Was there anyone here who was not a budding filmmaker?
I literally crawled off the airport shuttle van at Park City, Utah, on Day One of the Sundance Film Festival, rested one knee on the snow-blanketed terra firma to regain equilibrium and thanked God I had not spilled my cookies during the driver’s thirty minute re-creation of Jackie Stewart’s run at the 1967 Monte Carlo Grand Prix. I was that close. Fortunately the journey was the nadir of my excursion; the next seven days at Sundance were equally dizzying, but delightfully so.
What brought me to the Festival (which wrapped last Sunday), and what has been the reason for my absence from The American Spectator’s pages these last few years (you’ve missed me, right? right? hello?), is a feature narrative film I have produced, written, and directed: Moonhair. (More of which in due course).
No, Moonhair was not in the 2011 Festival lineup. In fact, it requires a few more months of editing to finish. But as we near completion I thought it was time to venture into the marketing of the film, the exercise of which I admit I am a babe in woods. But one must start somewhere, and why settle for the Cleveland Film Festival when one can visit Sundance? With luck, I thought I might even bump into Robert Redford, the Festival’s founder.
Along with Moonhair’s primary investor, his wife, his two secretaries, and my Director of Photography, we descended each day from our multi-room condo on the hill armed with DVDs and iPads and iPhones to present our 30-second teaser to anyone and everyone we could corner. Call it the blind shotgun networking approach. Keep firing and eventually you’ll hit something.
The four or five block stretch of Main Street that is the historic part of Park City that you see in photos lies at the southern top of a slow rising gulch. This gulch grows mysteriously steeper and steeper in relation to the minutes left to the start of shows at theatres at the top of the hill. Main Street is filled with swank fur shops, art galleries, ritzy clubs ($150 entrance fees), and restaurants ranging from the posh to the casual. Not that casual implies inexpensive: I paid $40 for two gyros sandwiches at an order-at-the-counter, clean-your-own-table joint. Call me tight, but ouch! Park City descends to the north and west, melding into modern subdivisions and malls and massive buildings until, thirty miles later, it blends seamlessly into Salt Lake City. It is not an isolated mountain retreat, but an expensive suburb.
Actually, it proved more difficult to miss a budding filmmaker than to hit one. Turns out that darn near everyone at Sundance is a filmmaker. I kid you not. I soon discovered that I could stand in any line, sit in any movie theater, eat at any restaurant, and the person next to me was not a mere movie-goer, but either had a film in Sundance or was presently producing a film he or she hoped to have in next year’s lineup. This is not hyperbole, but God’s Truth. The Festival would more appropriately be called the Sundance Young Filmmaker’s Convention.
Emphasis on young. I felt very very old (I’m not saying exactly how old) for a guy making his first independent feature film. I look more like a middle-aged Alfred Hitchcock; the surrounding hordes looked more like 26-year-old Federico Fellini clones, sans smoldering cigarettes. Trim black coats, stylish haircuts, black rectangular glasses, tidy little configurations of facial hair. Even some of the women filmmakers.
But, surprise and joy to me, everyone was amazingly friendly and eager to offer assistance and advice. And I mean everyone! There was no sense of competitiveness. Egalitarianism ran rampant, and I was inspired and rejuvenated beyond belief. (Struggling for years to put together a low-budget film will take it out of you, believe me.)
Here’s how it worked.
I’d spot someone on the sidewalk, or in a movie line, or maybe the guy sitting next me before the film started. The filmmakers officially part of Sundance wore name badges.
“Are you a filmmaker? Do you have a film here?”
“Yes!” Being young, they were excited to be there and happy to share that excitement.
“I’m in post on Moonhair, a micro-budget action/adventure/historical/fantasy with an all Native American cast, the first in U.S. cinema history. Possibly the first micro-budget epic film ever produced. Set in the Dog Days, before the white man and horses. A girl with white hair and magical powers fights off the Dung Eaters — the bad Indians — and tries to save her people from extinction at their hands. Along the way she interacts with mythological figures like Whirlwind Girl, who flies through sky. Falls in love. Our motto is “NO WOODEN INDIANS.” We use contemporary cinematic language to tell the story. We appeal to young Indians who are embracing the Internet and pop culture. We use TECHNO-POWWOW music. We think the film has universal appeal. Want to see the teaser on my nifty new iPad?”
“Whoa! I’d love to!”
And they really do love to!
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