and Justin and I headed for SoHo to an after-after-party.

That night, when I arrived at my friends' home in Brooklyn (where I was staying), I found signs his kids had drawn tacked to the front door - "Congratulations!" "Winner!" - and the next morning, woke up to a flurry of articles about our win... a few of which even mentioned my name!

Here are a few of them:

(When you've been reading the Hollywood Reporter since about age 11, seeing your name in that thing is quite a win!)

Love what they say about Evan here.

So that's basically it. My adventure at the 2011 Gotham Independent Film Awards!

I'll close with this... (posted to my Facebook status after I got home from the parties that night):

"Tonight, we won a Gotham Award... but we were only able to stand up there on that stage because of YOU: Our cast, crew, family and friends. Your unwavering support of us and our film has been nothing short of extraordinary, and your votes made it happen... so thank you. You made our day/night/week/month/year. You rock." - Shaun O'Banion