I have now lived in Los Angeles a little over ten years and I had yet to attend the renowned Sundance Film Festival. I had always wanted to go but not until my dear friend and fellow cinematographer, Jendra Jarnagin, encouraged me early in 2011 to think about attending the 2012 festival did I even seriously consider it. It just seemed like such a large expense and I wasn’t sure if I would truly benefit from being there. So, a couple months before, I decided to take the plunge and get myself to Sundance! And being the Sundance guru that Jendra has become after seven years straight of gallivanting all over the snowy Park City, I felt I would be in good hands taking her up on the offer to stay in one of the rooms of their rental house overlooking Main Street… what a perfect decision.
As Sundance quickly approached with my ticket in hand, I was surprised to find out that a movie I had worked on the previous year actually made it into the U.S. Feature Dramatic Competition! I had served as one of the camera operators for a film called The End of Love (Trailer Below) shot by a fellow AFI colleague, Patrice Cochet, and produced by my buddy Matt Sprague. All more reason to attend the festival! Even though I didn’t have a movie in there that I DP’d, I was still proud to be a part of a film project that I knew was something special.
So, with my “resort chic” attire packed and ready to go, we landed in Sundance with a bang. Already on at least four to five party invitations per day, we were burning the candle at both ends by day one. Being in Jendra’s loop helped with the slew of party invites. She has organized a circle of about ten Sundance goers that each have their own connections in the film world and Sundance festivities from their prior years’ visits as well. So as a courtesy to the group, we would each forward the invitations that we would receive for any given event and get each other on the list!
I was able to screen three movies while at Sundance. For The End of Love I attended the premiere since I was on the crew. The screening was a huge success. Everyone in the audience stayed for the Q&A and had numerous questions about the two-year old Isaac being an Oscar contender. Afterall, he delivered a stunning “performance” due to the fact that he was captured in his natural environment and improvised the scenes with Dad, Mark Webber, his actual father and director. The movie is worth seeing for that aspect alone. There are moments in this film that you have never seen caught on tape before. I promise. The second screening I attended was Filly Brown. Another tear jerking, but inspiring film done by Olmos Productions. (Shout out to Bodie Olmos! Sorry I missed you at Sundance.) I was so happy to see this at Sundance at the Eccles Theater in which it received a standing ovation. And finally, we saw a midnight screening of The Pact, a very fun, jump out of your skin horror movie produced by a Vanderbilt colleague of mine, Ross Dinerstein.
So, the one point that I need to make about Sundance is that within the seven days that I was there, with all the parties, screenings and individual meetings that I set up prior to arriving, I believe I connected with more independent filmmakers within that one week than I had over the entire 2011 year! I feel like when you are in your own little world in Los Angeles, you forget the reason why we are here: to collaborate with like minded artists and filmmakers. But Sundance reminds you of that. And everyone is open to discussing ideas with you and how you may be able to work together in the future.
Yes, my first Sundance experience was a huge success. But I will know more so as the year goes on as to whether my new friends and new connections will in fact turn into working relationships. But overall, it was a blast and a well-deserved vacation. So no matter what, I am happy.