O.K., you all know that I go to a lot of festivals.  The truth is, I rarely go to any panel or event where I expect to learn something for myself.  It’s not that I’m so brilliant (well, it’s not JUST that), but usually, panels have to cover such general ground for the audience that I rarely, if ever, hear something new.

Except when I go to the Sundance Institutes Independent Producer’s Conference.  This weekend event is where filmmakers, producers, and all the people who really run the indie film industry converge in an idyllic setting to talk all things film.  Panels are run by heads of mini-major studios like Sony Classics, heads of independent film departments at agencies, like William Morris’ Cassian Elwes, and other people who could buy and sell me.  This is one of the few trips I take where I gain as much as I give (and I’m a giver).  The people you meet and the information you get is really invaluable.  And this is what we tell the bevy of publicists (damn flacks) and managers when we invite an actor to come with.  It’s amazing how the people who are in charge of futhering the career of their clients, don’t actually pay attention to events that could do just that.  So I talked with a LOT of said idiots, and explained again and again why this event is important.  Ultimately I got an actor – who then fell out due to work, then we got another actor – who then fell out due to work (WHY are all these actors working?!).  I finally got an actor who, due to her charm and beauty put the other actors to shame, Elizabeth Banks.  Mind you, I generally as a rule, hate skinny blond girls, but Elizabeth is nice, unassuming, and funny – even I can’t hate her.  And I hate everyone.

So, Thursday morning, I drag my tired arse to the airport and meet Elizabeth there.  We fly on Southwest, and arrived fresh and fancy free in Utah.  The ride to the Institute was easy, despite being 55 miles.  No, it’s not in Park City, but further into the lovely Provo where you pass the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.  The Institute itself is just beautiful.  The cabins are scattered throughout the property, and we all ate at the Rehearsal Hall (note:  the great Indian that sits at the edge of the pond).  Everyone hangs out together, we eat together, we drink together, etc.  It’s like camp for film executives. 

As a sponsor, I got to say a few words at the opening night screening.  Then we sat back and enjoyed the light hearted documentaries of Baghdad ER and HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI, about surviving an atomic bomb.  Fun times.  After, we all went directly to the Owl Bar and tried to forget.  Still, extremely good films.  Other films screened for us were the aforementioned by Paul, HALF NELSON.  That Ryan Gosling………yum.  And the last night, the tentpole screening (if there is such a thing) was Marie Antionette.  An interesting film that sucked me in from the very beginning, but spit me out well before the end of the movie. 

I also met with the group of film fellows who had projects that Sundance Inst. was helping to develop.  We went over the intricacies of the SAG low budget contracts and they asked many good questions.  In there midst, was their film guru, Michelle Satter, shepherding and protecting her flock of filmmakers

Anyhow, I had such a great time.  I met many great filmmakers, like Gary Winick, and just generally enjoyed myself.  Geoff Gilmore even chatted with me!  Careful people, I have arrived.  And as I promised, this is what ran just outside my cabin door.  I can almost hear Robert Redford narrating my thoughts (ooh, he’s talkin’ naughty!).

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