Horror Film Director

MY NIGHTMARE, MY BIGGEST FEAR – Always, Alleluia!



At this point in my career I have done hundreds, if not thousands of interviews.

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The one question inevitably that is always asked being a horror director is “ What truly scares you? “

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A lot of times in interviews I skirt hard hitting questions, I think of some clever sidestep and focus the interview on what I want to talk about and not what the interviewer is actually asking…

What truly scares you!?

“My wife…” I joke… and then steer the conversation in a different direction.

The reality is I love my wife, and beneath her RBF (resting bitch face) she is the kindest, and sweetest person I have ever met.

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When I get uncomfortable I deflect…

So today… a peek behind my curtain.

“What truly scares me?!” Not being in control…

I AM A DIRECTOR…

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That’s right – I direct… As in, I tell people what to do, where to stand, what to wear, which direction to point the camera… I am in control… At least, it’s the illusion of being in control.

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I think part in parcel with being a director, is being a control freak…

My wife says I try to manipulate every situation – and while I fight her on it, she is true in her assessment…

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It’s not even a conscious thing I am doing… But the idea that I can not control the outcome of an event terrifies me. If I see something wrong I want to jump up and immediately fix it – sometimes that comes across as micromanaging…

Tuesday Night we premiered Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival in front of a sold out crowd of over 600 cast, crew, press, fans and industry and it was the scariest night of my life, and for me, and the anticipation was worse than any horror movie I could ever conceive.

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WHAT IS TRUE HORROR?

For those of you reading my blog, odds are you are aware of The Devil’s Carnival Roadshow… Basically every night we show up to a different city and turn the venue into a Carnival like environment – – the evening culminates with a screening of the movie, and ends with a Q and A.

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Distribution has become harder and harder for independent filmmakers. So for me, I decided instead of trying to play their game – I would create my own…

It’s an exhilarating, albeit exhausting way to introduce our movie to the masses.

Nightly, Terrance, myself and a couple of others on tour with us would pull up, unload a van, and quickly set up a PA system, lighting board, and some sort of decorations… This is of course after driving in a van some 12 hours that day…

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This process opened us up constantly to mishaps, missteps and Murphy and his law screwing us in the ass…

Something inevitable always goes wrong. Light bulbs would be burnt out… Mic’s wouldn’t work… Our opening acts didn’t show… A speaker in the theater was blown out, etc, etc…

But, we dealt with it… It’s part of the process… It’s part of our punk rock distribution method… But dealing with it doesn’t mean that each and every time something goes array my soul doesn’t break just a little…

It hurts… It hurts because we care… I care… you spend all this time creating something to illicit a reaction and all it takes is something small to shift ones reaction to another… Excitement can quickly turn to boredom. Love is inches away from hate… So a faulty lightbulb might seem small but in the scope of what we do, but a faulty lightbulb is EVERYTHING.

TDC II is the most important film for me as an artist and filmmaker.

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I am under no delusion that everyone will like this film. In fact, I understand the hate… It’s strange, over the top, utterly campy – and so far off center it’s borderline cinematically offensive.

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That said… I love it… I love it for being so different, and so original. I love it because to me at least, it’s unique. It’s more than just a movie… it’s an excuse to dress up. It’s a statement.  Fuck convention, go for conviction.

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I remember a review I read on Repo! where the critic said “…Bousman and company made a twelve million dollar art project” – – you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m totally okay with the making art projects in-between my non art projects… Wait, that is an absurd statement EVERY film is an art project… But my point is – I make TDC for me, and the fans. My hope is, others will embrace it too… Friends, family, my agents.

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That said, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t care what my peers thought.

I care… I care more than I should, or will ever admit on this blog… I care.

Tuesday evening was our WORLD PREMIERE for Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival and we all had a lot riding on it’s success…

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Any filmmaker reading this blog will understand and be able to relate to the stress and anxiety that goes into the first public showing of their film… For those who are not filmmakers or artists, the only way I can begin to describe the feeling is this… Imagine having to walk out on a stage utterly naked and have all the house lights turned on and then ask a room full people “JUDGE ME”…

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I consider myself a confident guy… but there is no amount of confidence that will ever make this process an easy one…

Walking into this screening I was already a nervous wreck… NOW – compound this anxiety with the fact that I had to put together the actually preshow that would open the carnival… so not only am I having mild panic attacks about the film itself – I am freaking the fuck out about a WHOLE other element.

I had to get 15 actors through makeup.

