Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Diary: Director Jeff Grace of Folk Hero & Funny Guy
What’s it like to have your feature debut premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival?
Moviemaker Jeff Grace has spent the past week finding out. Grace is attending Tribeca (which runs April 13-24 this year) for the world premiere of his comedy Folk Hero & Funny Guy, about a struggling comedian and his singer-songwriter friend on a road-trip that rounds into love-triangle territory.
Here, Grace journals his first big festival experience: the nerves, the parties, the slog of doing press, all in the span of five days.
DAY 1: Thursday, April 14, 2016
I’m in a Lyft on my way to LAX. I am beyond excited to be headed to New York City for the world premiere of my directorial debut, Folk Hero & Funny Guy. I grew up outside the city in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, so NYC was the stomping grounds of my teen years. We’d take the PATH train into the West Village to buy beer at bodegas that didn’t card, buy weed (or something resembling weed) in Washington Square Park, and go see concerts at MSG and The Limelight. All of this, of course, while our parents thought we were camping out in the woods of New Jersey. In my 20s, I worked at an ad agency, Leo Burnett, in Chicago, but my client, Altoids, was based in New York. In addition, my father has lived on the Upper East Side for the last 15 years. So, weirdly, I identify with New York as my home city, even though I’ve never lived here for any real period of time. All this makes premiering my first film as a writer/director at the Tribeca Film Festival feel like a real homecoming.
(Somewhere over Colorado) I’ve spent the last two hours of the flight wondering why it felt like the woman behind me was punching my seat. I even used the selfie cam on my phone as a periscope to see if she was kicking my chair. It turns out the airplane entertainment system has a touch-based video game built into the headrest. This might be one of those ideas that is better on paper.
6:30 p.m.—3:30 a.m.
I land and head straight to some Tribeca parties! I meet up with FH&FG producer Ryland Aldrich and co-producers Alex Koehne and Rachel Walker for the Always Shine party, the Indiewire/Rooftop Films party, and the Dreamland and Holidays parties. I have fun at all of them… perhaps too much fun (and definitely too much to drink). I’m gonna have to pace myself to make it through the next 10 days.
One highlight is meeting filmmaker Robert Schwartzman, who invited me to his film Dreamland‘s after-party. He was playing with a band on stage, and they were really good. It turns out he’s in the band Rooney. Aw, come on! Talented filmmaker and a rock star?! Maybe God isn’t fair.
DAY 2 – Friday, April 15, 2016
I wake up at noon. Still on L.A. time (that’s what I’m telling myself). I feel a weird calm before the storm. I better get myself together and prepare for the first festival activity I need to do. Glenn Kiser of Dolby Institute invited me and filmmaker Justin Tipping to speak on a panel at 3 p.m. today about the use of sound and music in film. I see the first 10 minutes of Tipping’s film Kicks. It looks amazing. I can’t wait to see it later this week.
The Filmmaker Welcome Party is a blast. I got some fun photos with Emma Steele, who is making her acting debut in FH&FG. (Fun fact: She was my former assistant). It’s great to connect with other filmmakers at the party. Tribeca has done an excellent job of organizing things so far.
I’m heading to bed “early” to rest up for interviews and pictures tomorrow. Sweet dreams.
DAY 3: Saturday, April 16, 2016—the Big Day!
1:00 p.m.—4:30 p.m.
I’m full of anxiety, but I have no time to be nervous—I have to do back-to-back festival press activities with my producer Aldrich and the three leads of the film: Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell and Meredith Hagner. It’s calming to have the crew around and feels a bit like being on set again. It feels like home. I can’t wait to see my family and friends at the screening.
Here is a photo of us doing a photo portrait with New York Daily News. Somehow we all match in a grey/blue color palette. I wish we were actually smart enough to plan this out.
I’m backstage at the SVA Theater with the “Folk Hero” of our film, Wyatt Russell, about 10 minutes before the premiere. See my smile? I’m faking it. I’m a nervous wreck.
The screening is over! Phew! I thought it was pretty successful overall. People laughed in the right spots and no one threw tomatoes. Here are all of the cast and crew that came in for the festival. I feel so fortunate and supported that so many of them could make it.
Tribeca Film Festival is extremely generous to throw us an amazing after party at 1OAK Bar. We all have a blast! The highlight of the night is a duet by Wyatt Russell and Adam Ezra (the real-life folk hero who inspired the script, and whose original music is all over the film), followed by Meredith Hagner performing one of her original songs (she wrote all of the music she performed in the film—she needs to release an album.)
Everyone wants to continue to celebrate! So we’re rallying the troop for an impromptu “After-After-Party” at Karaoke One7. This photo is of FH&FG cast members Heather Morris and Jessica Rivera belting out some transcendent tunes. No wonder Heather was so popular on Glee.
DAY 4: Sunday, April 17, 2016
Our big press day begins with Alex Karpovsky managing to answer a complicated character question while emptying two honey packets into his green tea (he’s sick and a total warrior for continuing to do press. Thank you, Alex!). And thank you to The Laugh Button podcast and everyone else interested enough to interview us.
Meredith Hagner has done press all day for the film, so I bought her a cookie. Who says indie film doesn’t pay?
Public screening number two. This screening is so much more relaxing for me. I can finally enjoy watching it with an audience and soak in the movie a little bit without judging it too harshly. The audience seems to generally enjoy it and asks a lot of interesting questions. Ryland Aldrich, Q&A host Tilson Allen-Merry, myself, Wyatt Russell and Meredith Hagner chat with the audience after the show. Lots of nice feedback and interesting questions.
Parisa Valentina, our background actor-turned-make-up and wardrobe assistant (who is also a talented screenwriter) came all the way from Atlanta to be at our screening tonight. She and her friend Cat Grey missed the red carpet earlier, so they jump the gate and I snap a few quick pics. Not quick enough, I guess—security is not so into this idea and the photoshoot prematurely ends.
DAY 5 – Monday, April 18, 2016
It’s been a whirlwind weekend but it has been so amazing to share the finished film with so many of the cast and crew who put their heart and souls into making Folk Hero & Funny Guy. Thank you guys! So many thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival for inviting the film to play in such beautiful theaters and to such engaged audiences. The festival also hosts a ton of nice parties and mixers to meet other filmmakers at the fest. I hope to work with many of these talented folks in the years to come. Our next screening isn’t until Saturday (info below). I’m going to take the next few days to see all the other films.
If you want to see the film and say hello—I’ll be at the last screening!
This Saturday (4/23) at 8:45 PM at:
Regal Battery Park Stadium 11
102 North End Ave, New York, NY 1028
Thanks Tribeca. I’ll always remember this weekend. MM
For information on Folk Hero & Funny Guy screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, visit https://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/folk-hero-funny-guy-2016