Soundings from Sundance

When we last left our roving reporters, Sarah Jo Marks and Tamara Krinsky, they were keeping us in the loop from the Toronto International Film Festival. Here they are again with some reflections from Park City.

Pre-Day One--Tamara Krinsky: No Sleep ‘til Sundance

After a three-year absence from the Park City fiesta, I am finally headed back to the land of snow and Redford. I've spent the past three years attending Toronto instead, and it's been very
civilized (and warm). A friend described the current incarnation of Sundance as a two tier event: There's the marketing convention that occurs as companies wine and dine their clients on Main Street and celebs are piled with gifts, and then there's the actual film festival. I can still remember sitting in a dark theatre and being bewitched by films like Pi and Slam; verrry curious to see if the magic is still possible.

While up in Park City, I'll be producing and hosting video coverage for www.iklipz.com, a video-sharing, community based site that launched in mid-July 2006. Founded by industry execs who have a keen interest in identifying and nurturing new talent, the site focuses exclusively on independent film. We'll be shooting filmmaker interviews, party coverage and a variety of video goodies that will
be streaming from the Sundance profile on the site. I'll also be reporting for Documentary Magazine, so I'll be seeing a healthy mix of narrative and nonfiction pieces.

This will be the first time I'll be covering Sundance with a video crew--an entirely different adventure than the writing I've done about the festival in the past. The prep process is much more
exhaustive, as echoed in several other bloggers' entries, so I'll be starting the festival with a sleep deficit. And my 6:20am flight on Friday certainly isn't going to help. It's times like these that I really wish I drank coffee!

Pre-Day One-Sarah Jo Marks

I've arrived the first weekend, I've stayed through the closing night party, but I've never gotten to Sundance a day early. It might be the best thing I do this whole trip. I fled LA Wednesday morning on two hours sleep and a California Pizza Kitchen tuna salad. Sundance starts at the Delta terminal. Everyone's chatting about the movies they're going to see, they made, they programmed, they saw at a super secret special location, but didn't like that much. It's time to turn on until flight time. I picked up an LA Times and was thrilled to see Kenneth Turan's pre-fest coverage. He only mentioned one short in the piece, "irresistible short doc (The Fighting Cholitas)" I got chills! By the time we loaded up I was ready to pass out. I slept most of the one-hour flight with my noise reducing headphones keeping out the voices of the publicists chattering behind me.

Got in, ate dinner at the Vietnamese place off Main Street (tasty but a little overpriced - 10$ for
rice noodles!?), went to Albertson's for essentials (a first day Park City must!) worked and went to bed with the intent of being ready and rested for Thursday.

I've got a pretty solid schedule of movies to see and parties to hit and today was the just the
beginning. Late start was a good thing because I ran into the entire Fighting Cholitas crew at the hospitality suite at the Marriott Headquarters. We hooked up and went to opening reception of New Frontier on Main. It's in the basement of the Main Street Mall in the old location of the Digital Center and showcases new technologies.

Met the whole crew of a new doc called Official Rejection at a shuttle stop. Can't miss them. They're all sporting hats with their logo, the title of the film in festival laurels. The film is about the craziness that goes on as filmmakers try to get their films into festivals

And for the first time (drum roll please) I made it to the opening night movie! Hooray! I was surprised the Press & Industry screening wasn't full. But I was glad I got there early to get an unobstructed view for Brett Morgen's new doc Chicago 10.

Tomorrow morning is an early one. 8:30 screening of the doc shorts

Day One:Tamara Krinsky--The Journey

It started with a 6:35 a.m. flight Friday morning. Which meant my alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. Friday morning. Which means that as I write this at 1:07 a.m. Saturday morning, I'm a bit delirious.

We landed. We checked into our suite--at the Treasure Mountain Inn amidst all the Slamdancers. We ate hamburgers at 11:30 am because our stomachs had lost all sense of time.

And then we were ready to begin.

Day One: Tamara Krinsky--The Scene

Kicked off the festival at the SXSW cocktail party, where we interviewed festival and conference producer Matt Dentler, hung out with the cast of The Signal, and had a bizarre festival moment with "Screech" from Saved by the Bell, who is apparently engaged in some sort of Schwag-a-thon with Gary Coleman. Video goodies to come.

After SXSW, it was off to the PBS party where a spread of tortilla chips and lamb chops welcomed the nonfiction crowd. John Boland, the new chief content officer of PBS, gave a welcome speech to the enthusiastic crowd, pointing out several significant anniversaries: the 20th of POV, the 25th of Sundance, and the 40th of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the
Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which enabled creation of entities like PBS and NPR.