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Block the performers out and give them a script on what to do…

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Oh, not to mention that 1pm the day of the event we were still waiting on the movie to be sent to us from Toronto… So here I was at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, rehearsing a choir STILL without the final movie in my possession.

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Remember that biggest fear thing “lack of control” – – here it comes…

The big night comes…

The courtyard is a madhouse… Clowns, sword swallowers, belly dancers, carnival barkers – you name it, we most likely had it…alleluia-red-carpet-7063-2880x4320

The theater is packed with not only the leads of the movie, but my family. My mother and father have flown in from Kansas City. My wife’s mother, uncle and sister all came in town for the event… I have directors I respect and admire and executives whom I want to work with all in theater…

The lights dim… my heart is going a million miles an hour. So much can go wrong, and I have no control whatsoever if it does.

And then it happens… The preshow begins and the speakers begin to crackle… Then drop off completely… then, they come back on so loud I am confident people will lose all sense of hearing…

“No… NO!!! this can’t be the first thing people are witnessing with the Carnival”

Terrance looks over at me and I am swear I see him swallowing vomit…

The preshow band begins and the sound coming out of the distorted speakers is so terrible my wife looks over to me.

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“This isn’t possible… we rehearsed this – the sound was perfect two hours ago… what is happening right now? Why is our PA and microphones not working?”

I want to rush the stage, take the mic and fix this… But I can’t… The show has begun – I can’t do anything but we a passive witness… I too am just an audience member.

I feel my heart pounding so fucking hard I think I am having a heart attack… I jump up from my seat and rush out of the theater… I start pacing nervously… More and more fans funnel into the theater. More of my friends wave as they take their seats…

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“I glance down at my watch – – the band is still playing through terrible sounding speakers – – they should be off stage by now… Why are they still playing?”

I pace in small simi-psychotic circles.

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My phone buzzes… I get a text… two texts… three texts… My phone is fucking blowing up… “Darren, why is the band still on?” The band was suppose to be on for 5 minutes, we are approaching almost triple that…

“I need to rush the stage… I need to rush the stage…”

CONTROL… CONTROL… I NEED TO TAKE CONTROL AND FIX THIS.

I break out into a cold sweat… This is my nightmare… this is my biggest fear playing out in front of me.

My dad comes out into the lobby and finds me.

“Darren?”

I scream… “NOT NOW!” I just yelled at my dad… For nothing… But not for nothing… This is four years of hard work and I’m looking like an amateur.

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Four years of struggles, fighting and sacrifice and this one event, this one moment is how this movie… and ME will be judged…

 

I rush down the side isle of the theater – and inform our amazing EMCEE – – “We need to start this show… like RIGHT NOW” I bark…

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She nods, and rushes the stage just as the band stops playing.

I breath a quick sigh of relief. And the relief was just that… Quick.

Not two hours earlier we had rehearsed her preshow opening and it was flawless… Now, some 120 minutes later – everything that could go wrong was going wrong…

There was a delay in turnover from the projector, and the preshow was not launching…

I threw a glance into the audience – and smiling faces stared ahead seemingly into what we were selling…

I tried to breath… maybe this all wasn’t so bad…

We were called to stage, we introduced the movie, and we scurried back to our seats.

Once again I sank into my chair. Laura, my beautiful wife grabbed my hand and offered me a smile.

The lights dimmed, and…

Nothing… absolutely NOTHING HAPPENED…

For at least one minute the audiences sat in utter silence….

I can’t swear to my next statement, but in that silence I am pretty sure I heard the sound of a grown man crying – I am pretty sure this was none other than Terrance Zdunich.

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Yes my dear readers the projector was not switching over from our preshow to the actual movie…

“DEAR GOD, IS THIS PUNISHMENT FOR MAKING QUASI SACRILEGIST FILMS ABOUT YOU?”

And then, suddenly… there was hope. The projector illuminated… The picture appeared on screen… The audience erupted in applause… my muscles relaxed… blood once again began to flow… that is until I realized the movie was playing without sound… The first 50 seconds of the film was silent… Some issue with 5.1 patching.

“NO! This is our premiere!!!! Ted Neeley JESUS CHRIST himself was in the audience.

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My mom was witnessing what I felt was my downfall… and my wife… the very woman holding my hand looked over to me and offered me a sympathetic ‘you can’t win them all expression’.

This was a beautiful disaster… We had three separate rehearsals all which had been executed perfectly, and not one single issue arose… Now, in the moment where everything mattered, I felt my carnival was crumbling all around me.

I was sitting in a different section than Terrance and Saar but I could feel their disgust in what was transpiring.

