Something hung in the air last night in downtown San Luis Obispo—and it wasn't just the threat of rain. As a friend and I rounded a bend and descended the steps to the Downtown Cinemas, I felt the buzz...the excitement...the energy of Opening Night at the 16th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. With long lines already forming, media cameras glaring and film personalities milling about, I sensed the hype and anticipation that seized the festival attendees who were about to watch the world premiere of 10 Years Later.
The theatre quickly filled to capacity and the festive evening artfully commenced! First the audience was treated to the screening of an amusing 5-minute short, The Butterfly King, a delightful "life imitates art" tale about a the break-up of a young actor who shares the stage with his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Shot by a group of UCLA students, this movie won best film at UCLA's Campus MovieFest competition and the Western Regional Finals. Many of the students that participated in making this film attended the screening and provided us with quips and musings about their production in a question-and-answer session. Comprising various majors, the audience was surprised to learn that none of these students were actually in UCLA's film program (a few of them had been rejected, though). This fun short was made in only four short days and the entire cost of making the movie...only about $350. Bravo!
Then Academy Award winning editor, Neil Travis, announced the feature film. Written and directed by Aaron Metchik (who grew up in San Luis Obispo County), 10 Years Later was filmed entirely in SLO County. As "six old friends from high school find themselves forced to confront who they really are," this gripping dark comedy hooked the audience with its well-cast ensemble of actors, beautiful scenery, and underlying questions about the group's past. After these old friends reunite innocently enough for a high-school reunion, long-ago events soon find their way to the present during a trip to the store, and suddenly everything starts to spin out of control.
This film's dark plot artfully combined edge-of-your-seat tension interspersed with much-needed comical relief. The enthralled audience cheered and clapped, laughed hysterically, and sat in nervous apprehension throughout the 97-minute screening. After the film, the director received a well-deserved standing ovation and the audience delighted in a question-an-answer with Aaron, several of the starring actors, and the producer. As this film hits the film festival circuit during the next year, I hope you will have a chance to catch a screening.
This high energy evening set the tone for the entire 10-day festival; the excitement is still hanging in the air!