Friday, January 18, 2008

down the rabbit hole: the sundance chronicles

briefly: i got a job working for an acquisitions company out of toronto for the sundance film festival.  my responsibilities are to go to as many movies as i can and find ones that would be wise to acquire.  that's it in a nutshell, and that nutshell is 100% outside of anything i've ever done or know about.  here's to adventure.

my goal was to get to park city by 7 a.m., so that i could get in line and get 2 tickets for a show today.  i left at 6:20 for the hour commute, not accounting for the backed up traffic leading in to town.  i was also not prepared to find that the previously-free parking lots were now $20 to park.  yet i did find a miraculous free parking spot.
day-of-show tickets go on sale at 8:00 a.m. and i was told to get there an hour early.  i arrived ten minutes to 8 and as i took my spot at the tail of the anaconda-like line, i contemplated the ethics and logic of asking the people in the front of the line if i could simply pay them to buy me two tickets to 'the yellow handkerchief' today.  in the end, i decided not to, and, shortly after 9:00, found myself at the ticket agent buying the very last ticket for today's show.
the bonus to this was that the wait took up enough time that there was no reason to go see my first movie on my schedule.  it's paragraph description included the word 'sex' or a derivation thereof seven times; i didn't want to see it in the first place, was glad that i missed it, and  felt better when i heard that it wasn't very good anyway.

i watched a solid-made documentary consisting entirely of interviews with prominent members of the black community discussing current racial issues.  it was rather good, but nothing we could market.  i liked chris rock and al sharpton's interviews the most.
from there i hopped a shuttle bus to downtown, visited with a friend working up there, where i also met two other people and had quintessential 'sundance' conversations such as: 'yes, i would be interested in talking with you about working with you on a project - thank you for your demo reel,' and 'your daughter sounds very talented; i will talk with my friends and see if i can get her into 'high school musical 3'.

...ok, i wasn't that superficial.  i tried to actually give out legitimate advice while still giving answers the people wanted, but i saw how easy it can be to simply fabricate things that sound good.

a goodbye hug and i was off to see another doc about young boys in a russian detention center, incarcerated for everything from stealing jam to murder.  it was a good subject and, while the film had no immediate faults, it got long in the middle.  again, nothing we could market.

i think working for the 'international cinema' at byu was actually a very good primer for this sort of job; seeing a lot of varied movies helps you develop an eye for it all.

the company i'm working with also produced a movie that is playing here, one directed by stanley tucci [the airport supervisor in 'the terminal'].  our evening included a dinner, the premiere of the movie, and an after party.  the dinner was held atop some new high-rise complex where apartments start for $2.5 million, the wine was sponsored by a couple who apparently make some of the finest wine in the business, and was actually not even a dinner but a schmooze event with very good hors d'oeuvres, and where i had to ask the staff in order to get a non-fermented drink.
i was dying at that party.  i still feel very new in this job, knowing so little about my job that i couldn't even talk about it.  the delicate art of conversation is something i don't understand and generally dislike except when i realize that perhaps i would like these sort of situations if i knew what the rules were.  talking to people about nothing only because we're supposed to talk about nothing seems pointless to me, so that when i do, i feel like i've wasted the time anyway.  but if i knew how to keep score and could walk away from an evening knowing that i'd done a successful job, well, then i suppose i'd like it.
i did make a friend with one of the associate producers and she and i kept each other company with genuine conversation for most of the evening.  meanwhile, there was some sort of 'you must be this cool to enter' room decorate with pairs of uggs boots that were free for the taking if you knew who and how.
at the premiere stanley and patricia clarkson got their pictures taken by photographers with lots of flashes.  stanley had a look like he was trying not to smile.
his movie was interesting.  again, more of an 'international cinema' type - all in one location, odd premise, and slowly paced, relying much on subtexts and inferences.
the after party was like the dinner but with less food and more people.  i had to drive home and drive back in too few hours, but did have another coke and found out that after we'd left, some guy snuck in the balcony window, grabbed the hd tv, took it out to the ledge, the tv, the guy fell three stories, landed on an atrium, bounced on to the snowy ground, and got away.  and the power went out for a while, too.  wow - welcome to sundance.

as i was saying goodbye to our people, i began to feel more like i was a part of them, and ruby, our amazing festival coordinator, said she would try to get me into the 'be kind, rewind' party.
i'll let you know how it goes.

i think i've got 5 films to watch tomorrow.


Em said...

You keep that up and you'll be sleeping through movies, no matter how good they are.

And I detest such social events. I cannot for the life of me hold up my end of superficial conversations. Props to you.

Waiting for your sequel....

Jack said...

Minus the booze and schmooze, sounds like a sweet gig. Talk about Rules of the Game.

Looking forward to hearing not only your reviews of today's 5 movies, but also your well-respected recommendations for later viewing.

Oh, and if you see any more uggs...I could use a pair.