RHS grad’s film is now ‘on demand’

The film stars Kristen Bell, noted for her television roles in Veronica Mars, Heroes and House of Lies, as well as her film roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and When in Rome.

The film stars Kristen Bell, noted for her television roles in Veronica Mars, Heroes and House of Lies, as well as her film roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and When in Rome.

The Lifeguard, written and directed by Ridgefield High School graduate Liz Garcia, is surfacing this week, but not on the big screen — yet.

The coming-of-age movie, which competed for Best Dramatic Film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, will be released today for customers to rent on iTunes and on a majority of cable providers’ video on-demand systems.

“Over the last two years, several films have proved you can make a movie with major stars and put it through the digital distribution model and be successful,” said Ms. Garcia, who’s making her directorial debut with The Lifeguard after several years of writing for television shows. “It’s a great way to get independently financed films out there and available for anyone to watch anywhere in the United States.

“It’s a new and interesting concept because there aren’t as many theatrical outlets as there once were and this allows independent filmmakers to become less dependent on small, art house theaters.”

The film won’t make its big screen debut until exactly a month later on Aug. 30, where it will have limited release in 15 cities.

Screenwriter Liz Garcia, a 1995 Ridgefield High School graduate, has debuted The Lifeguard, her first film as writer and director. —Joshua Harto photo

Screenwriter Liz Garcia, a 1995 Ridgefield High School graduate, has debuted The Lifeguard, her first film as writer and director. —Joshua Harto photo

Ms. Garcia said she intends to come back east to promote the film in August and hopes to show the film at the Ridgefield Playhouse, although that event hasn’t been confirmed yet.

“Everyone involved in the movie will be making a big promotional push in August — the film’s opening weekend will make or break its theatrical life span,” she explained. “If it shows well, attracts enough attention and ticket sales are good, then it will move on to other cities and expand.”

Although celebrating the film’s debut is near, the last couple of months have been anything but easy for the 1995 RHS graduate.

The film premiered at Sundance on Jan. 19.  Focus World, a subsidiary of Universal Studio’s Focus Features, partnered with Screen Media Films in March to acquire the rights to The Lifeguard.

“It took a while — months after Sundance — to work out the specifics, but it was Focus World that pushed for the film’s digital distribution a month prior to its theatrical release,” Ms. Garcia said.

The film focuses on Leigh, an unhappy woman in her late 20s, who elects to leave her life in New York City to make the career digression from reporter to lifeguard — a job she held in high school.

Although Ms. Garcia worked as a lifeguard at the Fox Hill condominiums in town for several summers in the 1990s, she insists the film’s plot of  abandoning adult life doesn’t mimic her own life.

“I don’t consider it autobiographical, but it was inspired by the time I spent as a lifeguard — it’s a job that places you besides all this beauty and serenity and leaves lots of time for self-evaluation,” she said. “Borrowing from my own life, I was able to get to a starting place but over time I had to shape the themes and characters into something much more dramatic and universal.”

She drafted the 80-page screenplay in 2009 and didn’t return to it until early 2012, where she rewrote and expanded the story before financing and filming it.

One of the differences between the movie and real life is Leigh’s decision to undertake a relationship with a troubled teenager named Matt, whose age parallels where Leigh’s identity crisis is taking her.

“It’s a different take on the story of growing up,” Ms. Garcia said. “Instead of watching a 17 become a young adult, the audience is seeing an adult become an adult. Her life looks like it’s in the right place on the outside but it really doesn’t feel good to her and she wants to go back to the period of her life where she felt great — that’s her adolescence and her time as a lifeguard.”

The film’s star, Ms. Bell, is noted for her television roles in Veronica Mars, Heroes and House of Lies, as well as her film roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and When in Rome. 

“Kristen was a dream to work with. She’s really excited about the film’s release and she’s been really supportive throughout the process,” Ms. Garcia said. “I’m incredibly lucky to work with such a down-to-earth person who’s also got an incredible amount of experience and who is also so talented.

“She brought the story to life with her electric performance and she really trusted me throughout the filming process, which allowed me to trust myself.”

While the trust found between star and filmmaker was one of the highlights of her directing experience, Ms. Garcia wanted the movie to focus on more than just a singular character.

“I didn’t want this to be her story, though, and when I came back and expanded the script I made sure to add surrounding characters that were also having trouble moving on to the next phase in their lives,” Ms. Garcia said. “My favorite part about producing and writing, and now directing, is working with all the actors and watching them at work — it’s such a thrill.”

Despite being about life in small-town Connecticut, the film was shot around the Pittsburgh area last summer, where Ms. Garcia relocated with her husband and one-year-old son for three months.

Ms. Garcia says the project has taken up a majority of her time over the last two years and that she is looking forward to future work, which includes continuing to write with her husband Josh — who plays John in The Lifeguard — on TNT’s Memphis Beat.

“I need to channel my energy figuring out what comes next,” she admitted. “I need to move on or I’ll be hungover on what an awesome experience this was for me.”

The Lifeguard will have to swim through the uncharted waters of “on-demand” entertainment before it can get out of the pool and into theaters, but Ms. Garcia hopes good word of mouth from on-demand purchasing will propel ticket sales once the movie plays on the big screen.

Ultimately, though, the experience has been well worth it for Ms. Garcia, regardless of the film’s theatrical debut.

“I’m sad to be almost done completely with this movie, but it was such a wonderful creative experience for me, and brought so many new people into my life, that I will continue to relive it and talk about it throughout my career,” she said. “Because it’s out there for everyone to see and because it’s my first movie, I will always hold it in a very special place.”

p1-Film-debut-C

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. The Ridgefield Press, 16 Bailey Avenue, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress