by Mark Anderson
If you ask, many people are not ready to screen an unknown feature film (in this case, ‘i like you’) in their homes with complete strangers right at this very moment. Even if you provide the screen, the sound system and popcorn.
“It’s a lot to ask, but hey, we bring the party!” says Fritz Donnelly the artist, filmmaker, and personality behind the ‘Home Invasion’ concept.
On an East Village street corner last Friday night, Fritz and a small band of ticket-holding event attendees asked the world to watch a movie with them, just so long as it was at someone else’s place.
“It’s a friendly invasion. We’re very polite. We take off our shoes,” assured Eyal, an attendee and native New Yorker.
A lot of passersby on the street were curious about the movie, applauded the ‘home invasion’ effort, appreciated the audacity, laughed at the humor, were bewildered, weren’t sure — but few were ready to go through with it.
“This screen could be showing a movie… to you… right now… in your house!” Fritz cried, unscrolling a vintage portable projection screen.
For some, another time was better, or they didn’t live nearby, or they didn’t know anything about ‘i like you,’ Fritz’s first narrative feature, a ‘quirky surreal romantic comedy’ shot in the neighborhood, funded on Kickstarter, made on donated time and equipment, and starring Fritz and Christina. And for some, they were just walking by and wanted to keep walking.
For some, but not for all.
A nail salon, a Mexican restaurant, and a pair of single girls living in a studio apartment all said ‘yes.’ And three hours and two screenings later, everybody was smiling.
“I have confidence in people. Still, I’m kind of amazed it worked,” said Fritz between screenings. “In the beginning it was kind of like hitch-hiking: humbling and you have no idea who will stop, or how much longer you’ll be on the side of the road.
“I really respect the people who did this with me,” he continued.
The ‘Home Invasion’ attendees bought tickets online at HiChristina.com–his and his wife Christina’s ‘interactive performance art’ presence–met on the appointed street corner and jumped right in.
“Everyone became a full part of the effort, talking to strangers, following a guy with big hair to a birthday party that seemed promising, initiating dialogue, explaining the movie based on looking at the DVD cover, even heating popcorn and leveling the projector.”
The group was carrying everything you need to screen a movie, an LCD projector, a portable screen from the super 8 movie era, even a sound system with BOSE speakers; oh — and an extension cord. The whole setup worked as long as there was one free three-pronged outlet.
“I saw the screen and I thought, awesome.” Remarked a man who suddenly joined the group with his partner, Emily. They couldn’t host the screening but she made two calls to friends hoping to find a host apartment, and when that didn’t pan out, they accompanied the group on the adventure. “I’m an A/V tech so I understand what it’s like to lug one of those screens around. Respect.”
“I’ve been to some of his events before,” said Robert, an attendee dressed in jeans and a sports jacket. “He encourages me to feel uncomfortable, to push the boundaries, but he’s there with you. Sticking through it is totally rewarding. Definitely a memorable experience.”
“There’s a political dimension to the whole thing too,” Fritz claims. “Like where would someone spontaneously share their art on a Friday night in the East Village or LES in 2014? How can you show things to people who are outside your circle of friends, or outside any circle you travel in? We did that tonight,” commented Fritz. “There are many great cultural institutions but they require planning and process and have specific audiences.”
A common reaction from some passersby was to point out other venues nearby that would welcome a screening event with some advance notice. But for Fritz the immediacy and the intimacy were just as important.
“It was fun to go out there and see how open (or not) people were,” explained Lauren, another attendee. “It involved a little bit of risk-taking by everyone, and I think anything that involves a risk is always fulfilling in some way, even if it’s just trying to watch a movie.”
“They’re going against the trend of the neighborhood getting more and more expensive, and less bohemian,” said Emily on why she joined the ‘Home Invasion’ coming off the street. “This is the kind of thing that people imagine happened in New York once upon a time.”
So how did it happen just a few nights ago?
“We decided we would go out and find something fun to do that didn’t involve alcohol for a change,” explained Mariah, one of the pair who invited the ‘Home Invaders’ into her and her roommate Phoebe’s apartment. “We stopped outside this restaurant where there was a projection and people inside, and it seemed like something out of the ordinary was going on. ‘Go inside and ask,’ said this guy who was standing there too. Then he walked off. Odd, but we did. We really owe this amazing night to the encouragement of a random stranger!”
“And who can say no to sparkly pants,” chimed in Phoebe, referring to Fritz’s ice-capade-like leggings and purple sequined bolero.
“The movie itself was super sweet,” commented Lauren. “Quirky and romantic … A modern day NY artists’ love story! Loved the whole experience of bringing real people into experiencing a fictional movie that stars real people. There’s something really cool and meta happening here…can’t quite put it into words…”
As a result of doing this event a lot of people have offered to show the movie in their homes, their gardens, on their roofs, and the staff at Oaxaca, the Mexican restaurant, encouraged the ‘Home Invaders’ to come back anytime.
The next scheduled screening of ‘i like you’ will take place with the theme of “Robe and/or Undergarments” at the Manhattan Inn on Sunday, March 2nd at 5pm.
“What better way to watch a movie than in a robe and slippers or better yet, your underwear!” Rolyn co-owner of the Manhattan Inn assures us that the heat in the screening room will be cranked all the way up.