SUNDANCE ’12: Filmmaker/Industry Reflections (Pt. 1)
Last year, we came up with the idea for this personal post-Sundance yearbook of sorts. For whatever reason, we didn’t receive nearly as many replies as in ’11—I feel like I cast as wide of a line this year—but anyhow, here is what we’ve received so far. If more trickle in over the course of the next few days, I will be posting those accordingly. Enjoy…
***SUNDANCE 2012: FILMMAKER/INDUSTRY REFLECTIONS (Pt. 1)***
Simon Barrett (co-writer/segment producer, V/H/S)
Like many filmmakers, we went to Sundance with no idea of what to expect in terms of how audiences there would respond to our film, or if audiences would show up to see it at all. I think literally less than a dozen people had watched the finished movie before its premiere, so it was entirely untested, and we had allocated approximately $20 to our festival poster art. Ultimately, the movie was a success beyond my wildest expectations, but my fondest memory at Sundance isn’t the film’s premiere, acquisition, or much publicized audience fainting incident (that part was kind of stressful, actually), but the first moment I realized people were actually excited to see the movie we had made. I had just got off a city bus with the film’s main producer, Roxanne Benjamin, and we were standing miserably in the wind and snow trying to figure out where the hell Main Street was. Two teenage boys randomly approached, politely gave me directions, and then one of them quickly added, “We’re really excited to see your movie, V/H/S. We don’t have tickets, but we’re trying to get them.” They then hurried off. I have no idea how they knew who I was, but that was the moment I started to feel confident in what we’d created. If random Park City teenagers wanted to see our film, then we were in good shape. I turned to Roxanne with a huge smile on my face; she, of course, was looking at a map on her phone and had missed the conversation completely.
Kat Candler (writer/director, Hellion)
What made Sundance such a special experience for me (aside from just being accepted which was pretty f**king awesome) was to be a part of it with so many other Texas filmmakers and crews. Between my cohorts Kelly Williams and Jonny Mars, the Zellners were there with Kid-Thing, Kyle Henry and Jason Wehling with Fourplay: Tampa, Kelly Sears with Once it Started it Could Not End Otherwise, and with the Sundance labs for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints… David Lowery, James Johnston and Toby Halbrooks… you just felt like a community within a community if that makes sense. We’ve all grown up together, supported each other and truly care about each others successes. It sounds sappy, but it’s totally true. I love all these guys.
Megan Griffiths (co-producer, Your Sister’s Sister)
Without a doubt the real stand-out memory of this year’s fest will be the 17-hour white-knuckle/black-ice journey from Seattle to Park City that I took with eight of the best people I know. After our flight was pushed and pushed and finally cancelled due to a rare Northwest snow storm, an intrepid band of film nerds culled from the crews of Your Sister’s Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed determined we didn’t need no stinkin’ Delta airlines to get from A to B. All we needed was a passenger van, nine iPads, some dirty jokes and a demented dream. We rolled up to the Library Theater at 9am (mountain standard time), having had about an hour of sleep each, just in time for the first Your Sister’s Sister Q&A. I still haven’t really caught up on sleep due to the non-stop onslaught of amazing films that started after that screening (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 28 Hotel Rooms, Kid-Thing, Compliance, Sleepwalk With Me, not to mention SNG and YSS), but it was totally worth it.
Mynette Louie (producer, California Solo)
Memorable things about Sundance 2012:
1. Hearing the wildly varying reactions to The Comedy, Simon Killer, and Compliance. I love it when films stir things up! Unfortunately, I only got to see one of these—Simon Killer—which I really liked.
2. Apple cider whiskey cocktail from High West Distillery. Nothing like a good cocktail (or 8) to get you through all those parties! I averaged 4 social events per day for 10 days (only half the amount I RSVP’d for). I’m definitely suffering from “networking fatigue.” Hey
everyone: please don’t talk to me for, like, a month!
3. Taking shelter from the storm. I blew off a bunch of parties to just sit, eat, and chat in a warm place with some of my cast & crew from California Solo during the Saturday blizzard. This was the most lovely moment I had at the festival.
Graham Reznick (sound designer for Ti West’s sequence in V/H/S)
Saw a boatload of great movies, more than I expected to. My favorite was Craig Zobel’s Compliance. Partially for how well the film was made (the performances, sound, music, writing and even the subtle but brilliant camera direction were all top notch) but also because of the screening experience. There was a swirling ocean of audience whispers throughout the entire duration. Angry, shocked, frustrated gasps of disbelief every time a character made a decision that damned them further—which was nearly once or twice a minute. Not since seeing Happiness in the theater over a decade ago have I felt that kind of thick, palpable manifestation of emotional horror—and the amazing bonding of relief and personal understanding when it was over.
Adele Romanski (producer, Black Rock)
Sundance ’12 was all about being proud of my friends & humbled by the movies they made & feeling inspired to go home and work even harder on my own projects. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a perfect example of a film that made me feel all of the above. That film destroyed me—in the first ten minutes, in the last ten minutes and for the rest of the night following the screening as I tried to wrap my head around what a massive and beautiful undertaking it was.
Ry Russo-Young (director/co-writer, Nobody Walks)
I was coming from a Q&A of Nobody Walks. My mind was buzzing with the energy of the audience. A few of us were going to a party in the New Frontiers building so we stumbled out of the cold and into Evolution by Marco Brambilla. It’s a 3D film that scrolls through an intricate moving tapestry of looped videos from Hollywood films (King Kong, ET and many more). My friend and producer Alicia Van Couvering said it looked like a Hieronymous Bosch painting and she’s right. It’s eternal and epic, composed of movie mythology, a breathtaking reminder of the classics. We sat for a long time marveling at the medium we all love, fully transported to this new cinematic world. I couldn’t ask for anything more perfect.
Merrill Sterritt (Development Director, Film Presence)
Every year at Sundance I really look forward to catching a couple New Frontier features. Denis Côté’s Bestiare and the short Moving Stories that preceded it were both utterly beautiful and quite a punch in the chest. At the same time, watching the audience reaction to those, and hearing about the Q&As for NEXT section’s Compliance, left me wondering if the Sundance brand and success has become its own worst enemy? If the general public clamoring to see any Sundance screening with a ticket available neglects to read the synopsis closely enough, will bored or hostile audiences increase? I hope the programming stays the course, but I’m interested to see if they feel the pressure…
Joe Swanberg (co-director V/H/S)
The highlight of Sundance 2012 for me was hearing that Damien Echols was in Park City. I saw Paradise Lost when it was released in 1996 (I was 15-years-old) and I have spent half my life following the case, outraged, like many, at the injustice. As I’ve grown up, gotten married, had a child and built a filmmaking career for myself, I’ve checked in with the West Memphis 3 case every year or so to see if there were any developments. It has always been sobering and humbling to discover that Damien was still on death row and Jason and Jessie were still serving life sentences. So much had changed for me and these three guys were stuck in suspended animation. There’s still a lot of work to do, and a real killer to be found, so I will continue following the case and raising awareness for it as best I can, but a knot in my stomach that I’ve had since 1996 loosened a bit when the West Memphis 3 were released on August 19 and continues to loosen when I hear that Damien is free to attend a film festival, hang out with his wife, go to dinner with friends, etc. I hope he had a great time!