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“When the stars come in and start unloading, give ’em room!” barked the Entertainment Tonight producer. He stood under the entrance canopy to Studio 650 last Thursday evening before the premiere of Kiss and Tell, a feature film written, shot, and edited in D.C. by local filmmakers Mickey Stern and John Brenkus. Nearby, where the red carpet would have been if there had been one, E! correspondent Tennison Hightower, in a skintight lavender Lycra V-neck and black Lycra skirt, was coaching a six-pack of teenage girls to scream in preparation for the limousines bearing studs du jour Kerr Smith of Dawson’s Creek and Daniel Cosgrove of Beverly Hills 90210.

Twenty minutes earlier, Smith and Cosgrove had been whisked out Studio 650’s back door and into said limousines and driven around the block, so as to give the impression that they had just cruised in from Los Angeles, where, seemingly, this sort of thing happens all the time, just like in the movies. “In Washington,” mocked one in-town producer, “it just feels hilarious.”

All the adulation, it seemed, was still a bit daunting to Cosgrove, who appeared on All My Children before leaping into Spellingland. “I’m aiming to be an unknown,” he joked, as he apologized for spitting on my shoulder. Cosgrove—who plays attorney Matt Durning on 90210 every Wednesday night in the same time slot that Smith’s character, Jack McPhee, is coming out of the closet on Dawson’s Creek—was an unknown in D.C. two years ago, during the filming of Kiss and Tell. “This is a big deal. I didn’t realize it would be so crazy,” he confided, edging closer to the wall as we were gradually encircled by photographers. “I’m still getting used to it. Sometimes I just want to retreat into a corner and hide until everyone goes away.”

I had come to watch the movie and talk to the actors at the pre-show reception, but I ended up in a scene out of The Truman Show—a movie with which Kiss and Tell shares “strong overtones” and interest in reality-based TV—right down to the canny product placement: coffee and dessert by Dean & Deluca. But not everything was so neatly controlled, despite the best efforts of Pamela Sharp, of Sharp & Associates Public Relations in L.A. She took me by the arm and cleared an area for me to talk to Smith, whose charm and chiseled features have inspired countless Web sites.

“You know what sucks about my job?” he asked. “No headset,” he said, laughing as he gestured to one of a dozen headset-linked handlers flitting about. “All they do on those headsets is bust on the actors,” he said with admiration. “I want a headset!”

Inside the auditorium, a 15-foot potted tree fell over during Studio 650 co-founder Burt Maggio’s speech. “NATO!” he screamed. “Who is responsible for this?” Two dozen people raised their hands, wishing the falling tree had cut his speech short. Two Oscar-length speeches later, cast member Bryan Callen of Mad TV and HBO’s Oz left to pee. Director Brenkus paced under the bleachers, looking as if he wanted to throttle guest speaker Frank Capra Jr. Yet he still managed to render a quotable quote: “This film could have a real impact on making D.C. a viable force in independent film.”

Brenkus and Stern are just starting to shop Kiss and Tell to distributors, hoping for a winter release. Brenkus noted with some satisfaction that this film is a big deal for D.C., given that its two leads are bona fide stars. Lucky, huh? “I don’t believe in luck,” he replied in his premeditated, yet in-character way. “I believe you create your own opportunities.” Kiss and Tell started an hour and a half late, a compromise between Pacific and Eastern daylight times.—Amanda Fazzone