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But the worst was yet to come, my dear readers. All that had led to this moment was nothing more than an appetizer to the main course.

As I looked at the screen my stomach dropped. Major story based VFX shots were missing from the film. Not one or two, A LOT – entire fucking sequences… Poof – gone!  This is the equivalent of a T-PAIN track without the voice manipulation… Or Seinfeld without the laugh track…

“How is this humanely possible??” But I knew the answer to this question. When we were color correcting the film we had a layer of effects that had been “alpha channeled” and placed on their own video layer… When the tape was sent to us (which arrived mere HOURS before the screening) it was married with that video channel not selected.  This I take complete blame for – I had made last minute changes to our film up until its release – errors like this happen – just most of the time they are caught before screening to a packed house.

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I rushed from theater once again, contemplating drowning my severe shock with copious amounts of alcohol.  While I was confident the audience wouldn’t realize what was missing I was…

As I stood in the lobby hyperventilating – my phone buzzes again.

“Bro, film is out of sync – and the sound is all screwy.”

I rush back in the auditorium, throw open the door and stare at the screen – and sure as hell, the film is subtly out of sync and our 5.1 is sounding more like 3.5.

I was defeated…

This night… this one night was suppose to be the night that my family, cast and crew could sit back and toast our accomplishments… The night where I could momentarily rest and celebrate for once again pulling off something so outside of the box was… was…

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True fear, utter horror is having to sit through and bare witness to something you love succumb to one mishap after the next and not being able to do ONE SINGLE THING to fix it…

Alleluia! was good – IS GOOD – but would the people sitting in those chairs be able to see past the mishaps firing off in rapid succession?

In my opinion Alleluia is a better film that REPO! or TDC1 but what would THEY think?

When the movie ended I couldn’t get out of the theater fast enough… I was devastated…

As I stepped into the court yard wanting to disappear but I was suddenly surrounded by a swarm of people…

Easily over a hundred who wanted to hug me… shake my hand… Share with me their experience with the Carnival.

Fans were over the moon…

All of this stress, and worry, and fear, and terror and the very audience I intended to move were there, standing, completely unaware of the nightmare I had just lived… They were genuinely excited to be here, and part of the night… All of the mishaps and technical errors didn’t matter to them.

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I stood in the courtyard and watched as my closest friends diverted their eyes, and pretended not to see me… (and now, even days later only a few of my invited guests have reached out to me or tried dot contact me).

I didn’t realize how sensitive I actually was until that moment… I have perfected the “I don’t give a fuck attitude” but the reality is I give lots of fucks… I give too many fucks.

In my head, all the technical glitches destroyed what we were trying to create, yet when the fans flooded out of the theater, their faces told another story. The community of the Carnival surrounded me, and began pulling me in 100 directions talking about their favorite scenes, and what they planned on cosplaying on upcoming screenings…

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I glanced around and suddenly my heart rate normalized… Fans were already dressing up as characters.

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Here I was torn… So much wanting to be embraced by the mainstream, and my peers… yet at the same time proudly waving my middle finger to the mainstream and trying to construct my own path both in distribution and storytelling…

I left the Saw world because I felt too comfortable… To at ease.. I wanted to be challenged… I want to feel that if I fell, there was no net that was going to catch me.

I make weird movies… I want to do weird shit… It’s who I am.

I looked around the courtyard and it was filled with our fans… smiling, already singing the songs… what to me was a huge disaster of a premiere went unnoticed to the fans I made the movie for.

Some day, I aspire to make a film that is embraced by both my peers and my fans… But I guess when you make a kooky rock opera featuring David Hasselhoff, and Tech N9ne you can’t expect unilateral love.

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The Devil’s Carnival is abrasive, and not subtle… It’s an assault on your senses… Both as an experience and as a movie.

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I woke up the next morning and instead of celebrating the night – I spent hours on the phone arranging for the master video files to be fixed… Visual Effects to be reinstated, and the movie to be reassembled back to the state in which Terrance and I high fived each other after viewing it.

I learned a lot last night…

I can’t control everything even though I want to… Sometimes you just have to let go and let whatever is going to happen happen…

I learned you can’t make everyone like what you do… some will embrace it, others despise it… both are okay with me.

In two weeks we start the tour. By then our kinks will be ironed out. The tape will be fixed. Our mic’s won’t interfere with our PA system…

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And if they do, so be it… That’s the point of this whole thing… Live interactive immersive movies… Shit can go wrong…

I am proud of my failures as much as I am my successes…

Writing this blog made me realize how lucky I am. I get to make art. Not just movies, but actual art with the most talented artists I have ever worked with.

