February 14, 2006

Soup Day 6-9

Category: Soups Daily Updates — ericsoup @ 4:29 am

DAY 6

I surprised that I was able to keep us as long as I was with the blog. But indeed, I dropped the ball. So, I’m back, and this is going to be a whirlwind entry to get us up to date, essentially covering the last 4 days all the way up to our departure from Park City.

Lets go back in time a little bit. Back to Day 6. I started off the day with my first 8:30 am screening. They had a buttload of films to screen, and so every day every theater had screenings starting at 8:30 am. Because I am a lazy ass, I avoided these at all costs. However, this particular film looked very intriguing and I deemed it worthy of rising early from bed to check it out.

The film is called “Right at Your Door,” and it was very good. It’s a fairly horrifying look at what really doesn’t seem like a far fetched situation these days. A number of dirty bombs go off in Los Angeles, spreading a toxic viral laden ash all over the city. The film centers on a couple that get caught in the middle of it all. It was essentially shot it on location, a house in Echo Park, and was a genuinely horrifying film and cautionary tale. The director, Chris Gorak, is a well known Production Designer out of Los Angeles. I’m always impressed when people make the jump out of the art department and direct a film. It’s not a very common occurrence, which would seemingly imply that it’s not easy to do. But he did a knock out job for his first time out.

After that FORGIVEN had a screening at Eccles Theater. Eccles is the biggest of the venues at Sundance. It holds over 1200 people and even has a nifty balcony. I believe that it’s actually a performing arts center. There was a bit of anxiety about it for everyone, since of course nobody wants to do a screening at a half empty theater. It turned out that there was nothing to worry about. It filled up, just like all of the rest of the screenings. The Q&A that followed was also quite stimulating. People are stirred and shaken by this film, which leaves them with questions, both inside and out, that Paul keeps saying is part of the reason that he made the film. To make people ask questions and start a dialogue. I would say that he has most certainly succeeded.

After the screening we went out to an amazing dinner at a place called The Blind Dog. We had two locals with us, Paul’s friends Mary Beth and Mark, who sold me on getting the pepper dusted filet. Holy shit. I haven’t had a more perfectly cooked piece of been in a very very long time. The evening was spectacular. I sat at a table with a bunch of folks that I didn’t know. Tom Paul was the sound designer on FORGIVEN, and had just rolled into town that day. Also at the table were Mary Beth and Mark, Paul’s friends from Northwestern. Although I’m sure that we were surrounded by movie folk, it felt relaxed and removed from the festival. I was informed later, however, that Al Gore was sitting right behind me the entire time. He was in Park City promoting a film about global warming called An Inconvenient Truth. I didn’t see the film, but lots of people were talking about it. Or rather talking about the fact that Al Gore was in town.

Anyway, after dinner, Paul, Tom Paul and I headed downtown to hear Mary Beth play. She’s a singer songwriter and she was doing a set at a bar called The Spur. You can check her out here. She was great, but I found myself wishing that the venue had been a little more chill. I was flanked by some dude that was making the rounds harassing women and continuously trying to engage me in a conversation based on his personal observation that “all chicks want to do is suck dick.” I feel like I was a little distracted by the surroundings, and I found myself once again cursing the Main Street scene.

Paul’s friends had come to see Mary Beth and they kindly invited me back to their place to kick it old school up in the mountains. They were all crashing at a condo up at the Deer Valley ski resort. I headed up there and over indulged in a myriad of substances, putting me in a state that would have place me in perfect company with those that I’ve been criticizing on Main Street. I guess that I draw a distinction between getting wasted with friends in a cabin, and getting wasted in public. Maybe I’m just trying to justify my own behavior. Bottom line is that I had a great time up there. Paul’s friends are great. The quintessential group of “buddies,” that are fun, supportive and easy going. Thanks for letting me hang.

Having gotten up at the crack of dawn for my 8:30 am film, I hit a point where I just crashed. Fortunately Tom Paul was on his way out to meet up with some other friends and offered me transport down the mountain.

And there I ended another day. An extremely long day for that matter. I slept like a baby, re-energizing my body for another day…

DAY 7

We had an 11:30 am screening of FORGIVEN, again at the racquet club. Kelly, Paul and I hit that. Once again, great audience participation in the Q&A. And Paul was getting more and more comfortable on stage fielding the questions. Comparing this time and the premier was like night and day. Many of the questions are almost verbatim repeats, so each time Paul sounds more articulate, but many of the questions revolve around the same questions. And those are really the questions that the film brings up. A large part of the film is simply the asking of those questions. I think that people are a little jarred at the lack of “Hollywood ending” which would offer up resolutions to those questions. Paul has gotten progressively better at purposeful and calculated nature of this aspect of the film. Although I think it catches a lot of people off guard, I think that they are also accepting of it’s function in the film as a whole. And Paul certainly puts for a convincing argument which quells any doubts people might have as to where the film is intending to go.

