Washington Life got a chance to catch up with director Linklater at the screening to hear more about the film and advocating for more arts education in schools. Watch the interview here:
The excitement and buzz was palpable amongst the 30 or so teens and tweens (ok, and amongst some of the adults as well) as Linklater, Danes, and Efron greeted a select group of area-insiders at a pre-screening reception at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown. Dane and Efron made the day (and Facebook profile pictures) of many of the guests as they took the time to take photos and great everyone. Young Jocelyn Quinn, the nine year old daughter of Susanna Quinn had created a letter for Efron. I naively guessed that it said, “Dear Zach, I love you!” She looked mindfully at me and responded, “No at all. It lets him know that I can help him meet important politicians.” Wow – now that’s D.C.
Speaking of important politicians, Danes, Efron, and Linklater spent the day of the screening jumping from high-profile meetings to advocate the arts. Face to face meetings were held with Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council; Kalpen Modi, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement; Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and William Jawando, Director of Boards and Commissions, White House Liaison, Department of Education. They also met with California senator Rep. Barbara Boxer.
The Pollywood trio was advocating to strengthen arts education in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy. Their recommendations included: Adding resources, using arts as a way to turn schools around, creating an arts report card for schools, and pushing for a scale-up for arts in education grants.
The film Me and Orson Welles is a perfect jumping off point for arts and youth education. The film tells the story of a high school student (Efron) cast in a production of “Julius Caesar” directed by a young Orson Welles (McKay) in 1937 at the Mercury theater. Select footage was first shown at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Me and Orson Welles will be released in theaters nationwide November 25th.
The film is an enjoyable fictional behind the scenes accountant of Welles’ production of “Julius Caesar,” which he directed when he was 22. Although Danes and Efron are delightful in their on-screen dalliance, it’s Christian McKay, who as Orson Welles, plays the domineering young genius to a tee. We wouldn’t be surprised to see McKay get an Oscar nod for his portrayal. McKay embodies the character, swinging from manic megalomania to light-hearted compassion. He becomes Welles like Philip Seymour Hoffman becomes Truman Capote in Capote.
Following the screening, Impact Arts + Film Fund held a discussion panel with Danes, Efron, Linklater, and Robert Lynch from Americans for the Arts. The discussion was moderated, with limited effect by the Post’s Valerie Strauss. The Me and Orson Welles trio spoke passionately about their love for the arts and the need for arts education in schools. The crowd also discovered why Linklater – known for his films Fast Food Nation, Before Sunset, Waking Life, Before Sunrise, and more – enjoyed this project so much. “Richard is one of the biggest Orson Welles fans I’ve ever met,” said Efron, who spoke in between giggles, gasps, and cell phone photo clicks of the teen girls in the audience. “He probably knows more about Welles than anyone.” To that end, teens probably know more about Efron than anyone. If he can’t get them and politicians to listen to him on arts education, no one can.
Afterwards, Efron, Danes and Linklater held court in the back table at Fahrenheit at the Ritz Carlton taking the time to speak with me about their Pollywood whirlwind day. They were each as kind as their on screen personas. If they made as much of an impression on the White House as they made of me, then we should be seeing more focus on the arts in NCLF soon.