One of my favorite Bottle Rocket stories, also told in the Criterion collection of the DVD by Wes Anderson:
“I feel like I was never more confident in my life than when we made that film and never less confident than when we screened it. The first time we screened it was part two of my life. Because up to that point my attitude was, “Just wait till they see this.” And a lot of people were like, “Does this story hold together? Are people going to understand why these boys are acting like this?” And I was like, “I think they’re going to understand. It’s pretty funny.”
“We screened it in Santa Monica at the AMC 17 on the Third Street Promenade for an audience of 400 people. And as the reels unspooled, I, sitting in the back row with all the studio executives, I began to see people leaving and they were leaving in groups—people don’t go to the bathroom in groups. They’re not coming back, you know, they take their coats. And it became really excruciating.
“At a certain point, I left, I tried to be very discreet about it because I didn’t want to add to the exodus feeling, but I also couldn’t take it. I went up to the projection booth to watch, and they just left all throughout the film, and it was a really miserable thing.
“Afterwards, we had the audience cards, their reactions…And a lot of their things were “Favorite whatever: None.” One after the other. But we were going through it, kind of analyzing it, everyone’s feeling bad for me that I won’t be able to do this with my life.
“And then I remember, I got one of these [cards], and it was like an outline of a dissertation. This girl had sat there longer than everybody else and she’d written a whole thing and quoted things, and I was like “This is our audience!” There was literally one positive thing. She was getting everything.
“Six years later, I was at some kind of function, some kind of DGA thing, and this girl introduced herself to me and said, “I was at your screening in Santa Monica.” “I know who you are. I know exactly who you are.” She was uncomfortable, she wasn’t sure what I was talking about. And I said, “No, no, no…I know you.”