The Los Angeles premiere of the independent film Chris Millis wrote was pretty cool, but he’s even more excited about introducing the movie to his friends and neighbors in a local premiere next week.
It seems they’re excited, too. Only two days after Millis started advertising the event, half of the 300 tickets were sold.
“I didn’t know what the response was going to be,” said Millis, 40, a Saratoga Springs native and resident.
The film “Small Apartments,” featuring Billy Crystal in a supporting role, will be screened at 6:30 p.m. March 1 in the Saratoga Music Hall on the top floor of City Hall, 474 Broadway. Tickets are $7 in advance at chrismillis.com or $10 at the door, if they’re still available.
The movie is rated R, and no one under 17 may enter.
“This is the one that I’m really looking forward to,” Millis said of the premiere, which takes place after the film was screened at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, last year and then premiered in Los Angeles on Feb. 5.
The movie is about a man — played by British comic Matt Lucas of “Bridesmaids” — who kills his landlord and then endeavors to get away with it. It’s a comedy with unexpected dark spots, Millis said.
“There’s always this moment where everyone’s laughing along [and then, a moment later,] the theater goes quiet,” Millis said.
The movie also stars Johnny Knoxville, James Caan, Juno Temple, Rebel Wilson, Rosie Perez, James Marsden, Peter Stormare, David Koechner, Amanda Plummer, Dolph Lundgren, DJ Qualls, Saffron Burrows and David Warshofsky, as well as Millis’ Saratoga High School classmate Scott Sheldon, who has done TV and stage acting and lives in Los Angeles.
Sheldon will appear at the local premiere, which Millis’ former high school teacher, Dave Patterson, will host. The other stars aren’t able to make it since Millis organized the screening on short notice.
He originally planned to hold the premiere at the Regal Cinemas at the Wilton Mall.
“We were in talks with them about having a party there, but we realized that they were going to be closing before we could premiere it,” Millis said.
“Small Apartments” is distributed through Sony Pictures.
Millis, a cartoonist, illustrator and writer, wrote the book on which the movie is based in just three days as part of a contest. He entered the International 3-Day Novel Contest on a whim over Labor Day weekend in 2000, believing his background as an editorial writer for the now-closed Free Press in Rochester and as a sports reporter for the Saratogian prepared him to write well on a deadline.
He was right. Millis finished the 132-page novella by the end of the weekend, tossing aside his well-crafted outline along the way to follow a new path for the story.
“I just basically started with a guy [and] put him in a lot of trouble,” he explained.
The story took turns that even Millis didn’t expect.
“I kept telling myself that if I can surprise myself with what’s going to happen next, then I can surprise a reader and the audience,” he said.
He won the contest, which changed his view of his career plans.
“I kind of had to ask myself, ‘What does that mean?’ ” Millis said.
A production company bought an option to buy the book, and later, Millis wrote the screenplay adaptation, which the company bought. While writing the screenplay for “Small Apartments,” Millis said he discovered he’s probably a better screenwriter than a novelist.
The movie was produced on a $2 million budget with director Jonas Akerlund.
“Everyone who did this did it because they loved the material, they loved the director and they wanted to do something different than the typical studio film,” Millis said.
The script landed in Crystal’s hands at the right time, when he was looking to do an independent film, Millis said.
“He goes, ‘Well, I read the script and I told myself I had to do it,’ ” Millis recalled of meeting Crystal. “He goes, ‘You write good, kid. You’re funny.’ ”
In a news release about the premiere, Crystal praises Millis’ novel.
“ ‘Small Apartments’ was written in three days and won the 3-Day Novel Festival,” Crystal said in the statement. “People take three years to write something this well thought-out.”
Millis’ resume includes an ongoing job collaborating with cartoonist John McPherson on his “Close to Home” syndicated cartoon. The two come up with ideas together and Millis does preparation work on the computer to get the cartoons ready for publication, he said.
He’s also illustrated two books: “An American Bestiary,” by the late presidential candidate and Sen. Eugene McCarthy, and a children’s book, “A Clam Named Sam.”
Millis’ second novel, “God & California,” is set to be released this spring.
Now the father of 6-year-old twins with his wife, Lisa, Millis also writes screenplays and ghostwrites books for others.