When the invitation arrived in the mail, Andrea Wachner said she was "aghast." Attend her 10-year high school reunion? Never.
Walking into a roomful of past acquaintances can elicit nail-biting anxiety, especially when the No. 1 question on everyone's lips is: "What do you do?" Wachner, a freelance comedy writer, was no exception.
So, rather than attend her reunion, Wachner, who is now 31, sent someone else in her place, a stripper, and made a documentary about it.
"I Remember Andrea" wasn't picked up by the film festivals this go-around, but Wachner did find a manager who took interest in her project. They are shopping it around as a reality TV show or a narrative feature.
Now, Wachner's memories of her hometown, Palos Verdes, will be forever associated with the launch of her filmmaking career -- and a scantily dressed woman named Cricket. High school may have been, as Wachner said, "brutal," but her first film was born out of those awkward memories. Already, she's begun inching her way past Hollywood's notoriously difficult barriers.
Her decision to make the film surprised family and friends, initially.
"I thought it was a little out there. A little odd," Wachner's mother said of her daughter's project when she was interviewed for the film.
Wachner's prank generated an outcry from other '95 alums when she posted clips on YouTube from her 40-minute documentary.
"There's definitely a contingency of people who hate me because of this," she said.
Raised in swanky Palos Verdes, a bedroom community for Los Angeles' professional set, Wachner acknowledged having been fortunate enough to grow up someplace "beautiful and safe," even if it could be "pretty sheltered and homogenous."
Surrounded by high-achieving, well-to-do students, Wachner found her niche in the drama clique.
"It was enormous, competition was fierce, there was just an incredible amount of pressure -- for grades, for everything," Wachner said. "I can't think of one thing you could do there where you weren't competing against hundreds of other kids. I didn't really relate to a lot of what the others accepted as the norm, and I was OK with that -- it just didn't make it great. Most of the girls I knew had eating disorders. A huge percentage.
"I'm not scarred by it. It wasn't torture. It was not a miserable experience. But I think high school in and of itself is kind of awful," she said.
On the day of the reunion, Wachner brought a crew, two cameramen and a sound technician to the Marriott Hotel in Torrance, Calif., and set up near the festivities. She also brought her yearbook to aid in identifying the attendees.
In the film, Wachner's mom left her with this advice, "If you get arrested, don't call me."
Cricket showed up in a burlesque outfit: fishnets, a tight black dress that resembled a slip, and tall black spike-heeled boots. Her visible tattoos and short jet-black hair, accented with a purple flower, only added to her look, which differed markedly from the formal attire of the other reunion attendees.
Cricket and Andrea had met in Jumbo's Clown Room in Hollywood, Calif., a night Andrea described as one of the craziest of her life.