Brian Herzlinger

Brian Herzlinger

The most upbeat filmmaker you will ever meet gets giddy about his date with Drew Barrymore.

by Chris Neumer

Brian Herzlinger is a ball of energy. He laughs frequently and genuinely, his enthusiasm is hard to contain, he takes off on humorous tangents and asides at the drop of a hat and he is as excited as he can be about the release of his documentary, My Date with Drew. It’s hard to imagine Steven Spielberg literally bouncing up and down on a coach while talking about his new project, as Herzlinger does throughout our interview. He is as happy an interview subject as one can hope to have and, given Herzlinger’s year thus far, it’s not that difficult to understand why.

His debut feature, My Date with Drew, not only won the audience award at the US Comedy Arts Festival, but beat out Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State and Super Size Me in doing so. My Date with Drew is about the 30-day quest Herzlinger undertook with two friends to land him a date with the girl of his dreams, Drew Barrymore (“They thought it would be really funny to watch me do this,” he says of his friends’ motives). The film’s tagline says just about all that needs to be known about the history of the project: “30 Days, $1,100, for an ordinary guy to get a date with Drew Barrymore.” Documented on a top of the line digital camera from Circuit City and funded by winnings Herzlinger earned on the game show Taboo, My Date with Drew is the Cinderella story of the year… and quite possibly the new millennium.

“We shot the whole thing with a video camera without a tripod, without a microphone, without lighting and we edited the whole movie on a laptop computer,” Herzlinger exclaims. “And now our little $1,100 movie is getting a worldwide theatrical release.”

When Herzlinger starts talking about the other subjects about which he could have made a documentary, he quickly launches into a story about the people who didn’t think his attempts to get a date with an actress would provide a compelling story.

“I accept that other people think it was stupid to go after Drew Barrymore and yet, for me, it was my life long dream. A lot of people didn’t think that my quest was going to matter either,” Herzlinger comments. “My boss thought that world peace was the thing you should be going for. That should be the dream.” He grins, debating about which proposition initially seems harder, an everyday-guy dating Barrymore or achieving world peace. He nods once and then says, “On [George W.] Bush’s watch, world peace seems very far away, so…” And with that, Herzlinger is off onto another topic, discussing the cinematic reasons for including footage of his mother calling Barrymore a “slut”. The answer is because it’s honest.

Herzlinger has been a big hit with the media thus far in his burgeoning career. His commitment to the project, electric energy and witty retorts are the things that the cameras and news personalities love.

“I think it’s hysterical,” Herzlinger says, remembering his experiences on his first press tour. “I’ve never talked to 25 people in a row for 11 minutes saying the exact same thing,” he recounts (sounding eerily like The Beautiful Country’s newcomer Damien Nguyen). “I don’t want to hear myself talk. Ever. Let alone 25 times in a row.”

It’s impossible to speak with Herzlinger for more than five minutes without having him insert some inspirational slogan or quote into the conversation. He is so enchanted with Barrymore’s own belief that “If you don’t take risks, you’ll have a wasted soul,” that he opens the film with that exact quote. “It’s about the dream,” Herzlinger states, “And it’s about trying to make that dream come true.”

He has his talking points down and I mention this to him. He sheepishly hangs his head for a brief second and says, “Yeah, but as after-school special as it sounds, it’s about trying to go for something that seems out of your reach. You can’t get around that.”

If there is a downside to Herzlinger’s 2005, it comes with the greatly heightened expectations that surround his future personal relationships. “It’s funny you mention that,” he says. “[My friends] were just making fun of me and telling me that I’d never be able to get a date with another girl because of the unprecedented standard I’ve set here.” Spending an entire month working to get a date with a woman can have that effect.

By now, though, Herzlinger is used to and ready for challenges like these. “I moved out to LA to make movies and I’ve been there for eight years,” he states. “I started out as an intern, worked my way up to being a production assistant, worked my way up to being an assistant and then worked my way up to unemployment.” He holds up his hands and says, “I’m telling you, you make more on unemployment!” Back on his main theme, Herzlinger continues, “Before this movie though, I said, ‘I have nothing to lose.’ I just want to try and make this lifelong dream come true.’”

He pauses, reflecting back on his near mythical journey to find Barrymore and document the process. “I guess it was easier for me to pursue this dream because I was unemployed–I didn’t have to worry about a job–but I should have tried to at least get rid of some of my debts before tackling this…” Herzlinger scratches his chin once, smiles at me and then says, “But really, it’s an amazing quest.”

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