After the screening, I had to boogie down to Salt Lake City, or “down the hill” as everyone here says, to pick up Mimi. Mimi Wyeth was the Line Producer on FORGIVEN. As I recall, she came down to Wilmington only a few weeks before we started shooting, stepping into what would be hard to define as an ideal situation. But she made the best of it, and pulled us all through with brilliant maneuvering through the flaming hoops of independent filmmaking.

Mimi and I headed back to the pad, and chilled for a few, then we bounced down to Main Street (my favorite place) to meet up with Bill Ladd, who was downing some java, after a day of skiing. Bill is a nut. He keeps pace with these insane mountain-bikers who go flying off of jumps that I would be terrified to even look at. I’ll bet that some aspect of that accompanied him to the slopes that day. I was supposed to join him in the AM, but was a little hung over after the night with Paul’s friends. I’m kind of regretting it though. I’m such a pussy on the slopes, at least I could have live vicariously through his bad-ass swishing and swooping.

We all shot the shit for a while and then noshed on some good comfort food. Chicken fried steak with country gravy for me. I don’t usually eat like that because it upsets the shit out of my stomach, which it ultimately did. But there’s something about being in the cold and wanting nice warm grease in your belly.

We decided to hit a film since Mimi was well behind us all in terms of viewing. There was a film called LITTLE TRIP TO HEAVEN playing, and we decided to head over to Eccles and see it. I didn’t know anything about this film, and we chose to see it base solely on the fact that it starred Forest Whitaker who is reliably awesome in everything he’s in.

At any rate the film fucking rocked. It was a strangely structured noir set in an oh so slightly surreal snowy world that was around Hastings, MN. The film was beautifully shot, paced, acted, scored, and realized. It had the whole package. This film was not in competition, but was instead part of the “Premiers” category. Keep your eyes open for this one coming to your local art house cinema. It’s a bizzarro, trippy film that’s totally enjoyable and I highly recommend.

After the screening, we headed home and hit the hay with the slightly horrific imagery from the film still dancing in my head.

DAY 8

Nice casual morning. No 8:30 screenings to rush out the door for. Paul and Kelly were going to see WRISTCUTTERS: A Love Story which was DP’d by Vanja ńĆernju who just so happens to have been our DP on FORGIVEN. Again, we’re into some awesomely bizarre territory here. The film is based on a short story, although I’m not sure if it’s of the same title. Anyway, the story is about an after-world that you end up in if you commit suicide. It’s a fantastically decrepit world where people are unable to smile and have to exist amongst a backdrop of rust and decay. It’s like a mild apocalyptic vision. And on top of everything else, those who are condemned to live in this world are unable to smile. The film is a black comedy and ultimately turns into a road-trip film. Ever since I was 15 and saw Easy Rider, I’ve always been a fan of road-trip films. They’re like adult coming of age films. Point being that I was probably pre-disposed to like this film.

Not everyone that I’ve spoken too has liked it. I think that some people are put off by the flip nature with which it deals with suicide. I also think that I had seen so many “heavy” films at that point, that a comedy, despite its inherent darkness, was a bit of relief. Personally, I would give if a thumbs up. Dark comedies generally float my boat and there were a lot of other things going on in this film that appealed to me.

After that screening I had a bit of down time. Paul and Kelly went to see PUCCINI FOR BEGINNERS. I probably should have gone to see this, but I needed to make some phone calls, plus we still had three more films to see on this particular day.

Next up for me was a documentary about the photographer Sally Mann, called WHAT REMAINS. For those of you who don’t know Sally Mann, she’s a great artist. Her nude photos of her children stirred up a good deal of controversy about 10 years ago, and that controversy is really what put her on the map. This documentary is about her preparing another body of work which deals with death and our relationship with death as a society. She also talks a bit about the recognition she received from the photos of her children. You come away from it truly believing that it was not a move on her part to get attention by creating controversy, not that that isn’t a common ploy of artists.

At any rate, the film was very good. It was shot over the course of three or four years, and is a very intimate portrait of her live as a mom, wife and artist, all of which are inseparably intertwined. She lives on a farm down near Lexington, Virginia, which is practically within spitting distance of Jeannie’s parents farm. And just like the Mary and Gary’s place, Sally Mann’s is overrun with a menagerie of animals that are also an intricate part of her life and work. Hopefully this film will make it out into the world because I know that Jeannie really wanted to see it, but we couldn’t work it out schedule-wise when she was in Park city.

