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Jason, Marc and Jane - and guest
Jason, Marc and Jane - and limo guest

First Person: LA Diary

When filmmaker Jason Millward learned his screen debut had been accepted for an indy festival in Los Angeles, he took leave from his London hotel job, hitched up with a pal and BBC London's Jane Witherspoon and headed west. Here's what happened...

Fact File

It cost Jason Millward more to travel to Hollywood than it did to make his debut film, Meanwhile.

Fortunately - or unfortunately - while working as a rushes driver on a Bob Hoskins film, he was involved in an accident that led to him receiving compensation for his injuries.

£2,500 better off, Jason now had the budget for his film.

Meanwhile was shot on digital video in Derby, the Peak District and London, and tells the story of two young men who re-unite for the funeral of a mutual friend - with unexpected results.

Day One:

My mate Marc and I get to sunny LA and... it's raining. In the taxi to our hostel (which we've been referring to as a 'hotel' to people we meet, because it's a dump) I receive a text from my house-mate in London saying the festival has sent all the VIP passes and tickets to my flat there. Whoops!

So, after a couple of hasty phone calls we arrange for BBC London's TV Entertainment producer Jane Witherspoon to kindly bring them out with her. This is good of her because she's also bringing camera equipment to follow our trip - and our fortunes - for the next few days.

Day Two:

A rather lazy day. Feels good being in LA (especially as the sun keeps popping
out every now and then). Sit by the sea in Santa Monica and feel like we're on holiday.

Later we go to a free screening of a new film and see Irish actor Colm Meaney (Star Trek, The Commitments, Con Air, among others). I say hi as I've met him several times at the hotel I work at in London. Full-time filmmaking isn't an option for everyone! Colm's away this weekend so can't make the screening of my film, Meanwhile.

Day Three

"We walk in and Keanu Reeves is sat at the bar. On my way back from the loo, I decide to say hi, as you do in this town..."
Jason Millward joins the A-listers

Walking around, Marc thinks he sees Keanu Reeves on the street - but it isn't.

At night, we suit up and go to a hotel bar on Sunset before we're due to meet Jane at her hotel. We walk in and Keanu Reeves is sat at the bar! On my way back from the loo, I decide to say hi (as you do in this town) and mention my film - but his dinner guests have already arrived. Oh well...

Meet Jane and we go to the Chateau Marmont Hotel above where the Roxbury used to be. This was my friend's nightclub where, for several months in 1993, I worked and dreamed about what it would be like to make or be here with a film of my own. Memories interrupted by catching sight of Scarlett Johansson with an unidentifiable fella.

Day Four

Jason and his Meanwhile stall
Jason prepares his Meanwhile stall

Lunch with Marc and Jane at her hotel and, as usual in this town, the waiter is an actor and singer who seems to audition for us (including the singing) as he serves.

The opening night for the LA Independent Film festival is at the Bel Age hotel. It's going to be a long and busy night, sort of an exhibition hall-cum-event with all the filmmakers having their own little 'stall' from which to promote their films.

I'm very excited to get flyers and postcards for my film - all done by the festival. The trailer for Meanwhile plays on the monitors around the entire ballroom and we have it playing on a screen on our stall. We talk about the film... a lot.

Day Five

Do a live radio interview today from Jane's hotel room to the Beeb studio in London.

This involves her and I being on two separate phone lines. As we start, a Mexican housemaid cleans the room while giving us the strangest looks. Of course! It appears that we're having a conversation and not bothering to talk face-to-face. That's cool, even by LA standards.

In the evening, we go to my mate's club, which is apparently one of the best here. It turns into a good night and parts of it are slowly coming back to me...

Day Six

Jason and Jane in the Hollywood hills
Jason and Jane in the Hollywood hills

Day of the screening. Before we go to the cinema, Jane, Marc and I head off in a taxi to the Hollywood hills to do a TV piece for BBC London.

As we set up, Teri Hatcher from Desperate Housewives jogs past and Marc runs after her - we don't see him for several hours.

The interview seems to go well. We get to the cinema and a guy whose film is on before ours is flyering on the street, dressed as Jesus. Original.

After lunch, which I don't remember due to nerves, we go into the Meanwhile screening. It's great to hear the reaction from people and they even laugh (in the places where they're meant to)!

It's a lovely feeling to see my film on the big screen and quite addictive. Afterwards, the founder of the film festival, Stuart, has us driven back to the hotel in his limo! Fair to say, we celebrate again - and don't remember much of what happens that night.

Day Seven

Meet Jane for lunch before she has to leave. We go to a ranch-style bar with people riding a mechanical bull and the waitresses giving us free shots - have to remind ourselves this is Sunday lunch!

Jane leaves and we wave her off. Marc and I head back to the ranch bar and then it all starts to get a little foggy. One thing's for sure - we don't attempt the bull... or do we?


Jason and friend Marc
Jason and Marc consider the good news

I'm back in London and today's news is certainly a nice surprise. The festival has just been in touch to say that Meanwhile has been awarded the Best International Feature Award!

Wasn't expecting that because, well, I'd actually forgotten that there were awards at the end of it all. Still, a nice ending to this part of the experience.

We're now in the process of getting ready for New York and a screening there. Roll on, May...

video Watch: Jason Millward in LA >
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