On Thursday, October 11, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the opening night of the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH. During this time I managed to meet Mike O’Malley, view his newly introduced film, and meet many amazing UNH professors and professionals. For those of you who don’t know Mike O’Malley (UNH ’88 Alum), hosted “Global Guts,” starred in the television show “Yes, Dear,” and may be most recently recognized for his role as Burt Hummel in Fox’s “Glee.” He also starred in movies such as “Leatherheads,” “Eat Pray Love” and “Cedar Rapids.”
I must say, the idea of meeting celebrities has never appealed to me, mostly for fear that they would ruin the illusion I have of them based on their television characters; however, Mike O’Malley was both down to earth, and hilarious. Standing in his baseball cap and jacket, he appeared exactly as his characters have to me throughout the years: normal. He was the type of celebrity anyone would be lucky to meet. Ironically enough, my brother and O’Malley are members of the same fraternity, Kappa Sigma. After my brother begged me to show O’Malley a message on my phone, O’Malley (who didn’t know how to use my brick of a cellphone) asked me to type “You got it, Brother!” to him, mumbling something about thinking I was referring to “agro crag” (the 90’s show Global Guts’ version of mountainous rock). I was even lucky enough to get a picture with him, allowing me to totally become the typical “fan girl” for a few moments.
The party guests consisted of UNH professionals, but more importantly, Mike O’Malley’s family, influential professors, and fellow alumni. It was amazing to see the fervor that fed his conversations with the people who helped make this Theatre major from Nashua’s dreams into a reality. During the introduction of his film, “Certainty,” shown at the Music Hall, O’Malley stated, “They got me into this business, well not really into it, but they just didn’t discourage me.” Talking of Professor Thomas Newkirk, O’Malley said, “In universities we all have to take freshman English. Tom was one of those guys who [encouraged you], in his class, to ask questions, have a voice, and to have something to say. He made you feel like what you had to say really mattered. You had a steel voice. But really, we were just a bunch of idiots!”
“Certainty,” O’Malley’s adapted version of his own play, “Searching for Certainty,” was absolutely phenomenal. The story is about Dom and Deb, a young couple embarking on the voyage of engagement. The film reflects on their Pre Cana in the Catholic Church, and the life events surrounding the couple at the time. Essentially, the film embodies the idea of the balance of faith and doubt, answering the questions, “what makes me the kind of person who is good to be married?” and “Am I that person?” The themes of solace for doubt through faith versus the lack of faith within a relationship knits the film with depth, and relatability (humor included), creating a holistic idea of the nature of both marriage and faith. The idea was brought to O’Malley by his own sister who had returned from her own Pre Cana and insisted he must write about her experience, which is directly referenced within the film itself.
O’Malley related to the film, by insisting that he has been all of these characters at certain stages in his life—including all of the women; however, he insists he is no longer in that phase of his life. He explained that each character is a, “real, and likeable, piece of us.” Blending humor with the realities and themes of his touching film, O’Malley, joined by Peter Askin, his director, and his music director, did a Q&A session after the film. They discussed the difficulties in attempting to adapt a play to film, and insisted that film is all about maximizing your time, with more visuals, and less verbose scenes.
If I truly learned anything from the NHFF it was how valuable and influential UNH, its professors, students and alumni are to the seacoast area (and beyond). I met various professionals from UNH whose job it is to keep the University running for students daily. These professionals are not only working 9-5 Monday through Friday. They are dedicated individuals who tote their spouses and coworkers around the northeast to provide the best opportunities and tools for their students. Beyond this, I was able to witness an extremely successful alum, Mike O’Malley, be humble and grateful in the presence of his professors from almost 25 years ago. Whether you are a professor, a colleague or a student, I have learned, in very little time here, that UNH is a great tool in making a difference in someone else’s life. I will leave you with one last quote from Mike O’Malley:
“I really appreciate everything from 25 years ago. [UNH] really did everything for me as a beginning writer, and with starting my career.”
He’s right. Everything here will help you succeed in the future—even though I only started at UNH 6 weeks ago, I am proud to be a Wildcat!
“Certainty” will be available by limited release in small theatres, and digitally, in November.