Search This Blog

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sundance Wrap Up

On Wednesday, I headed home to LA. Sunday through Tuesday is a blur of films and parties. Here’s what’s really great about Sundance. Inspiration. You get exposed to some of the freshest ideas on the planet. Every screening is entre to a new conversation with filmmakers who are thoughtful and artful. It can be a soul searing dip into the human ocean with stories that are immense and impactful. It can be a peak into worlds unimagined. I could not be more inspired.

Some of my favorites:
“Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” is an adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s caustic look at the post-feminist-movement male psyche. Doctoral candidate, Sara Quinn (Julianne Nicholson) works through the heartache of her boyfriend leaving without explanation, with a research project that requires interviews with men. The interviews are interspersed with the unfolding narrative of why her boyfriend left. Thank you David Foster Wallace, the languaging of the interviews is brilliant.

“The Cove” was a beautifully shot thriller documentary about a tragic dolphin epidemic unwittingly started by Flipper. We follow a small group of activist with their state of the art surveillance equipment to Taiji, Japan to discover the atrocities of mass dolphin capture and kill.

“Crude”, another doc, tells the story of the horrendous poisoning of five indigenous Ecuadorian tribes by Texaco/Chevron. Billions of gallons of toxic oil waste were dumped into the Amazon. It’s another tragic environmental tale with no good ending.

“Dirt! The Movie” is based on William Bryant Logan’s acclaimed book, Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. The colorful combination of interviews, animation, and vignettes are captivating. Andy Lipkin of LA based Tree People, and one of my Sundance roommates, is prominently featured. His accomplishments and contribution to the environment are pretty amazing.

“Good Hair” is Chris Rock’s explanation into what is up with black women’s hair. This is a really funny but serious look at black hair culture.

“Earth Days” interviews the founding fathers of Earth Day and their fight for the environment up through present day. This is one of my favorite docs.

My takeaway - I arrive home even more determined to participate in and add to the conversation that is changing the way we view our world and live our lives.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Sundance

Day starts with a ride with Peter to my first screening. I can really appreciate Peter’s pace at the festival. Every minute is scheduled for a screening, a meeting with a client, or friend, an interview or a networking party.

This morning I catch “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire.” What I’ve read in the catalog partially prepares me for the emotional impact of the relentless heartbreak that is Precious Jones’ (Gaboury Sidibe) life. It takes me 30 minutes after the film to catch my breath.

As a good counter balance, I meet Mark for “Spring Breakdown”, a hilarious comedy starring Parker Posey, Rachel Dratch and Amy Poehler, written by Rachel Dratch. It’s a girl spring break comedy and just what you expect from SNL alum.

Then we’re off to two parties downtown. The first celebrates the Slamdance screening of “The Weathergirl”. It’s my opportunity to meet Steak House, the producer, who helped my out while I was working on PIG. Mark Harmon shows up for the party and mayhem ensues. We head a few doors down to a party given by, a website that connects filmmakers with financing. I meet a really cool group from LA that is heavily involved in Filmmakers Alliance, an invaluable LA resource for indie filmmakers.

We leave downtown to The Yarrow for “The September Issue”, a documentary following Ann Wintour and her team at Vogue as they prepare for the annual September issue. If you saw “The Devil Wears Prada” you’ll appreciate it even more after watching this. I’m amazed at the access filmmaker, RJ Cutler was given. This beautifully shot doc focuses on the 20 year collaboration between the very powerful Anna Wintour and her genius creative director and stylist, Grace Coddington. It’s inspiring to see these two brilliant women run the empire that is Vogue.

We rush over to see if we can get in to “Art and Copy”. We do. Exquisitely shot, this doc takes us inside the advertising industry with interviews and insights from the most powerful creative forces of our time: Hal Riney, Dan Widen, Phyllis Robinson, Mary Wells Lawrence, George Lois, Cliff Freeman, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein. We see some of the most remarkable ad campaigns and the art of it.
I must be tired. I nod off for a third of the film. Rats! I hate when that happens.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Mark and I drove into Park City, Utah just before midnight on Thursday, January 16. External car temp read 19 degrees. As we wind through old town Main Street to get to our temporary home, I’m amazed at how many people are out on this freezing opening night. There are lots of partiers. Too many who are wearing shortsleeves and 5 inch heels. Who can do that?

Now it’s Friday morning. We have to rush over to the Yarrow Hotel to pick up our industry passes that will allow us to see and participate in almost every thing at the festival. Lucky for me, this is Mark’s 10th year at Sundance. And, his rental car is a huge help in getting around.

I have a couple of objectives for Sundance. First, to soak in as much “industry” as I can. Another is connecting with possible distributors for “Magic 7”, a green project and live action animated fable originally created by Roger Holzberg.

A third objective is to be immersed in the creativity and artistry of well crafted films. In that regard, Friday is a success. Three films in one day and my attention never flags. First film of the day, “Lymelife”, is a coming of age tale set in the late 70’s, written by Derick and Steven Martini about their own lives growing up in Long Island. It stars Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Jill Hennessy and Cynthia Nixon. Both the telling of the story and the acting are brilliant.

Next up, “Cliente”, from French writer/director and actress, Josiane Balasko. Tagged as a comedy, it explores the complications of a relationship between a 51 year old female entrepreneur and her gigolo. I thought it was emotional and sad.
Last film of the day was “Humpday” from another female writer/director, Lynn Shelton, starring Mark Duplass from “Baghead” and Joshua Leonard from “Blair Witch Project”. Lynn tells the ultimate tale of male one-upmanship. It was very funny. Produced with a spare cast and crew, it was tightly written and well acted.

You can feel the recession as a subtext of the festival. The big question for many filmmakers is, will their film get picked up? The industry has suffered not only from the economic down turn but also by fundamental changes in the business model. It’s a big topic this year as evidenced by one panel's title, “The Panic Button: Push or Ponder”. Peter Broderick, our housemate and an expert on alternative distribution is one of the panelists.

Parties are a big deal at Sundance. I'm hoping they provide the opportunity to network. They're all invitation only. Mark RSVP’ed us for “The Green Party” held in a huge tent in the middle of Main Street. It supports the “green” films at the festival that include “Dirt! The Movie”, “Old Man River”, “The Cove” and “Crude”, all documentaries and all on my list. The entertainment at the party is a mesmerizing multimedia mix of electronica, belly dancing and video imagery. The crowd, not so interesting. I bailed after an hour and headed home for sleep.

Home, by the way, is a converted 1880’s Swedish Lutheran Church very conveniently located a block off Main Street, downtown. The picture at the top of the page is from the common area. The house is actually cozy with its six stained glass windows, unusual floor plan and eclectic mix of furnishings. It provides the perfect backdrop for this Sundance 2009.