By Alexa Gold
Most people recognize or even remember the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969.
For me, the days of peace, love and ‘music’ lived on at the Woodstock Film Festival of 2014.
When working in the office as a press intern, I organized the distribution of film access tickets to writers from widely known websites such as The Hollywood Reporter and Huffington Post, as well as local publications like Chronogram and Daily Freeman. While assembling press packets and examining press badges felt like a PR major’s dream, nothing compared to the excitement of the actual festival.
While I met Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream, Labyrinth) in the bathroom and got to hold Natalie Portman’s hand as she walked up the stairs at the Maverick Award ceremony, I figured I’d share another story that is an up-close and personal preview of “cool” stuff that happens behind-the-scenes:
Over the course of the months leading up to the festival, I was lucky enough to have developed a close relationship with our Assistant to the Deputy Press Director. As a result, I was assigned to chauffeuring her to different events and became like an assistant to the assistant. Therefore, at a handful of festival screenings, we were equally responsible for representing the press team.
At this particular screening, Seann William Scott (American Pie, Dude, Where’s my Car?) and Friends star, Courteney Cox were our VIP guests for Cox’s film, Just Before I Go.
VIPs spend the majority of the screening either enjoying their film or relaxing backstage before engaging in a Question & Answer session with their audience. Sara* and I were introduced to Courteney Cox before the film even began. As the film was playing, Seann William Scott arrived and waited in the lobby with us. I mustered up some courage and decided to approach him and introduce us. Before getting strictly to business, I told Seann how much I loved Dude, Where’s My Car? and that I even had an AOL Instant Messenger Screen Name devoted to the arcade where the lead characters, Jesse and Chester, always hung out. Seann was more than humble and was thrilled that I wasn’t kidding about my devoted fandom. He explained to me how difficult it is to be an actor who is primarily known for comedy. “Many people treat your role itself like a joke,” he said. Seann continued to discuss how excited he was to finally play the protagonist in Cox’s serious drama and how he hopes it will improve his résumé as a well-versed actor. Seann William Scott was so down-to-Earth that Sara and I almost forgot we were at work. As the film was coming to an end, we snapped back into job mode. We explained to him that after the stage was set up with banners and microphones by the production team, Lori Singer (Footloose) would introduce him and Courteney for a Q&A session. During the conversation, Courteney’s daughter, Coco, even asked a few questions to her mom. After, both stars took photos with their fans, even me and Sara.
It was awesome to see celebrities (who I’ve loved forever) strip away the red carpet and act candidly toward their friends, family and complete strangers!
In the end, I realized that’s what Woodstock is all about. As the Joni Mitchell lyrics from Woodstock suggest: “We are stardust/we are golden/and we’ve got to get ourselves/back to the garden.” For me, going to school at SUNY New Paltz and exploring the Hudson Valley has showed me that this place is a magical getaway where people can be fully themselves, without fear of judgment. Upon graduating, I will miss the Hudson Valley with all of my heart but you’ll know where to find me next fall; volunteering at the 16th Annual Woodstock Film Festival. Back to the garden I go!
For more information on the Woodstock Film Festival, visit www.woodstockfilmfestival.com
*Names have been changed