On Tuesday and Wednesday I was at the Sundance Film Lab in Utah.
After my plane landed in a thunderstorm (on the second attempt), I drove up to the Sundance Resort to find that it was snowing. And this is what I was wearing.
Despite the weather, Sundance, as always, was gorgeous.
The Film Lab is an annual workshop for independent filmmakers. Eight projects/directors are chosen (from billions of submissions) to spend a month at the Lab rehearsing, shooting, and editing four or five scenes from their projects under the supervision of industry advisors. This year’s advisors included actor Philip Seymour Hoffman; actor/directors Robert Redford and Harold Ramis; directors Boaz Yakin and Peter Medak; and cinematographer Denis Lenoir.
I have to admit that the jaded part of me suspected that these high-profile advisors weren’t actually going to do anything (I imagined them all sitting together in a hot tub sipping mimosas while the filmmakers slaved away at their productions), but I was pleasantly surprised and even a little moved to see just how involved these professionals were. Each day started with an Advisors Meeting (which I was allowed to watch once I was sworn to secrecy) where each of the strengths and concerns about the filmmakers was discussed and strategies were developed to help them.
Then the Advisors spent the day observing the filmmakers work, suggesting improvements, and meeting with them one-on-one to discuss their goals.
The Advisors work hard. Probably as hard as the filmmakers. Definitely harder than me (Another mimosa, waiter!).
The eight filmmakers choose scenes from their scripts that they consider the biggest challenge and set to work shooting them with professional actors (including Elias Koteas, Rae Dawn Chong, Debra Wilson, and Dylan Baker). What’s really cool is that the tapes they use are never seen by anyone outside the lab (unless everyone agrees to release them), so they give the actors and directors a chance to experiment without any risk.
It’s also really neat to realize that these filmmakers will very likely be the top indie directors in the very near future… previous films that have been workshopped at the Sundance Lab include Boys Don’t Cry, Requiem for a Dream, Maria Full of Grace, and Me and You and Everyone We Know.
We also hosted a reception for the participants (You know by now that if I’m involved there’s gonna be liquor…).
Here are a few shots from the party:
Advisors Joan Darling and Peter Medak.
Actor James McDaniel and his Director Andrew Donsunmu.
Advisor Philip Seymour Hoffman and someone I didn’t meet (sorry). When I first saw this photo I was ready to call the National Enquirer as I was sure I had captured an image of the ghost of Butch Cassidy… then I realized that it might actually have something to do with their cigarettes…
Advisor Harold Ramis and project cinematographer Rob Humphreys.
I want to thank the Staff of the Sundance Institute who took very good care of me and made me feel very welcome, and the Advisors, Crews, and especially the Directors, who let me be a fly on the wall.
Now I’m in Michigan for the Waterfront Film Festival. The humidity is 100%. And I have a cold.
I’ll tell you all about it in my next post.