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I get to work with my best friends…

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I get to travel the world… And I get to turn courtyards into mad houses.

This thing might not be for my friends… It might not be for you my dear readers… But I can sleep well knowing that I am apart of something different. Something that causes our fans to line up, dress up and maybe, just for the night enter our carnival and become somebody else.

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To me, being an artist is about taking risks… Doing things that aren’t safe, and dare I say… dangerous.

Getting in a van, and traveling from venue to venue like a bunch of carnies is how we roll, so consider this your invitation to roll with us… Who knows what will happen?

Always Alleluia,

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*** Thank you to all the people who have stood by me, and this film.  From the actors, to the crew, to our fantastic producers… Most importantly – to the fans… You continue to lift me up and remind me why we continue to do this! ***





14 thoughts on “MY NIGHTMARE, MY BIGGEST FEAR – Always, Alleluia!

  1. I’ve said it before, you guys are far too hard on yourselves. I can guarantee you that not a SINGLE soul in that theatre wanted perfection. You know what EVERY soul wanted? We wanted to see you. To see Terrance. To see the baby the two of you (and Saar and everybody else) have spent the few years laboring over, nurturing, rearing and bringing to life. We wanted to see the amazing friends we’ve made BECAUSE of your collective talents and efforts. We wanted to support you, to show you, to prove to you that we still love what you do, what you stand for. If what I did, isn’t enough proof of that, I haven’t a clue what is. You guys constantly preach the fact that what you do is more than make movies. That it’s art, that it’s unique and can’t be replicated. Next time to have something go wrong… do me a favor. Go into the theatre. Watch the audience NOT scream and throw shit, NOT leave. Watch them stay because they WANT TO BE THERE. Then smile, breathe and relax 😉

  2. Your passion is incredible and undeniable – I feel for you on the mishaps… but at the same time your posting about the event and the fans being over the moon are amazing amazing amazing things. I’ll be there to support the whole sha-bang in Denver!

  3. Holy shit! What a read! I actually cried a little at the end. I can’t imagine the intense anxiety you had to endure. (Well, as an anxious, sometimes control freak.. maybe I can a little.) Know and remember this. We LOVE you! We LOVE The Devil’s Carnival movies.. and we will watch them as long as you keep making them. Hail and Always Alleluia!

  4. Always remember you didn’t just make a movie, you made an experience. Just like people dress in drag to go see RHPS and have a blast, people will dress in their favorite carnie or sinner style and he there to support the experience you are sharing with them. Your fans will be behind you and will be there to support your work.

  5. Hey you,

    Yeah, you, with the funny hair.

    You know how much you’re loved, right? I hope you do.

    I can’t see you on the road this time because I’ve been horribly sick for over a year, and my heart is broken. Even though driving to Sacramento in the summer is very unappealing, even though parking in SF is a nightmare, even though waiting in line to say hi and get autographs is exhausting, even though some audience members show up blitzed and I want to punch them, even though theaters can be way too hot & stuffy, 2012 was a huge wonderful year for me, and you were a big part of that.

    Thank you.

  6. I always say that making an artistic event happen is like playing a huge game of Jenga. You hope that what you are building stands tall and proud and people will be impressed, even though you KNOW that all it will take is one miscue and it can all come crashing down around you, leaving you a withering pile of despair. The only thing to do when you see it fall down is revel in the rubble and carry on through the carnage and know that you can build it all up again. Mistakes make us learn and true art will prevail!!! You shall prevail!!! ALLELUIA!!!!!

  7. All I have to say to you is that I needed to see this. YOU, sir, have inspired me to keep working at my own creative endeavors and never give up. Embrace the failure and keep working towards success.

    You also have helped me identify my own feelings, that I am like a director that I feel and wish to take control of any project that is mine.

    Keep going good sir and hopefully I’ll get to see you once again while you’re on the road.

  8. Nothing as uniquely beautiful and original as this film series is going to be without its hiccups but it was an amazing night from where I was sitting in audience. Here’s hoping to see it again before the road tour is out! Much love for you guys and TDC.

  9. Darren, corny though this may sound– reading this, all I want to do is hug you tightly and reassure you to Hell and back that you have done an AMAZING job. Mishaps and all. They happen, quite clearly, but they are a stepping stone, not a bump in the road.
    This is something I desperately wish I could attend, but being in the UK can only make do with posts like these to learn of Alleluia and each new post I read feeds my excitement and anticipation for the day I can finally see this for myself.

