$1,100 and a dream
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Three local filmmakers take a risk and watch it pay off with `My Date With Drew’
By MATT KATZ
Growing up, we have two kinds of crushes.
First, there are the school crushes. These are the crushes whose names end up encircled by hearts in girls’ notebooks; they are crushes who end up being pegged by boys with dodgeballs.
But then there’s another kind of crush – the celebrity crush. This is the Crush you never meet, the one who becomes a fantasy. My first one was Daisy Duke of the Dukes of Hazzard. I then moved on to Samantha Fox (Brit pop star) and Alyssa Milano (from her Who’s the Boss? days).
Today, Samantha Fox is resurrecting her career under the pseudonym “Sam Fox.” Milano is on some TV show I’ve never seen. And Daisy Duke last made news when she testified before Congress about a rhinoceros conservation act.
Celebrities like these usually fade into this abyss of the formerly famous and you move on to new crushes (right now I’m thinking about Penelope Cruz).
But sometimes a celebrity crush can yield more than daydreams about a far-away fantasy.
They also can change your life.
This is the story about three friends from South Jersey who went to Los Angeles. to make movies. Their resulting film, My Date With Drew, is a documentary about getting a date with a celebrity crush.
But it is also an inspiring tale about having a goal and pursuing it – regardless of whether that goal is getting the girl, getting the job or getting enough money to pay rent at the end of the month.
The movie has been viewed three times at independent film festivals. Each time, it won a prize and got a standing ovation. Now, the filmmakers are shopping it around for a big-time distributor, so the movie from South Jersey’s own may be playing in one of our multiplexes soon.
Brian Herzlinger of Marlton (Cherokee High, class of 1994), has had a crush on Drew Barrymore since he saw E.T. at the movies in Pennsauken (the film cut out during the scene when E.T. gets drunk, but that’s another story).
“When you tell someone you had a crush on a 6-year-old, it sounds creepy,” said Herzlinger in a phone interview from L.A. “But I was 6, too – so it wasn’t.”
Herzlinger, now 28, remembers thinking: “If there are such things as girls, then that’s a girl . . . She was beautiful.”
At 10, Herzlinger joined the actress’s fan club. As he got older, his enthusiasm for movies grew and he decided he wanted to be a filmmaker.
Fast forward to last year in L.A., when Herzlinger won the pilot episode of a game show with this final answer: Drew Barrymore.
At the time, the three boys from South Jersey – Herzlinger, along with Jon Gunn and Brett Winn (both Cherry Hill East, class of 1991) – were feeling the itch to make it big.
“Brian and I were actually at dinner one night and frustrated we hadn’t made a movie since we went to film school,” said Winn, 31, in a phone call from L.A.
Armed with the $1,100 in winnings from the game show, Herzlinger and his friends set forth on a quest.
“I decided that the $1,100 would get me through another 30 days of bills,” Herzlinger said. “Or I could use that $1,100 to try to get a date with my dream girl. And if I can accomplish that, I can accomplish anything.”
It’s a philosophy we all could employ a little more often.
“Worst case scenario is nothing happens, best case scenario is something big happens,” Winn said.
The Drew Crew, as they called themselves, bought a camera from Circuit City because the store has a 30-day return policy. The Drew Crew had 30 days, $1,100 and one goal: Get a date with Drew.
The ensuing documentary follows the quest through the intertwining social and professional circles of Hollywood. They make phone calls, dash around southern California and hope for really, really good luck as they try to find someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Drew Barrymore.
Music from the 1980s is the backdrop, providing an appropriate generational sense of place. Herzlinger’s occasional accompaniment to Neil Diamond and Billy Joel tunes add an amusing touch, and his man-on-the-street interviews are hysterical.
But Herzlinger’s self-deprecating honesty – from his interactions with people to the way he is willing to make fun of himself – bring this film its true charm. He is self-admittedly out of shape, sports a five o’clock shadow throughout and is a bit dorky.
He is the guy who you’re rooting for to get the girl – but remain skeptical that it’s actually going to happen.
Cameos of B-level movie stars and an interview with Herzlinger’s own parents, Eric and Zita, work perfectly.
“He sprung (the movie idea) on us and wanted our honest reaction,” Eric said last week. “My wife said, `She’s a slut.’ ”
Yes, in all maternal honesty, Zita is quoted in the movie calling Drew Barrymore a slut. She simply didn’t think the actress was good enough for her son.
“I wasn’t really very comfortable with being in the film, but it’s for Brian so we did it,” Zita said. “We didn’t realize how big this thing was going to become. It’s really brilliant.”
And that’s more than a mother boasting. The idea and its execution are brilliant. For this, it could become the next small-time film that makes it big, like The Blair Witch Project. Already, the buzz has led the Drew Crew to spots on the Jay Leno Show and Today Show.
Barrymore is the perfect subject for such a film. She is sort of complex: the little girl who played with an alien named E.T., trapped in the curvaceous body of a woman who once flashed a TV host named David Letterman.
She is attractive, but not hot in a Britney Spears mold. And she hasn’t had an easy life, with teenage dabblings in drugs and other rough, heavily-publicized private moments.
“For her to come out of that and just be on top as she is now is just so admirable,” Herzlinger said. “She just brings with her this excitement about life, this passion about life . . . That more than anything is why she is my dream girl.”
Like any girl you pursue, famous or not, the pursuit is about more than just getting the girl – it’s about actually doing something you feel passionate about.
“It’s not about whether he gets the date or not,” said Jeff Winn, Brett’s father. “It’s about the quest.”
Indeed. I never did get a date with Daisy Duke, and I’m not allowed to say whether Brian got a date with Drew Barrymore.
But I can tell you that he tried harder for this date than I’ve ever tried for a date with any woman. And I’ll even acknowledge a solitary tear in one of my eyes during one particular scene – the first time I’ve reacted that way to a movie since the Macaulay Culkin film My Girl (believe it or not).
If only to recognize their passion, a big studio needs to pick up the film. And they deserve your $10 once the movie comes out.
It may not change your life. But when you look at three guys from South Jersey who risked rent money on what seems like an outlandish project, you’ll start to believe these words from Drew Barrymore herself: “If you don’t take risks, you’ll have a wasted soul.”
The Date Line appears Tuesdays. Reach Matt Katz at (856) 486-2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org