The streets surrounding East Liberty were swarmed late Thursday night as the Michigan Theater played host to a little piece of Sundance Film Festival. The lines streaming out of the theater — though bested by those filled with hopeful attendees of President Obama’s speech outside the Union earlier the same day — illustrated the amount of support and curiosity for the independent cinema hosted at the theater.
Inside, the usually noticeable staircase and chandelier were lost in a sea of heads. All who entered were greeted by gigantic, golden snowflakes projected onto the opulent ceiling.
When executive director Russ Collins finally walked out to introduce the premiering film, “For a Good Time, Call …,” he was greeted by deafening applause. Attendees sent a loud and clear message — they were there for an event, not just a movie.
The film’s director, Jamie Travis, aroused the expectant crowd’s attention by saying: “I know you’re here for something raunchy … I hope you’re satisfied.”
Judging by the laughter echoing through the theater’s main hall in the hour-and-a-half that followed, Travis’s wish may very well have come true. The audience viewed a “Bridesmaids”-esque female comedy revolving around two college enemies united after graduation by their mutual friend Jesse (Justin Long, “Funny People”). Katie (Ari Graynor, “The Sitter”) needs a roommate to help pay her apartment’s steep rent and Lauren (Lauren Miller, “50/50”) needs somewhere to live after getting dumped by her egocentric boyfriend Charlie (James Wolk, “You Again”).
When Lauren loses her job, she joins Katie as a business partner in her secret night-time business: a phone sex hotline. According to first-time screenwriter Katie Anne Naylon, this premise wasn’t just a figment of her imagination.
“I briefly had a phone sex line in my college dorm,” said the Florida State alum.
Producers Naylon and Miller found the initial funding to create the project from Miller’s brother, investment banker Dan Miller. Naylon later contacted Travis after reading a New York Times profile on him, and he was on board within a matter of weeks.
“I loved how ‘estrogenic’ this was. I loved how daring this was. We automatically formed this great group of four at Lauren’s table and created the film,” Travis recalled.
It seems Dan Miller wasn’t the only one who valued the script’s bravado. Twenty-four hours after premiering in Sundance, the film was offered a $2 million distribution deal by Focus Features, joining a group of 11 other Sundance films that garnered distributors.
But Thursday night wasn’t about distribution deals for the individuals behind “For a Good Time, Call …” — it was about the people in the audience.
“Although we’ve already had our world premiere, this feels more like one because the people (who) are watching this film (are) the people we made this film for,” Travis said.
He added: “The response was great … I kept thinking, ‘You guys are missing all the jokes, stop laughing!’ ”
The audience also heard sexy jokes told by members of the film’s crew present for the event, including Miller, Naylon, Travis and ‘U’ alum Wolk. At one point, Miller dished about the only statement co-star Mimi Rogers made about ex-husband Tom Cruise during filming — “He really likes riding motorcycles.”
For Travis, the night ended on a hopeful note: “I’m going to Canada tomorrow to do a KFC commercial, but if the film continues to do so well, hopefully I’ll be back in the movie business really soon.”