When director Sebastian Gutierrez woke up this morning, he probably saw his day ending a little differently. Just a little, I’m sure. He was likely nervous. His film, Elektra Luxx — the much anticipated sequel to 2009’s Women in Trouble — was due to make its world premiere at the Paramount theater in Austin in the prime slot of SXSW 2010’s opening night. Around 9:15pm, he would join stars Carla Gugino, Malin Ackerman, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Emma Bell on the red carpet. Some time later, he would take the stage and introduce his film. He was charismatic, self-deprecating and as he was with Women in Trouble, filled with nervous excitement. An hour later, he didn’t expect the screen to go black and the lights to go up. The projector was broken. The world premiere was ruined.
At this point, you have to ask yourself what you would do. You’re a filmmaker and your big premiere has just halted an hour into the film, at a pivotal moment when your many storylines are starting to come together. As panic begins to set in, you’d probably want to crawl into the fetal position and hope for a miracle.
Not Sebastian Gutierrez. Moments after the lights came back up, as bewilderment set in over the capacity audience, Gutierrez appeared on stage for an impromptu question and answer session. Noticeably rattled by the situation, he went into stall mode. Genuinely funny and quick witted, Gutierrez quickly gathered back the attention of the crowd and began to continue entertaining where his movie left off.
What began as a quick stall tactic quickly became a full-blown Q&A with the attending members of the cast. But not before Gutierrez began his own stand-up routine, talking about the film, the filmmaking process, his upcoming project — which sounds awesome — and he even geeked out about some camera technology. He talked about actors being hungry for work, hungry for great roles and willing to take on short projects just to keep up with their craft. It brought to mind the conversation we’ve been having about the lack of good roles, especially for women. As Carla Gugino would explain later, Sebastian gets the actors on set because he writes great characters. Watching him on stage, interacting with fans in a time of crisis, it is easy to see where these great characters come from — they are created in the mind of a storyteller with incredible talent.
As the night continued to wear on, the prospect of seeing the rest of the movie dwindled. But the energy in the theater did not. Even as a noticeably frazzled Janet Pierson — whose film festival had been running in a perfectly smooth fashion to this point — joined him on stage, Gutierrez kept his chin up. His movie was playing well with the crowd, as was clear by the large amount of the audience who would not leave until the absolute last moment. That’s what made it especially sad, as it was clearly a crowd-pleaser. I know that I wouldn’t dare miss a rescheduled screening. The questions kept coming and Gutierrez continued to fill the grand hall of the Paramount with the laughs of a nervous audience.
It was easy to see that a tragic situation was becoming a wonderful and rare festival moment. It was an unfortunate situation, the fault of no one at SXSW, just a terribly timed technology burn-out. But out of tragedy came a wonderful moment between the die hard movie fans and a director, who in a strong show of character and incredible class, stood on stage and delivered a spirited Q&A — one that earned him a standing ovation in the end. It wasn’t the way that anyone imagined the night would end, especially Sebastian Gutierrez.
SXSW does plan to schedule another screening of the film. Stay tuned to SXSW.com for more info.