An Enjoyable Evening at the Wildcat Screening

By Stephanie Okun

I entered the New York Women in Film & Television raffle for two free tickets to the Wildcat screening at AMC Lincoln Square and won. The screening was presented courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories. I was highly anticipating this film about the life and work of late author Flannery O’Connor, starring Maya Hawke, since it’s directed by Ethan Hawke and I’ve personally never disliked any of his films. I’m also a big fan of Maya, learning about the lives of artists, and character-driven indie films in general. Excited about the news, I texted fellow former NYWIFT intern Ozzi Ramirez and he’s always up to see a new film, so the plan was set for us to go.

On the day of, I entered AMC for what feels like the thousandth time and went straight up to Theater 5, to seats J17 and J18. I got there about 10 or so minutes early to take videos and photos for the blog. Besides, I feel that it’s always good to be there early for a screening to get acquainted with the place.

The Wildcat screening (photo by Stephanie Okun)


I spoke to the woman behind me, asking if they knew who was going to be there for the Q&A. She said she wasn’t sure but she knew that Laura Linney (a past NYWIFT Muse honoree) would be there. Her husband, Brian, was a TV director and I assumed that’s how they found out about the screening. Apparently, they both work for the UN now. We had a pleasant conversation before I realized that my phone was on 12% and I needed to charge it to take more photos and video content for the blog. So I promptly left the theater and the kind ladies behind the counter agreed to charge it for me when I told them I was writing an article on the screening – shout out to them!

Ozzi arrived just as the previews began, gleeful as always. Meanwhile, I was going through finals for grad school, arranging my mother’s ultra-packed birthday weekend plans, showing up on time for the big family dinner downtown right after Wildcat, and making sure that my newly done hair didn’t get ruined by the rain. (P.S. It was pouring outside.) That said, when the film began, I was looking forward to the escape.

After the screening, the talkback with Laura Linney began, led by a journalist from IndieWire – also named Brian. First, Linney talked about the conception of the project. Maya came up with the idea to make a film about Flannery O’Connor. As Linney said, “this was all Maya” and “she got the whole thing together.” Maya produced it and hired her father to direct.

Laura then spoke about her long-standing relationship with Ethan, which blossomed during a disastrous production of a play and said that they were both shocked that their careers survived it – thus, they were trauma bonded. She has always admired her director and former co-star. As she said, he jumps in and is unafraid to fail, and his wheels are always turning. His creativity never ceases to amaze her and working with both him and his daughter at the same time on set was a trippy experience. As she witnessed it, she loves that “Maya was put on this earth to talk about art with her father,” especially since she shared a similar dynamic with her father who was a playwright and novelist.

Then, she went on to discuss the center of the film: Flannery O’Connor herself. O’Connor was a thoughtful woman with a rich inner life that got her through her often-unpleasant existence. She was consumed by her work as she struggled to get on her own two feet for her entire life, largely due to her battle with lupus. She saw her art as her god, as a religious Catholic in rural Georgia whose views on the world somewhat shifted after attending college. She was raised by her single mother who owned a dairy farm and had willingly sent her daughter to be educated in the northeast. All of this made her an outcast in her town.

The film also deals delicately with O’Connor’s racist tendencies and how she grew into her more expansive, modern view after graduating from her college in the northeast. During the talkback, Linney said that “these may not be conversations we enjoy or feel comfortable with, but they must be had in a kind and respectful manner in order for us to evolve.” O’Connor was never vilified in the film for her racism and ignorant views, even though it was at times hard to watch. However, this allowed us the space to truly watch her and more deeply process what was unfolding on screen.

Laura Linney at the Wildcat Q&A (photo by Stephanie Okun)

NYWIFT Member Stephanie Okun at the Wildcat screening

As many characters’ lack of consideration for others was magnified in the film, it forced us to reflect on ourselves and others in our lives in 2024. Compassion, sensitivity, and civility for those who come from all backgrounds, perspectives, and identities is certainly lacking in our world. Therefore, I appreciated Linney’s point of view and her embrace of call-in culture as opposed to cancel culture, one that vividly appeared in O’Connor’s life and work as depicted in the film – even in its harshest, darkest moments.


At the end of the talkback, I felt like I had a cozy, living room experience with Ozzi Ramirez, Laura Linney, two Brians, and 100-200 strangers in a vast space in the middle of a dripping wet Lincoln Square. Between the warm lighting, laid back atmosphere, and the lilt of Linney’s soothing voice, everyone could’ve easily been sitting together in a much smaller, private setting. Once the screening was over, it really did feel like we all vaguely knew each other from somewhere. As I left the venue, I retrieved my phone from behind the counter and graciously thanked the staff for allowing me to charge it. The layout of the AMC at Lincoln Square may be sprawling and daunting at first, but don’t worry: once you waltz into the movie theater, you’ll feel right at home.

You can catch Wildcat now in select theaters near you.

Access to free advanced screenings of major releases is one of the many benefits of NYWIFT Membership. Not a member yet? There’s no better time to join us! Apply by July 1, 2024 to take advantage of our spring membership drive. Learn more!


Stephanie Okun

Stephanie Okun Stephanie Okun is a screenwriter and recent grad from Wesleyan University. She is currently working on a feature film script set in the Kentucky horse racing world and another script that she started at Wesleyan. She is excited to join NYWIFT to make her first steps as a professional in the world of film and television.

View all posts by Stephanie Okun

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