With 2013 winding down and the holidays in full swing, the best time of year to live in L.A. is upon us -- Screening Season! These are those special few weeks when eager Angelenos can bask in the glow of being sort-of, kind-of, tangentially-but-not-really related to the film industry. SAG screenings! DGA screenings! WGA screenings! A screening of Nebraska for people from Nebraska! (Really.)
Anybody who's anybody (and more importantly, everybody who's nobody) is gearing up to see the year's biggest films for free and participate in Q&A's with the year's biggest stars.
Now more than ever, whether you're a guild member or someone's lucky plus-one, the important lesson to remember about Screening Season is that these events are not about the film in question. Or the director. Or the cast. Or that random guy conducting the Q&A. They're about you! A chance to get yourself out there. To flatter, charm, shove, elbow, spit, eye-roll, hair-flip, and exhaustively seat-save your way into Hollywood's inner circle.
Here then, for both grizzled veterans and naïve rookies without a clue as to what they're about to walk into, is the definitive guide to maximizing your Screening Season:
Before the film:
Arrive early. Really early. Two hours before showtime is not unprecedented. Shove your way into the middle seats, stomping on toes and babies if you have to. Make a big show of it. Demonstrate your importance by mistreating one of the volunteer ushers. Once seated, chatter boisterously so everyone in a 15-seat radius deems you a serious industry player. Use phrases like "my agent," "my manager," "on-set," and "N.D.A." as though you're exhausted just thinking about them. If possible, casually refer to the director of today's film by his or her first name. Let everyone in the place know: you have arrived.
Your role models: Two 30-something guys I sat next to at a Nebraska screening who spoke of their internet sketch comedy series with an artistic reverence that would only have been suitable had the two men been Kurosawa and Fellini.
During the film:
When the lights dim, ensure that your presence is still felt. This is prime time for exhibiting your superior knowledge of how movies work. Laugh very loudly, even when things aren't funny. If the film is a comedy, be prepared to fall out of your chair, so overcome as you are by your comprehension of jokes. Make vague, meaningless sounds like "Mmmm," and "Ohhhh." At key moments in the film (or not, whatever) exhale sharply out of your nose to make your neighbors think you noticed something they didn't.
Your role models: Two front-row women at an Epic screening who reacted as though they were watching a live-feed discovery of life on Mars.
After the film:
The Q&A. Your big moment. As soon as you sense the faintest whiff of officially sanctioned audience interaction, fire your arm in the air. If you're not called on right away, no matter. Just keep shooting that hand up there, even if others still have the floor. When acknowledged (or not, whatever), grab the mic, mention that you met one of the cast members on-set fifteen years ago in a way that insinuates you definitely slept together, somehow manage to slip in the phrase "I'm an actor" a dozen times in 30 seconds, babble imprecisely about process and research for another eight minutes, then hand over the mic without ever having actually asked a question. Don't worry about taking up too much time. The several hundred people in attendance have been dying to know what you think about, well...everything!
Your role model: At a Saving Mr. Banks Q&A, a man addressed Colin Farrell thusly: "Yo Colin, I just wanna say, from a artist to a artist, I saw you at a Target in 2005... thanks for being cool, bro." Because yes, exactly: You and Golden Globe-winner Colin Farrell are pretty much the same person.
After the Q&A:
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All bets are now officially off. Time to rush that stage like a goddamned lunatic. Pay no mind to etiquette. Lock eyes with a panel member (the most famous one) and do not waver. Grip their hand in a manic shake before they can flee. Give them your card. Ask where they're going right this moment and if you can come. Hold on to them for dear life and never let go. They belong to you now.
Your role model: The guy at Saving Mr. Banks who barreled his way to the front of the theater and hugged Tom Hanks. And then hugged Emma Thompson. And then, while he was hugging Emma Thompson, reached out with one arm to hug Tom Hanks again at the same time. That guy.
Live in Los Angeles long enough, and one way or another you'll stumble your way into a Screening Season invite. The good news is you no longer have to go in unprepared. This guide ensures that by the time you "accidentally" spill a stack of your headshots or scripts all over the stage, everyone will already know who you are.
You are the winner. The champion of Screening Season. Go get 'em.