Quest for a date with Drew is box-office hit

For the past 15 months, My Date With Drew has been doing the rounds at film festivals in north America, not making much money but winning prizes, drawing rave reviews - and at least once creating enough buzz to send its website crashing from a surfeit of hits.

But now the big-time beckons. The film opens at mainstream cinemas in New York, Los Angeles and three other cities at the end of next week - with more to follow if it turns into a surprise summer success. Not bad for a film made with a video camera and a budget of $1,100 (£630).

My Date With Drew is a film whose theme is only too familiar to every teenager who stuck the picture of a film star on his or her bedroom wall. Mr Herzlinger, as he acknowledges, has had a crush on Ms Barrymore since he first set eyes on her as a seven-year-old child star playing Gertie in Steven Spielberg's 1982 film ET.

Mr Herzlinger says he is no stalker, and his main worry when shooting the film was to avoid coming across as a lunatic obsessive. "It's all about my following a harmless crush." And the tale of the film's making is a Hollywood favourite, of an uphill struggle with a happy ending. Along with Brett Winn and Jon Gunn, two friends from film school, Mr Herzlinger went to Los Angeles to become a director. But selling a project to the studios proved all but impossible - so when Mr Herzlinger won $1,100 on a game show, he decided to use it to finance his own independent film.

As Mr Winn tells it on the website: "Brian and I were sitting together having dinner. We were thinking, 'Why aren't we making feature films?' The answer was simple: We don't have millions of dollars." But they had noticed ads for an electronics shop which was promoting a 30-day return policy. "I figured if we got a digital video camera that would give us 30 days to shoot before we had to give it back. So we decided to make a movie."

As for Mr Herzlinger, he had 30 days to get his date with the actor. "The best-case scenario was that Brian would get a date," says Mr Winn. "The worst case was it would be a great chance for us three to work together."

The pursuit of the date is the essence of the film, as it turns into a trial of the "six degrees of separation" theory of life: that no more than six layers of friends, and friends of friends separate one individual from every other on earth. The team pursue every possible avenue to their quarry. At one point, Mr Herzlinger gatecrashes the premiere of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle with a forged ticket.

"This is not about Drew Barrymore," Mr Gunn told The Hollywood Reporter. "Brian wears his heart on his sleeve. It's a real passion for him. People respond to him putting a month aside to pursue a dream."

Shot with a digital video camera, My Date With Drew was edited on a laptop computer. Like most films, it suffered from considerable financial overruns. The production ultimately cost some $40,000, while the distributors have paid $300,000 on clearing music rights and making theatre-quality prints. "As a film-maker this movie lets people see who I am, and perhaps that will help me get the pitch meetings I could never get before," Mr Herzlinger told the Los Angeles Times.

The advance buzz suggests that pitch meetings will no longer be a problem. And the soon to be famous director-cum-film star will surely have no trouble getting a real dinner date with Drew. That is, if he hasn't had one already.