WHAT REMAINS was directed by Steven Cantor who was the producer of a documentary from a few years back called DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND. This film is very worth checking out as it genuinely blew my mind. It’s about the Amish right of passage called rumspringer where at 16, Amish kids go out into the modern world, and generally go absolutely nuts with sex, drugs and rock and roll. A wild ride through the world of the Amish.

Anyway, I digress. That night we had a screening of FORGIVEN to attend in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake is a 30-40 minute drive from Park City, and my initial inclination was not to attend. But then we caught wind from a couple of people that the screenings in Salt Lake were a bit different. Mostly in attendance would be locals, not film industry people, which was enough to entice me into a trip down the hill.

Also on this day, Reagan Gibbs and Joe McDoutall showed up, each with their significant others in tow. Reagan and Janice had met up with us in Park City, but Joe and Zann met us down in SLC. New arrivals to partake in this reunion fiasco. More stories to reminisce about more people to see what they’ve been up to for the past year. Good times.

So we all met up in SLC and watched the screening, and indeed the crowd was a bit different. First off, almost nobody left after the screening. The Q&A evoked many of the same questions, and Paul fielded them with what now seemed like expert skill. But after the screening, it seemed that a larger percent followed Paul out into the lobby of the theater and had conversations with him. I felt like this was the first audience of regular people, not film people, that saw the film, and the reaction was very very good. It was uplifting.

Kelly was holding tickets for a midnight screening of a Beastie Boys documentary called Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That! where they handed out 50 video cameras to audience members during a performance, and then cut the film together from the footage that they got back. What an awesome fucking idea, but alas, the crowd was tired and the group needed to travel as a pack, so the tickets were sold to some lucky folks, and back up the hill we headed. I do hope to catch this film sometime though. The approach is novel, and I heard that it’s actually quite good.

And that’s how we wound down day 8. By the time were were back up the hill, we were all beat and we all wanted to be well rested for what would be our final full day at Sundance.

DAY 9

Kelly and Paul hit an early screening of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, which was something of a documentary companion piece to FORGIVEN. It’s a true story of a wrongly accused man who was exonerated. It only seemed appropriate that a viewing be scheduled. They liked it, as did everyone else that I spoke to who saw it. I’ll have to add it to my Netflix queue, as I didn’t make it.

Our final screening was up at the Sundance Institute, and we had decided to go up there and grab some lunch first. This was the perfect way to round out this whole screening schedule. The Institute is about an hour outside of Park City, nestled away in a little unassuming area up in the hills. At first glance it just looked like a quaint little ski resort with one chair lift. But it’s certainly more than that. This is where they hold all of the Sundance Labs. That’s where a writer/director/composres and I don’t even know who else, lock themselves away with a bunch of seasoned film people and sharpen their craft in the way that only that one on one attention can do.

We chowed down and then hit the screening. It was a nice small venue where they didn’t even bother presenting Paul with a mic to address the crowd. Far more of a screening room than a movie theater. As expected, the screening went well, and the normal barrage of questions followed. It may have been the location, or perhaps knowing that this was the last screening, but the whole thing felt really relaxed.

The bad news was that when the screening and the Q&A was over, the theater director came in and informed us that it had been snowing like a motherfucker while were were in fantasy movie land and that the mountainous roads that we had to traverse to get here, were now quite dangerous. So much so, in fact, that the cops were ticketing people who were giving it a try and didn’t have 4 wheel drive on their vehicles. Not fun. Especially since we had to get back to Park City pronto for the awards ceremony.

As if the snow wasn’t enough, when we piled into the SUV with Paul at the wheel, the gas light came on. As a result Paul switched off the 4 wheel drive to conserve the fumes that we were already running on, and masterly navigated us down the mountain. Not that it was any better down the mountain. A storm was dumping snow all over the region. There were a number of cars off the road, or just plain stuck. It seemed ominous. But ultimately we made it to a gas station in time and we made it across the Utah freeways to the awards ceremony just in time.

We sat there and watched as other films got awards that we all wanted to get. The elated reactions from the recipients filled me with jealousy. Despite that, I will say that the films which did win something which I had seen screenings of, were certainly deserving. And even though, I know that it’s just little meaningless glass trophies that they are giving away, somehow you want your film to win one anyway. You want it as a shinny symbol of someone recognizing the time and energy and work you put into it. You want it as an icon of appreciation for making something so big with so little to work from. Just the thought of it sitting on Paul or Kelly’s mantel meaninglessly acquiring dust would have been very satisfying on some level, no matter how irrational it all is. But alas, no trophy.

Fortunately there was a big party afterwards. I could drown my sorrows and my lingering jitters about the car ride with one stone. We actually didn’t stay too long. It got very crowded and it had been a long day. Tomorrow we were to hop on our flights back to the real world and there was swag to be packed. We hopped on the bus, and headed back to the Empire Coalition. Our home at Sundance.

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