In 1938, mass hysteria overcame America when Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast made millions believe Martians were invading.
Director and writer Jody Lambert made a mockery of the night Americans packed up or bunkered down to go head-to-head with aliens—and he perfected it.
The world premiere of “Brave New Jersey” screened at the Austin Film Festival from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 15 at the State Theatre. A full house welcomed the comedy with constant laughs.
Writers Michael Dowling and Lambert collaborated to put a comedic twist on the national phenomenon. The two went to college together, and Dowling suggested they write a script about the night of the broadcast from the citizens’ perspective.
Most of the star cast attended the premiere, including “Veep” actor Tony Hale and “Pitch Perfect” actress Anna Camp.
“We needed an actor who is charming, funny and sweet,” Lambert said. “Hale said yes, and we kind of built around him.”
Hale plays the town’s mayor, who is overlooked by the citizens. When the people think it’s their last night, the mayor is glorified, and he gets a sense of hope.
“Most of my characters are kind of beat down, and they stay that way,” Hale said. “After reading the script, it was really nice to see that journey and when he’s empowered knowing that he only has 24 hours left to live.”
Camp plays Peg in the movie, a local schoolteacher who isn’t content with her relationships.
“Peg has an amazing arch in the film,” Camp said. “She starts out not knowing there could be any other choices to be made in her life. To see her get that opportunity—she definitely runs with it.”
Camp said getting in touch with her character was made easy through Lambert honing into Peg’s role.
“We definitely had some rehearsals before we shot, which was really helpful,” Camp said.
Heather Burns plays Lorraine, an underappreciated housewife who wants her husband to notice her.
“I was so thrilled when it finally came together,” Burns said. “I loved the script.”
Cast members said being on set was like being in a family.
Although the cast was rather large, the writers were able to connect with each of the characters’ storylines.
Lambert said the cast and crew shot for a total of 25 days, mostly during the night. The location was at an old, abandoned town where the owner had restored all of these historic buildings. The setting was believable and took viewers back to the ‘30s.
“It’s like it was built for our movie,” Lambert said.
The cinematography was beautiful. There was a variation in angles and shots, which reflected the chaos Americans were experiencing.
Lambert said the film will be screened in other festivals, and agents hope to sell Brave New Jersey soon.
Overall, the film was hysterically humorous. The writers took a national hoax that went down in history and turned it into a comedy. The idea of making a movie about that night was beyond brilliant, and the imagination behind each reaction and conflict was well thought out.