Screen Actors Guild Screenings and Q and A’s

This time of year becomes my own little film festival, well actually for me and every other member of one of the theatrical guilds.  They used to start a little later as did most of the award shows and I preferred that.  It was a good way to pass the winter in NYC.  It also used to be easier to see any movie you wanted to see as all the theaters would just accept your membership card, but then the guilds got too big and it became an economical decision to tighten the ropes.  But the film companies still needed us to see their movies as they needed our votes for the awards so they started to go out of their way to set up more private screenings then in previous years, and with those screenings came Q&A’s with the actors, writers, and directors and for me this has become the best part of it all.  The only downside is when friends later in the year want to go see a movie or rent one, my response to most their selections is that I’ve seen it.

Last night I went to my first screening of the season.  I was very excited.  I can also bring one guest so that adds to the fun.  The screenings have been going on for several weeks but none until yesterday fit into my schedule.  I went and saw “Last Chance Harvey” with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who both participated along with writer director Joel Hopkins and a young actress I had not seen before, Liane Balaban, who plays Dustin Hoffman’s daughter in the movie, in a Q&A after the screening.

The Q&A portion of the evening began with Emma Thompson who was hoarse, imitating DeNiro “gangster” lines that Hoffman jokingly fed to her.  She was very funny!  What’s great about these Q&A’s is that they are very loose.  There is a moderator who leads the session and gets it started and then it is open to the room and their fellow actors and writers, etc.  Besides the moderator no press attends and no one is allowed to tape.  The nature of the screenings bring about an honesty that you won’t find elsewhere and you get to know the actors and their process a little better and in each Q&A I’ve attended over the years there are always special unexpected moments that appear like magic.  Two new things I learned last night about the actors were that Emma Thompson started by doing stand up and Dustin Hoffman wanted to be a jazz pianist and used to write music.

Later this week I am also attending a screening of the film “Milk” and Gus Van Saint, Emile Hirsch, and Josh Brolin will attend the Q&A that will follow.  Then soon thereafter is “Vicky Christina Barcelona” with Penelope Cruz, and a few days later “Revolutionary Road” with Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Sam Mendes, and it goes on like this for the next month or two.  It is a definite perk and for me a very special experience.   During this time I appreciate even more the roads in my life that I have chosen because they also led to this place and these adventurers.

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