If things seemed a little quiet in Las Vegas Sunday night, it might have been because about 50 of the city’s most vocal arts supporters were still trickling back from LA, where at 2:45 that afternoon they’d caught the world premiere of Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West. Screened at Hollywood’s historic Chinese Theatre (you know, the one with the handprints in cement), the second feature from Vegas’ Light Forge Studios debuted at the 17th annual Dances With Films, an independent festival that prides itself on showcasing quality over star wattage.
Beginning at 2, star Gregory Popovich and director-writers Mike and Jerry Thompson posed behind velvet ropes on the indoor red carpet for a DWF interview segment. That trio was soon joined by the entire cast and crew for photos before the packed, chatty lobby emptied into the equally chatty, 450-capacity Theater 1.
The 90-minute feature earned applause for the Light Forge logo’s appearance in the opening credits, a gymnastic cat’s particularly death-defying stunt, and a catch-and-balance feat by Popovich, in which he flipped from his shoe a saucer, teacup and spoon in succession to rest atop his head.
Afterward, DWF’s Robert Mellette invited participants to the front of the auditorium, where Popovich and the Thompsons detailed the eight-year process from conception to completion, including a few promo videos and even a TV pilot based on Planet Hollywood’s daily Comedy Pet Theater show. Though principal shooting occurred in 2012 and post-production was completed this past November, establishing an overall tone blending family fare, silent-era slapstick, classic vaudeville and traditional Western—plus deep metaphors for perseverance and empathy—took somewhat longer to fine-tune.
Opening the floor for a Q&A session, Jerry Thompson promised a silver “Space Mime Wins!”-branded Frisbee, similar to those tossed into the crowd during a performance-competition scene populated by Vegas locals, to those who asked questions.
Though the majority of plastic disks fell short or flew wide in response to queries regarding training cats, the importance of adopting shelter animals and Popovich’s Russian-circus background, the performer’s closing remarks—“This was the first time I watched the movie on the big screen, and I now see how good everybody was, and I would like to use opportunity to say thank you very much!” felt right on the mark.