By Maria Gigante
Editor's note: When she's not editing and shooting videos for University Communications and Marketing, Ohio University employee Maria Gigante is working on her own short films. In this story, Gigante writes about the experience of watching "Girls Room,'' a nine-minute film she wrote and produced in Chicago, debut Wednesday at the Athens International Film + Video Festival.
As I approach the Athena Cinema, I spot a large group of teenagers clustered around the entrance. Please, please, please let them be here for my screening, I silently beg.
My short film, "Girls Room,'' is screening in the "Friends for Life'' program of the Athens International Film Festival. However, it's slotted for 11 a.m. Wednesday -- a bit early for a college student. There is nothing worse than screening your film to a crowd of three. So, crossing my fingers….
I'm in luck. The fine students of Federal Hocking are on a fieldtrip, spending the day viewing several of the festival's short film programs. They nearly fill the theater. Woo hoo!
But now I must deliver. If there's no laughter, no response, I can't blame an empty theater. Festival Director Ruth Bradley introduces me as a local girl, and the young gentleman in front of me offers up some of his Skittles, which I accept.
Off to a good start.
The crowd's a discerning bunch. Stronger films get applause; weaker films do not. Rough. What will be the fate of "Girls Room,'' a quirky little film about horrors of the school bathroom? Will these folks connect? Will they relate? Oh, I'm getting nervous.
Finally, it's time. The opening music I've heard a thousand times starts up. My colleague, Andie Walla, is nice enough to provide some supportive chuckles in the first few minutes, but I know from experience that the humor doesn't really
hit until about minute 4. And that's when I hear what I like to call the Lead Laugher.
All comedic filmmakers hope and pray that there is a Lead Laugher in the house for their screenings. This is the loud, confident, brazen laugher -- the one who usually laughs alone for the first few chuckles but eventually draws all into following his or her lead. Especially those wondering, "Should I be laughing about this?"
And so it happens once again. This time, the Lead Laugher is a strong female voice, and she quickly wrangles her troops. Guys and girls alike go on the ride and come off smiling. As the credits roll, my Skittles-toting friend turns to me and says, "You think that's bad, you gotta see the boys' bathroom!''