Day 2: Tamara--Attending Sundance is an exercise in balance. Crucial decisions about when to go back to the condo for a breather (or a glass of wine), when to wait it out in the party line vs. when to call it quits, when to have a glass filled with water instead of vodka...all of these factor into a successful Sundance experience. Tonight, decision-making powers were put to the test as we waited in the cold to get into the Gen Art party (only two names on the list, but five peeps total in our
posse), had one too many slices of pizza for dinner and finally left the Premiere Lounge when we realized we were close to being up for 24 hours straight.

Now it's time to check the schedule for tomorrow with the hopes of actually seeing a few movies. As the buttons around town say, "Focus on Film."

I will.

As soon as I get some sleep.

Day 3: Tamara--Traversing Park City

I thought I might actually get to see a movie this afternoon, but that plan was nixed when I found out last minute that we had gotten permission to shoot the Red Carpet for Zoe Cassavettes' Broken English. We talked with the lovely Zoe, Drea DeMateo, indie queen Parker Posey and Justin Theroux. Video goodies coming soon!

My plan afterwards was to head over to the press office, but this was made slightly more difficult when our friends with the car who were coming to get us got stuck in traffic. One of the changes I've really noticed at the festival is how much more spread out it is, and the impossibility of getting around with anything resembling speed. I remember when you could dash from one screening to
another, and easily fit in four or five movies in a day. Not so anymore. The combo of far too many cars on the road and more venues further away from one another means you really have to plan out your day in advance. Racquet Club to Egyptian back to Eccles...it's like going from the Santa Monica to the Valley to Culver City...and it's always rush hour.

After conquering the shuttle system and spending some quality time in the press office, I made it back to meet with Discovery Films to plan our coverage of their party on Sunday night. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is supposed to be there and my internal science geek is ridiculously excited at the prospect of getting to interview him.

Spent a long time shivering in the cold waiting to get into the Filmmaker Magazine party, as it opened late due to the previous party running over. Once inside, we quickly warmed up with some cocktails and conversation. Then we moved onto a very civilized non-Sundance-ish dinner at
Bacchus, where we had some fantastic wine and tapas. Was sorely tempted to go to another party afterwards, but the thought of standing out in the cold again was just too much for me. Was even more tempted to try to go to a movie, but feared I'd fall asleep in the theatre.

Instead, my cohorts and I decided to call it an early night. I was having a hard time dealing with the fact that I had been here for almost two full days and had still not actually seen a film. I was determined to wake up early the next morning and get my butt into a screening.

 

Day One: Tom White--I thought I'd sneak in here, since I'm actually here. Day One started for me at 3:00 a.m., juggling among issues of the magazine and the e-zine. At 5:00 a.m. I
headed over to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their announcement of the Oscar nominations. Outside the academy, it was cold, dark and deserted, but you would never know, once you got past security, of the carnival that lurked within. There was the high carb breakfast spread, the cavalcade of cameras, the freshly scrubbed hosts from Access Hollywood and The Insider...and there was scruffy, bleary-eyed me.

But it was over in a flash, and I phoned in the nods, headed out into the cold, dark and deserted streets, and went back home to work. A couple of hours later I was en route to my ninth Sundance.

Then the fun began: When I got to the condo office, there were no keys for me, nobody inside the condo to let me in, and no master key at the front office. Undaunted, I went to the press office to pick up my press pass and tickets--but there were no tickets for me. Sundance had not gotten around to processing the form I had faxed and e-mailed a month before. Neither apologetic nor especially accommodating, the staff had me fill out a form requesting the tickets that I should have gotten and come back every day to check to see if I would actually get them. Welcome! I decided
to go for some coffee--which I promptly spilled all over me. Having a ball in Park City!

Well, I could get into press screenings, and there was one that I had heard great things about when it played at Cannes last year. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is not your typical sports doc. Slated in the New Frontier section, the film, by Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, follows celebrated soccer player Zinedine Zidane over the course of an entire 90-minute game. With 17 cameras trained on him from different angles and perspectives, the film is a meditation
on the mind and soul of an athlete. The soundscape, a meditative, Eno-esque score, blends in Zidane's breathing and occasional utterances, footsteps on the turf, and hard wacks at the soccer ball, as well as an occasional roar from the crowd. A telecast of the game provides a contrapuntal discourse to this intensely subjective experience of athletic performance Zidane himself--or is it the filmmakers?--shares his views, via text on the screen, on being a public persona and a private person. I'll never watch a game the same way again.

After that, I headed out in the biting cold to stand in line for the Kodak Party, where I ran into the irrepressible Sarah Jo Marks, who will return to the blog-rolls for a wrap-up, she assures me. I also met the producer of Zoo, which I will be seeing tomorrow, and one of the filmmakers in Slamdance, which I will try to make a point of checking out.

That's all for now!

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