Lester Rowe summed it up best.
"So let's recap," he said. "You had two mayors, a bunch of filmmakers, Miss Missouri and not an empty seat in the house, Only a select few get to experience that. You took an article, turned it into an idea, went on a first time filmmaking journey and had a moment."
As I told the crowd afterward, I think it was the best night of my life.
The emcee was the aforementioned Miss Missouri, Sierra Scott, who happens to be the best friend of my girlfriend Christine Bitner (and I think she likes me OK,, too).
Wichita mayor Jeff Longwell was in attendance with his wife Susie and 10 of my castmates from Wichita Gridiron, Mulvane mayor Shelly Steadman and her husband Kyle, who are executive producers for the film, were there as well. So were executive producers Dave and Trish Powell. Former teachers. College classmates. Best friends. Doctors. Lawyers. Politicians. Pastors. Journalists.
Musician MariaElena, who scored the movie, was there, as was artist Ram Hull, who animated it. I should really stop trying to name people at this point, but I do owe a big thank-you to my friend Brendan O' Bryhim, who came up with the idea of this event in the first place.
We drew a standing-room-only crowd on a Tuesday night in Wichita. One marketing professional (who I happen to live with) said that was nothing short of miraculous. VIP Wichita Magazine, Splurge! and the Tallgrass Film Festival all had photographers there. It was a first-class event at a first-class venue, Roxy's Downtown. We even got this review from the Wichita State University Sunflower.
But none of those things were the most satisfying part.
When the lights dimmed and the movie began, Christine and I settled in at the very back of the room and paid attention to the audience. They laughed in the exact moments we expected them to. They cheered in other moments when we didn't expect them to. Some cried at the end. They hung on every word. Many didn't want it to end. It was the stuff filmmakers dream about. They really got what I've been trying to do.
So what now? Well, we have four more screenings in Kansas over the next month, and there's been a lot of inquiries about an encore screening at Roxy's. So stay tuned for an update on that.