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The Big Premiere
Written by Phil Wainman

Finally the date of the Premiere had arrived, 24 June at the Prestigious Sheffield DocFest. It seemed like forever since the cameras stopped rolling and the film being ready to Premiere. We were going by coach, a form of transport I'm not a fan of. Still, surrounded by friends and with the anticipation of finally seeing the film that had been a part of our lives for more than three years, the journey soon passed. We were dropped off at the Showroom Cinema, where Kim Hopkins and Margareta Szabo, the films Director and Producer were waiting for us. It was good to see them.

Although myself and fellow Movie Maker Harry Nicholls had been privately shown some of the footage, we had not seen the Argument. Those dreadful scenes where Harry criticises my film making technique and I lose my temper and end up shouting and swearing at him. I knew they'd be in there, because in Kim's shoes, I'd have put them in. An attractive young Women wearing a Sheffield DocFest badge introduced herself and told me how much she loved us guys and the film. It felt strange to be liked by someone I'd never met before, especially seen as the Premiere hadn't screened yet, but clearly festival organisers get to see advanced screenings. Next I was met by a lady with an American accent, who introduced herself as Leah Marino. She was bouncing with contagious enthusiasm and already saw us guys as friends, although meeting us for the first time. Leah was the films editor and had spent nine months getting to know us, through the many many hours of footage she'd watched, before eventually editing us down to 95 minutes. She had come all the way from Texas, USA to attend the Premiere. There was time to eat, meet important film industry people and relax before the Premiere started.

The film opened with a shot of Colin Egglestone, our oldest member at 89, loading a roll of cine film on to a projector. Colin, who was sat in front of me, loudly exclaimed, "That's Me", in surprise. The scenes where I lose my temper with Harry were kind of hard to watch, but not as bad as I had feared. I guess it's fair to say, I didn't fully take the film in on this first screening, but was very aware of audience reactions like laughing, sad sniffles and even cheering in places. The end credits rolled to a standing ovation. I hadn't expected that. I knew I loved the people on the big screen, as they were my closest friends, but hadn't expected such a strong reaction. We were invited on to the stage for the Question and Answer and again received another standing ovation. Most of the Movie Makers were there, so getting us all on stage, especially with the advanced ago of some of the members, was a slow and clumsy task. The applause continued. The Q & A moderator was Simon Beaufoy, Oscar winning writer of The Full Monty and Slumdog Millionaire, but also an Executive Producer on the film. Simon looking at his hand held tablet, asked a question that made no sense. The technology had let us down and the questions were for the wrong film. He had to improvise and come up with questions off the top of his head. I couldn't tell you now, what questions he asked or what questions the audience asked. I remember holding the microphone and talking to the audience. In my mind, I was full of adrenaline and talking nonsense. I've been told since, that I came across well, but I have no idea what I said. One thing for sure, every Q & A I've done since, I've gone on the stage feeling much calmer and more in control.

After the screening we were invited to an after show party, for various people involved in the film festival. I remember meeting and chatting with lots of people, before eventually getting back on the coach to take us back to Bradford. It had been one hell of a day and the first of many interesting experiences I'd have over the next six plus months, touring and promoting the film.

Five days later, at the aftershow party of the last day of DocFest, it was announced that A Bunch of Amateurs had won the Audience Award. This means it had been voted best documentary by the majority of the festivals audience. It's fair to say that we couldn't have got off to a better start.

26 November 2022