Fear And A Film Premiere In Las Vegas

Curt Lives It Up In Las Vegas For The Pinch

by Curt Wiser

I had other plans, I was there to attend a premier of The Pinch, a movie my attorney claims I did some visual effects for


On a brisk August morning I stepped out into the gate of the Las Vegas airport and suddenly had to weave through rows of slot machines and a few patrons taking their daily medicine. Sweet Jesus, they don’t waste any time in this city, I thought. I had other plans, I was there to attend a premier of The Pinch, a movie my attorney claims I did some visual effects for. That sounds reasonable to me, no need to argue with the man. This is a rare kind of indie, The Pinch is a crime story about an errand boy for the Mob who decides to hold his boss ransom to get the kind of big money he feels he deserves. Charging through the terminal I was anxious to check into my room.

Luggage in hand I found myself at the counter of the Linq Hotel, one of the more modest spots on the strip….. but my arrival was poorly timed. It was after 11 but my room was not ready yet. While the staff cleansed my bed of whatever horrors the prior occupant had left behind, I decided to check in at the festival, the Action On Film Festival the locals call it. Any well intentioned reporter of the filmgoing public is nothing without his press badge. Being a frugal, indie filmmaker I slung a suit over my luggage and walked over to the theater under the hot Nevada sun.

This was no ordinary venue, the Brenden Theater was part of the Palms Hotel. You have to shuffle through the casino and past a food court and there it is. The wall of the lobby emits a neon glow with the words “Brenden” and “Theater” in pink and blue lettering. Those two words took turns lighting up, like a middle aged couple fighting for dominance. Beer and wine are available for a price, lobby cards and posters for independent movies are everywhere….. this whole scene is not for the faint of heart.

A woman is behind the counter tossing out Filmmaker badges to the eager animals lined up. At the moment, she is my only contact for the fest. “Excuse me miss, I’ll just get out of your way here, I should have a press badge under Curt Wiser.” She thumbs through a binder of names, then gives me a stoic look. I show her the email from one of the festival directors that stated my badge is ready to be claimed. The woman asks me to wait while she calls up the ranks. Far be it the time to tear into this lone volunteer with some outburst like “Do you know who I am? I was invited here to see some film and write some words, and not even Kubrick’s ghost will stop me!” But I did not say that, cooler heads prevailed. I chose to study the lobby cards for printing bleeds while the fate of the whole trip rests on a phone call. Try to blend in man, don’t let them see your fear.

Thank the stars, one voicemail and a text reply later I had my press credentials on my neck. I put my feet up during a screening of a documentary about real life super heroes who roam the crime filled streets looking for validation. It was not a bad way to wait for the Vegas sun to set. The premiere of The Pinch was two days away, that was ample time for me to cover the festival and for this young man to get into trouble.

This was my first time in Sin City, so I really wanted to take it all in, get a lay of the land. I would not have to do this alone, in one of the many fine restaurants inside my hotel I was eating dinner and started to talk with the woman seated at the bar beside me.

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This was Alice from Belgium, she spoke perfect English and was much more cerebral than American girls her age. Her black dress matched her ebony hair, her smile lit up, it rivalled any sign the boulevard had to offer. I finished my meal and said “want to go for a walk?” Those brown eyes blinked like a confused curtain call. “I want to walk to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.” She replied. We looked it up, it was an hour and 12 minute walk away. Remember, this was a five star lady in a four star joint….. what’s a guy to do?


We walked all the way there and back, I enjoyed every step. Along the way we took photos of the sights and talked about the world. Before we knew it, the Vegas sign shined like a beacon before us. I was surprised how small the damn this was. The movies and photos always made it look much bigger. This was fitting I thought, one final slight of hand in that grand palace where the house always wins.


The night before the premiere I watched many films, shorts mostly. From this came reviews for The Cold Dark, Kill AL, and The Secret Lives of Teachers. Attendance was hit or miss, some screenings were packed with these film hungry creatures, others felt like a high school dance on a Tuesday….. very sparse. That is life for you, sometimes things work out, other times you are thrown, but you have to get on that horse and ride man!


That night I decided to walk back to the hotel. Even though it was only a block down a shady side street, I saw homeless people sleeping in the bushes and in the confines of a walkway overpass. It was all bleak, sad I thought, yet I kept walking. I guess those bright neon lights of the Vegas Strip only shine so far.


The day of the premiere had arrived, I was able to sit and talk with the writer, director Ashley Scott Meyers beforehand. Over drinks we shared stories from the trenches of the indie film scene. It is always nice to know you are not alone in the good fight. His wife Lisa Meyers was also there, she helped with the casting of the movie. This is common for indie films, everyone helps out and are happy to be working on something.


Cast and crew united in the lobby for a few waning minutes until our moment had arrive. The festival took over the three screens on the left side of the place. Fitting in a way, these indie movies are different, a unique glimmer next to the spotlit Hollywood releases of the day. We entered the screening with a mix of wonder and panic…. at least I did. Thankfully, we did not have the place to ourselves, it was half full. All that was left to do was sit and wait, pray that some mad man projectionist does not put the image upside down. The lights go down, and our 24 frame per second magic act begins.

Brenden Theater
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Alice And Curt Wiser

The people reacted, they laughed during a few funny moments. When you are watching a movie you helped make in front of strangers, you are focused on a different level. You take note of how the audience reacts, if anyone starts to talk with their date, pull out their cell phone or worst of all, leave their seat. By that point, you know every frame of the movie, but you may never get another opportunity to see it in a theater setting, so you saver it and take in every moment.


Then the closing credits rolled, which represented my favorite contributions to The Pinch. Each member of the lead cast had a featured clip of them, ending on a freeze frame with an animated credit that pops up. It looked great, it was inspiring to see it on a big peripheral vision filling screen. Look quick, there’s my screen credit. I blinked, and it was still there. Fade to black and a spattering of applause was our cue to stand up and convene out in the lobby.


We all swapped stories about the life project we just saw and the future of others past. We took group photos in front of a backdrop conveniently branded by the Action On Film Festival. Photos with the movie poster of The Pinch were also in order. This was our night, our way to scream with delight that we were here, we are part of something.


A personal highlight was when I talked actor James Aston Lake, who gave a tremendous performance as the mob boss, Kain. I asked him about a scene when this character was standing, tied to an upright furniture dolly and hopped to the side as an attempt to escape but ended up falling over. The stunt looked like the real deal and because in that particular shot, you could not see the dolly behind him. I always assumed they faked that and made it real with added sound effects. Much to my surprise James told me that he was tied to that dolly in that shot and any other that his character was put through that. Whoever said dedication to one’s craft is easy, never truly known the depths of what that means. Sentiments like that remind me why I am proud to be an artist, why every day we take that journey into the abyss, to see what comes out the other side.


This was only one night, but the movie lives on. The Pinch is available on I-tunes, Amazon Prime and other digital platforms. Please see it, share in this reverie of ours, because that makes the dream real.


Curt Wiser is a filmmaker author and visual artist. His other credits include the Suspense movie Cam-Girl.


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