Meeting Filmmakers at Film Festivals

I’ve always enjoyed film festivals. As a movie critic, it’s just great to mingle with the filmmakers and listen to them talk about their films. As an autograph collector, it’s fun to have them sometimes sign a DVD.

At the San Diego Film Festival (in full swing if you’re in the area), I was talking to the parents of a young producer who won an award. I can’t remember his name, but he produced the movie Arbitrage, with Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. And listening to her tell me about how great it was to be on the set of the movie and talk to him and take her photo with him. I love when parents can enjoy meeting the celebrities their kids are working with.

I met another couple that were teachers. We had a great hour long conversation. The woman had oxygen with her, and she told me she had a rare disease called LAM. That creates polyps on her lungs. After they left, her aunt pulled me aside and said “She probably only has two years to live.”

I broke down in tears at hearing that.

As I drove home, I thought about how happy she was that she got to take a photo with actor David Koechner. These are the types of moments that celebrities don’t even realize make a persons day.

Koechner is easily one of the most underrated comedic talents in Hollywood.  

He played Packer on The Office, and has been in countless movies. In Anchorman, when the guys all sing Afternoon Delight, he’s the one making the guitar sound with his voice. As I told him last night, he and Bill Hader are the only two comedic actors I can think of that have me laughing just when I see their faces on screen. Once they start talking, I’m laughing even harder.

He signed my Talladega Nights and 40-Year-Old Virgin DVDs, and we talked a few minutes about film.

Koechner gave a great speech, introducing Judd Apatow, the writer/director/producer of all those raunchy comedies we know and love. It might be the funniest introduction I’ve ever seen or heard anybody make. The crowd was in stitches.

Of course, I had Apatow also sign my DVDs, but loved hearing him tell this autograph story. He said that as a teenager, he started a radio show at his high school, just as a way to meet comedians he admired. He interviewed Seinfeld, Howard Stern, Gary Shandling, and many other big name comedians. When he was 13-years-old, he would have his aunt drive him by Steve Martin’s house in L.A. One day, Martin was outside washing his car. He made his aunt stop, and he got out to ask him to sign a book. Martin, who has often been a tough autograph signer (although my friend got him to sign a banjo last year before a concert), said “Sorry, I don’t sign autographs at my house.”

Apatow thought quick on his feet and said, “Okay, well…can you sign out in the street?”

Martin laughed and said, “If I do that, then I’d be bothered at my house all the time from people asking for autographs.”

Apatow left without the signature and when he got home, sent him a super long letter about how mean that was and how he may be funny, but he “treats his fans like s**t.” Martin promptly sent the 13-year-old a book, with a signature, in which he wrote “I am sorry. I didn’t realize it was THE Judd Apatow I was talking to.”

Apatow reminded Martin of this story a few years back, and they did a photo shoot where Martin was on a tour bus outside Apatows house bugging him. He said the video is out there if anybody wants to see it.

And for anybody that wants to see some good documentaries, indie films, and big block busters – head to San Diego for the film festival. If you see me there, I’ll give you a free pair of movie tickets.

I also noticed David Koechner doing some live appearances. You should try and catch him. He’s hysterical, and you may even get your DVD signed after the show.

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Tags: Anchorman, David Koechner, Howard Stern, Judd Apatow, San Diego Film Festival, Seinfeld, Steve Martin

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