When I mentioned that I was going to be at a film festival, it was not out of the ordinary to be asked if I would be meeting any celebrities. The event that I attended does make it easier to bump into them, but it's not like I go out of my way to make such encounters happen. Plus, while these may be recognizable folks, they aren't always people whose names people know. I've met Robert Forster at it, for instance, and a couple directors. I've stood in line next to Michelle Monaghan for concessions and John Malkovich for coffee.
One of the filmmaker guests at this year's event was an actress with whom I share an alma mater. I'll wager you may not know her name, but you probably recognize her from one of her roles in films, episodic TV, or your pick of I Love the (name your decade) VH1 programs.
I happened to be wearing a polo shirt with the school's name on it one of the days. After the last film of that day I came around the lobby's corner to meet up with some fellow critics for a night on the town. It turns out that one of them was going to introduce me to her, but it wasn't necessary as she and her director noticed what my shirt said and asked if I went there. Thus I ended up entering into a brief conversation with her.
The weird thing was that by this point we'd shifted outside the theater's front doors and were talking while a photographer was standing several steps away trying to get pictures. I imagine it was for the local newspaper, or maybe it was for the festival. Anyway, it was slightly strange to be speaking to her while that was going on. We'd also be interrupted periodically by those who wanted to get their picture taken with her.
It was a nice chat, even if I came clean to say that I wasn't crazy about the film she was in that played at the festival. (She asked and didn't seem put off by my trying to be tactful answer.) She graduated two springs before I started attending the school in the fall, so we were never there at the same time. (I initially guessed our years there might have briefly overlapped.)
From there it was time for the group to make its way to a nearby bar for karaoke. This actress and a couple of the other filmmakers tagged along. This festival in particular builds a sense of community that I doubt you get at much larger events, so the social intermingling of press, filmmakers, and whoever else is in the know isn't out of the ordinary.
Our group pretty much took over the bar, although there were some locals around when we happened to descend on this place. I had no intention of singing anything and stuck to it, and anyway, I might have been gone by the time my selection would have reached. (I stayed until nearly 2 a.m., and some people had yet to have their names called.) The actress in question did take her turn on the mic, as did the other filmmakers in attendance. I wouldn't be surprised if it's on YouTube, but I haven't found it.
So, there you have it, a little bit of my Hollywood hobnobbing in central Illinois.