by Ben Conner
Inspired by a true story, The Waiting List follows a group of parents (or, in one case, a potential future parent) confined for a night in a preschool where they vie for a spot on the attendance sheet for their child. The night takes a series of turns ranging from the uncomfortably crude to remarkably poignant and ultimately presents a riotous and genuine look at parenthood. Wrought with a consistent quirkiness, a comedic auteurist voice and a habit of magnifying the taboo, The Waiting List was an incredibly promising debut effort from director Mike Vogel. The Waiting List was an important contribution to the weekend’s festivities.
The audience seemed to be a healthy mix of students and parents alike, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the scope of the film’s humor seemed to encompass everyone. I suppose Dora the Explorer and the Disney princess references are universal these days. Never afraid to shy away from the raw, uncensored thoughts of parents, I found the humor to tread on the raunchy side at times. However, I think the consequential discomfort was one of the main reasons I enjoyed the film as much as I did. I was watching something that I hadn’t seen put on screen before. In that sense, The Waiting List really seemed to capture the spirit of independent cinema for me.
A striking characteristic of the film was its tendency to experiment with different narrative techniques. Some notable transitions included children awkwardly saying their ABC’s as the letters flashed on the screen and a parade of dirty words emphasized by garage band music. Additionally, the story seemed to be told as a series of vignettes, dealing with issues ranging from the moral justifications of abortion, spanking, along with pondering the practicality of Lincoln Log structures. I was dubious of this method at first, but it soon proved to be fairly effective, evidenced by the audience members around me whispering to their neighbors which characters they did and didn’t like. By telling the story as flashes of characters’ histories, personalities, and opinions the audience was able to dig into the depths of each character and make a judgement about them. This was probably the most fascinating aspect of the film for me. Something that you could only find in a self-funded independent comedy such as this.
Equally satisfying as the film itself was the proceeding Q&A with director Mike Vogel, producer John Vogel and actress Audrey Walker. The Ellensburg Film Festival facilitated discussions ranging from production values and screenwriting habits to how great Walker thought director Mike Vogel was to work with. Mike Vogel shared valuable insight into the world of independent micro-budget filmmaking. He explained that the film was only made possible by equipment donations from friends and actors willing to work pro-bono. For the future filmmakers in the audience Vogel’s testimony was inspiring. He encouraged all, who were so inclined, to utilize the technology that is available to us today and start learning the craft. Furthermore, Vogel alluded to the subject matter of his next film. Be on the lookout for another quirky comedy, this time about marriage, as the second installment of his self-titled “Domestic Trilogy.”