    I met you at London Film & Comic Con last month (not that I expect you to keep track of everybody you meet, mind) and I realised that in the end, I came away having not said many of the things I’d wanted to say to you for a very long time. Having deeply admired your work ever since my Repo! days, I honestly cannot express how inspirational your obvious passion for what you do is to me. I very much wish I had thought to tell you these things in person, but since I am now saying it here, please– rest assured, you’re doing beautifully. Things are always going to go wrong, and I can only imagine the gut-wrenching fear you must have been feeling when all of this happened. The risks you take have the most outstanding results, regardless of any glitches you may come across in the process. You’ve come a long way and you’ll continue to go far, Darren, and so many of us will be right there behind you!

  10. Having been a part of stage & screen for many years, both behind the scenes & before the camera, I know some of these struggles. Our first feature film almost went to HBO, until a producer decided to badmouth the rep, (who, incidentally was standing right behind her). We lost the entire film the day of our premiere. The computer ate it while our director & filmographer were rushing some final edits. What we had to premiere, that night, was the roughest rough cut ever. No FX, color gradients were off, sound was off. It was a disaster, a true life nightmare. I sat beside one of my dearest friends, the writee & director of this film, dressed to the nines, and held her hand while she cried. She was sick & devastated. I wanted to fix it all for her. For us. What was screening was not our movie, not her vision. I teared up & squeezed her hand as she got up to leave. She couldn’t bear to watch an unfinished product with a theatre full of people expecting a finished feature film. She had to leave, but begged me to stay. I did. I watched the entire thing, I cried. It was less than stellar, it was not our movie. It was like watching dailies slapped together haphazardly and blown up to the big screen.
    That night, my first feature film, our premiere was sullied. We never have fully recouped from this, though the film was completed & we had another premiere later on. We never made it to HBO. But, having the final product, even missing many parts that were so, so good (& cut for various reasons), I’m proud to say that we accomplished something pretty awesome
    And so have you.
    You’re not alone in this. You never were. I’ve been there & know what you went through. I’m sorry for that, but I am so damn proud of you! You did it. You made it. They loved it. You fixed it, and the following shows will run smoother. You’ve got this. And your Carnies have got you.
    See you in Sept, Darren. Hail, and always Alleluia!

  11. Darren,

    Though you likely don’t remember me, we met on the first TDC road tour. I was the kid cosplaying the Hobo Clown back in Toronto, one of the first down the stairs to meet you and Terrance. I fell in love with Repo! back in 2011, and was one of the first members of the facebook group for TDC when you guys put out the teaser trailer of Emilie on Christmas that year.
    Going to that show was an experience like none other, something I would have never imagined existed. They even called me on stage for one of the performances, the Mental Floss Sideshow. I was a member of that community, and I felt like I belonged there. It’s been a long time since then, but I never once forgot the feeling of community that you and Terrance have given me and all of your fans. That was my first ever cosplay, and you guys complimenting it meant so much to me.
    You’re doing something so remarkable, something that nobody has done before. It’s inspiring and something that makes me want to create my own forms of wacky, insane art alongside it. We fans don’t notice the small things, the tech errors, the blips in scheduling. Rather, we enjoy the shows for what they are and have a blast. I wasn’t able to go to the second road tour, but I will be dressing up and attending this one in Toronto.
    And so, what I’m getting at through this extremely convoluted and longwinded message is that you guys are some of my personal heroes for everything that you’ve done and continue to do. You’re one of the driving forces behind a subculture in your own right, and your achievements far outweigh your failures. I may never know what it’s like to be sitting in that director’s chair, but I do know that you are an artistic genius. So, please, don’t be so hard on yourself. No great work has been created without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

    All the best,

    Alek

  12. not gonna lie, i damn near had a panic attack just reading this. I guess we’re terrified by similar things (though the main difference is you still jump into your challenges and face them and i don’t).
    i’m honestly super excited to see your movie and be a part of the carnival once more. I have no doubt that it will be an awesome experience no matter what difficulties might arise.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Amazing. We are so looking forward to this over here in the east! And remember, Fails make better stories. Although I’m pretty sure this was viewed as a success by most that attended!
    Rock onward.

  14. My beau and I attended the Tuesday premier. It was well worth the wait. Yes, there were mishaps, there are always mishaps. But once the opening scene began, I believe everyone was blown away… I know we were. Such awesomeness we were sad to see it end and can’t wait to see what’s next for TDC!

    We just might go to the Santa Ana showing since it’s right down the street. Take a deep breath, smile, and always alleluia.

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