Gather round my children, and let me tell you a tale. A tale of the time that I met the greatest filmmaker to ever work (ever).
It was a cold, wet 28th of October, in the year of our lord 2007 and my compatriots and I sat shivering outside of the Trustees Theater in Savannah, GA. We all held passes for the festival (lowly Gold passes), and had been waiting in the pass line for an epic stretch of one entire hour. Were we waiting for the latest well-conceived contribution to the Star Wars legacy from George Lucas? No. Were we waiting to see the truly effective capper for the Spider-Man trilogy? No. We were waiting for a pleasure even more immense, an experience even more memorable.
We were there to see Brett Ratner finally receive his long deserved “Achievement In Cinema” award. It was an electric night.
There was a palpable buzz in both the pass and ticket-holder lines. The chatter betrayed enormous excitement in both lines, excitement that peaked as the doors opened. My friends and I rushed to the front row. I found the seat with the best view of the podium and sat, darting my head around. My eyes dared anyone nearby to come close.
As they found their seats, the crowd returned to it’s eager chatter, familiar from outside. Eventually the lights went low, and a hush fell. A cacophonous and simultaneous creak rang out as 1,100 people leaned forward in their seats. Some asshole came out and said some shit I don’t remember, except that he mentioned Director Ratner. The crowd looked among each other; he was coming, and soon.
A montage began and images washed across the screen. The brilliant compositions, each and every one, washed a pale light across the faces of the crowd, every mouth open with awe. From the sublime depth of X-Men 3, to the disturbing atmosphere of Red Dragon, we were given tastes of the delicious films that we had all come to admire over the years.
The montage ended, the lights rose, and Brett Ratner walked from backstage to claim his award. The crowd went nuts. Women cried, men nodded their heads approvingly, and not a person was left sitting. He took his podium, gazed out across his crowd, and began addressing us.
“Nothing is impossible with perseverance, hard work and loving what you do,” he began. The next ten minutes were filled with the tale of a man making his way into NYU by sheer force of will (and natural talent, of course). When it was all over, you could hear a pin drop. Not a dry eye my friends… not a dry eye.
With great regret, we all watched him retire backstage as the rest of the program continued. I don’t really remember. Some lame oooooold man named Milos Foreman or some shit (he made some fucking opera movie? what is this, the 4th century? lol), followed him up. They gave that guy a lifetime achievement award, which was bullshit. They should have given Director Brett that award too! I mean shit, he’s directed better movies already than that guy has I’m sure! That’s like giving a big award to like Michael Mann or something, when Ed Zwick is in the audience. Bigger fish to give awards to, ya know? Whatever.
What did this guy get an award for? They should have given it to Brett.
Then they played some boring as shit movie about some wheelchair guy. It pissed me off because there wasn’t anything about butterflies or diving bells (whatever those are) but that was the title!
Fuck all that, I was going to meet Brett Ratner.
Everything let out, and of course Director Brett, being a director of the people, walked out and talked with everyone. Eventually though, people began dispersing, and it was about time to go to the after-party. Under the neon marquee of the theater though, I noticed Mr. Ratner standing by himself for a moment. I was shocked there were no screaming fawning women or eager film students around him, and I had to take my chance.
I don’t think I’ve ever had to overcome a bigger knot in my stomach, or had to work harder to clear a set of star-struck eyes (and I’ve met Rob Cohen!), but I managed to make my way towards him.
As I neared, I stuck out my hand and complemented him on his inspiring speech, remarking that it is always good for film students to hear stories like that. After a pause I asked,
“May I ask you a question?”
“Are you one of those internet guys?”
“No,” I answered (truthfully at the time!), “but I do read stuff.”
“That’s fine then.”
“I’ve understood that you are attached to direct a new Escape From New York movie. That still happening?”
“Yeah, but not with me on it.”
“Oh, okay. I suppose that’s not a secret or anything?”
“Well cool. I’ll be looking forward to whatever you do next.”
It was the greatest conversation of my life.
I vowed at that moment, never to wash my ears ever again. I hobbled away to giggle and and hyperventilate the conversation to my friends.
I recovered, the crowd moved on, and it was time for the other passholders and I to make our way to the after party. It was a classy affair in one of the school’s art galleries. There was VIP section of leather couches that Director Brett stayed in for much of the night. We were told earlier in the night during his tribute, that he had been playing with photography as of late. Here at the party he had a vintage camera that he kept taking pictures of people with. Apparently he was doing a study on blonde women with small frames, he took a lot of those. I’d love for him to publish the series one day, I’m sure it’s great.
Towards the end of the night, he emerged from the VIP section and schmoozed a bit. My friend and I (who had been peeking around a column the entire night, waiting) scampered over and asked for pictures. First my friend handed me his camera and I tried taking it, but the flash wouldn’t work correctly! Turned out my hat kept covering part of it! Director Brett pointed this out.
I couldn’t have been more mortified.
I was so ashamed and embarrassed that I almost teared up. I recovered and took the photo. Unworthy as I felt to get so close to him, I couldn’t pass up the chance and I got my picture taken.
After that, the night was a blur and I somehow made it home to fall asleep. As for the rest of Mr. Ratner’s evening, I hear from several separate people that he got to take more pictures for his series at a local entertainment establishment he visited later. I’m sure it was fun, but it couldn’t have been as fun as my dreams of my own adventures filled with action, excitement, and endearing cultural mix-ups.
Seriously though, I do appreciate Mr. Ratner coming to our little festival. He’s taken some jobs that incurred a lot of fanboy hate, but he’s directed a couple unfuckwithable sequences (a popular professor getting “asploded” comes to mind). He came across as a pretty genuine guy while with us, and he told a damn encouraging story.