Event Recap: GODZILLA (1954)/Steve Ryfle & Ed Godziszewski Q&A @ The Frida Cinema, Santa Ana 12/15/18
Creative Director - Los Angeles Arts Society
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a month since Los Angeles Arts Society hosted its wildly successful screening of Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla (1954) at my workplace, The Frida Cinema, in Santa Ana! We had a tremendous turnout for the movie on its own, but almost everybody stayed for the Q&A afterwards with Honda biographers and the night’s guests of honor, Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, as well! This is hardly a small feat as it is, but it’s an even greater accomplishment considering my own past experience with Orange County Godzilla screenings.
The last time I saw Godzilla in an OC theater, there was probably four people in the audience. Two of those four were my brother and I. For our event, however, almost 100 people showed up, with one couple even showing up a whole two hours early (a smart move on their part, as they got dibs on one of the five or so posters we were giving out). The crowd was a mix of young and old as well as the initiated and the uninitiated: some said they were only vaguely acquainted with the Big G, while others said they watched his movies when they first hit theaters. Regardless of how familiar they were with Godzilla or when they first saw his films, they were equally enthusiastic about the movie and simply being there.
I was enthusiastic too, but as enthusiastic as I was, I didn’t get to watch the film (what with production matters to attend to and all.) Yes, I’ve seen it a million times before, and yes, it wouldn’t do for an event runner to sit in on their own show, but still the fanboy in me wishes that there had been enough down time for me to at least sit in on a decent portion of it. The most I got was a brief look near the end of the film, just enough to let Steve and Ed know that we would be up soon.
From the little I saw though, I thought the DCP we used looked good. Ed himself stepped into the theater at one point and, after taking in a good chunk of the movie and returning outside, went as far to say that it looked great. I’m kind of curious as to whether it was as good or better than the Criterion Blu-ray used at the Japanese American National Museum’s screening, but given Ed’s expertise (as well as the fact that he’s one of the few people who’s probably seen Godzilla more than me), I’ll settle for being impressed that he was impressed.
Once the movie finished, we had to move quickly and get chairs and mics set up for the Q&A, so I didn’t get to take in the raffle as smoothly as I would have liked to but the little I did catch was heartening. At this point, the raffle was already a minor success, with 16 tickets (or 32, counting the free ones we gave for every two bought by the same person) having been sold over the course of the event. But the winning couple’s reaction made it a memorable moment, with the female half of the pair screaming in excitement when my friend and partner Alex called their number and her hubby running up to the front of the theater to collect their loot.
The momentum kept rolling right along and thank goodness it did, because the next segment of the program was our Q&A with Steve and Ed (and moderated by me). As you can imagine, much of my night was spent fretting about the Q&A and hoping to God that I was ready for it. I felt anxiety right as I ran on the stage when, suddenly but thankfully, it vanished as I introduced our guests and then asked them about their respective first times seeing it.
Steve and Ed were both so thorough in their answers that I only had to ask four for them to address the subjects I was interested in, allowing me to turn it over to the audience quicker than I expected to and give them more time to ask our friendly neighborhood Godzilla experts their own questions. People asked about Eiji Tsuburaya’s dazzling special effects work, the various costumes used for Godzilla, 2016’s Shin Godzilla, and how the series went from the sorrowful horror of the original to the family-friendly absurdity of later entries like Son of Godzilla. Considering that I had a hard time finding anybody interested in Godzilla in Orange County when I was growing up, I was blown away by the specificity of the audience’s questions as well as the in-depth knowledge of the franchise they demonstrated.
But I was even more blown away by what followed. After escorting Steve and Ed back to their table in the lobby, I was amazed by the sight of the audience swarming in behind us to buy books, magazines, and toys as well as meet and take selfies with them. One of the attendees was especially moved by the experience, with her even crying tears of joy as she spoke to our guests of honor. As if to add a cherry on top, her daughter would later come up to me to tell me how much it meant to her that her mother was able to not only see Godzilla on the big screen but to experience it the way she did that night.
And it really was a special experience for everyone, least of all me. While bringing Godzilla back to Santa Ana had long been a dream of mine, it wouldn’t have been the triumph that it was without the invaluable assistance of LA Arts Society’s volunteers to make it run smoothly and the tireless legwork of Alex to make it happen in the first place. I also have to extend a big round of thanks to Steve and Ed for making time to join us (and flying all the way from Chicago in Ed’s case) and to The Frida for opening their doors to us. It’s hard to say for sure where LA Arts Society will go from here, but with Godzilla: King of the Monsters set to hit theaters in a couple months, who’s to say that this will be the last time the big gray lizard stomps through the OC?
Photos by Keefer Blakeslee. The views expressed in this recap are those of the author’s and not necessarily the views of LA Arts Society. Let us know what you think of it in the comments section below. For more recaps, reviews, events, and other news from LA Arts Society, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you’d like to book an event, volunteer with LA Arts Society, or have any other questions, feel free to reach us on our Contact page.