Omahans get star-struck


By review Rob “Skippy” Williams

The Omaha Community Playhouse held a special interview with director Alexander Payne the evening of Oct. 5 as a fundraiser for Omaha’s Blue Barn Theatre.

The situation was interesting, but not because the fundraising of one theater was being done at a different one.

It was the disturbing feeling of watching many Omahans become so awe-struck at the chance to mingle with one of their own who has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry.

Is stardom really that much to get this city so excited about itself? Is Omaha that self-conscious? Maybe these are the wrong words to be using, but putting it any other way just doesn’t convey the unsettling feeling when people concern themselves too much with fame and notability.

Still, fame is what brought the crowd in, isn’t it? Why not revel in it for a bit?

But what was asked of this man just got annoying at times. It could be seen in his face — why ask so many questions about certain actors (“They’re just people,” he says) or what’s next for our town?

Payne just seemed interesting enough on his own. His seemed like a down-to-earth man, who admittedly doesn’t like attention drawn to him.

There was a sense he might have just given yes and no answers during the interview if he could have.

Hughston Walkinshaw, executive director of the Blue Barn and host of the interview, knew this and kept most of the interview centered on Payne’s love for filmmaking.

Through all of this, what was Payne’s perspective on the whole creative process?

In his view, the craft of film can be learned in about a week. The creative process, the coming up with the inspiration, funding and putting the process to work for you is where all the “depression” lies, as Payne puts it.

Amazingly enough, getting the actors to co-operate is only a minor problem he has to deal with. In his opinion, actors aren’t going to come to Omaha and work for scale unless they really want to be here.

Maybe now this town can put a little of this complex to rest.

As long as the work is good, the entertainment industry will still see this city as an opportune spot to focus its attention.

Other than the distractions away from the man of the hour, the night was quite enjoyable.

There was a great look into Payne’s vision of the movie at hand, About Schmidt, which was filmed in Omaha and stars Jack Nicholson, Cathy Bates and Dermot Mulroney.

While some scenes were viewed at the interview, Omaha won’t get a premiere of the whole movie until Nov. 11 at the Joslyn. The preview may be restricted to cast, crew and press.

A public premiere is set for On Nov. 10 at Lincoln’s Mary Riepma Ross Theatre.


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