Christopher Barzak described watching a movie based on something he wrote as an out-of-body experience.
The Kinsman native attended the red-carpet premiere Sunday of "Jamie Marks Is Dead" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where the movie is being shown as part of its U.S. Dramatic Competition. It is based on Barzak's 2007 novel "One for Sorrow."
"Sitting down in the theater, with the lights going down and the movie coming on, I felt like this thing I've been working toward my whole life has been realized in a way I hadn't expec-ted or planned on," Barzak said Monday during a telephone interview as he waited for his flight home.
Growing up, Barzak hoped he might be able to write short stories or, if he was really lucky, get to write a novel released by a major publisher. Barzak has published two novels as well as a short story collection.
"Seeing it made into a film and made into one I am so happy with - something a lot of authors can't say - has been sort of an out-of-body experience."
The 1993 Maplewood High School graduate spent a couple of days on the set during filming in upstate New York last spring and he saw a rough cut of the film in September, but his first time seeing the completed movie was at the premiere.
"It was beautiful and breathtaking from the first minute to the last," Barzak said. "I couldn't be happier."
Those at the premiere seemed to feel the same way.
"The audience was completely engaged and found all of the spots that were funny funny, all of the spots that were touching sigh-worthy and all of the spots that were creepy shudder-worthy," Barzak said. "No one I could see wasn't on the edge of their seats."
The movie, written and directed by Carter Smith, tells the story of a teenager who bonds with the ghost of a dead classmate. And his relationship with the ghost complicates his budding relationship with Gloria, a classmate who also can see Jamie.
Its young stars are Cameron Monaghan (''Shameless"), Noah Silver (''The Borgias") and Morgan Saylor (''Homeland"), who all were at Sundance along with Smith. The movie also features Liv Tyler and Judy Greer.
Barzak arrived in Utah on Friday and said he spent most of the weekend preparing himself mentally for Sunday's premiere and his turn on the red carpet.
"I saw the director, my touchstone, and he came over and immediately pulled me into the area for the actors, or the talent as they call them," Barzak said. "He made sure I was with them and walked the red carpet with everyone. It was an odd experience for a small town boy, but it was a lot of fun."
Barzak teaches at Youngstown State University, and two YSU students, JoAnne Tombo and Jenna Medina, went to the festival to cover the event for The Jambar. Barzak said they were in the media tent Sunday conducting interviews with the stars and Smith.
Like many of the movies playing at Sundance, "Jamie Marks Is Dead" doesn't have a distributor. Barzak said he wasn't aware of any offers made to the producers immediately following the screening, but he wouldn't be a part of those negotiations.
"Jamie Marks Is Dead" is set in Youngstown and rural Trumbull County, and Barzak said there will be a local screening.
"No matter what happens, the director assured me he'll bring it to Youngstown."