Thursday, January 24, 2013

MY ADVENTURES AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL, DAY ONE


In addition to writing this blog, I also am a budding screenwriter. I’ve been writing screenplays since 2009 and am fortunate to have a terrific manager in Hollywood - Christine Lynne of Goddess Productions. I’ve also been lucky enough to figure in the finals of a number of screenplay contests in the past few years and just this month won the Grand Prize in the Table Read My Screenplay contest at the Sundance Film Festival. I wrote a western called THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB and it won the action/adventure category too. And the Grand Prize is a trip to Sundance, so today I am going to start the ‘diary’ of my adventures at one of the biggest film festivals on the planet.
The poster I designed for my award-winning script THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB which will be used  for the Table Read My Screenplay event at Sundance. 
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23
I boarded a 7 AM US Airways flight in Chicago and it flew me to Phoenix and then I connected to Salt Lake City. Then I was driven to Park City, which is only about half an hour from the airport. My driver Kevin was extremely cordial and we had a nice discussion about my script.

THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB takes place in the Old West and is about a former madam forced to work with three other famous, and infamous, outlaws to hunt down Billy the Kid. It’s based on four real people whom I’ve thrown into a fictional adventure together. The head of Table Read, Craig James Pietrowiak, described my script as a sort of a western version of THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Loved that! And Kevin, my driver, told me he was anxious to see it onscreen. From his wishes to God’s ears…
The view of Park City from the bed & breakfast I'm staying at.

The state of Utah is very mountainous and our drive into Park City was like a moving picture postcard the whole way. I expected it to be very cold but it was sunny and amazingly warm. I didn’t even need to button my overcoat or put on gloves when I got out of the car to check into the bed and breakfast where I’m staying. My room was big and comfortable there and the hostess Barbara was very nice despite being struck with a bad cold. I unpacked my things and headed downtown.

Main Street of Park City was just a short walk from where I’m staying. And as I got to the main drag it impressed me how the street was fun and well kept up. Park City is a popular ski resort town and all, and they really make it warm and inviting. It’s also very western and at times reminded me of the main drag of Frontierland at Disney World. The storefronts all have a boutique feel to them, and some even could be from a western movie set. How appropriate for me, right?
One of the store fronts on Main Street in Park City. (Very western. How appropriate for those scoundrels, eh?)


I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 6 AM so I was hungry. I stopped in at the Red Banjo saloon, a cozy little place that boasts it's Park City's oldest restaurant. There I ate a delicious, fresh grilled chicken sandwich. (Their specialty is pizza but maybe when in Rome, not at Sundance. That didn’t seem appropriate to the whole western vibe of my adventure.)

Then I met up with Craig and Will Perkins from Table Read and we hit our first party together. The Sundance Channel was throwing a little shindig (again, my western vibe) and I met some people there and we exchanged business cards. I had a special one made up with my name, details and mention of the Grand Prize win on one side, and a shrunken down version of the PhotoShop poster I made of THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB for Friday’s table read event, where my script will be read out loud by professional actors around a table and recorded too.
Craig, yours truly and Will at the Sundance Channel party. (No, those aren't stars in my eyes. Just the reflection of the camera phone light bouncing off my glasses.)

After downing a couple of Stella’s, the three of us headed over to the premiere of a movie called MILKSHAKE, a coming of age film about a narcissistic teen boy trying to navigate through basketball season and two girlfriends. It was exactly the kind of quirky, indie film that I hoped to see as my first movie at Sundance, which has done more to promote the independent film movement in this country than anything else. There was a Q & A afterwards with the filmmakers answering some questions about how the film got made. Interestingly, they ducked the question about how much their film cost and how exactly they got the budget together. Knowing the film biz, it probably came from all sorts of places, but it would have been interesting to know just what they made it for.
A scene from MILKSHAKE, one of the independent movies premiering at Sundance this year.

Then I walked around the main drag, admiring the artsy lights dotting the buildings. I also grabbed some ice cream at the Java Cow, and ate my banana chocolate chip scoop out on the street without gloves. That’s how warm it was my first night in. (A nice change from that morning in the Windy City where it was only 10 degrees.)
The cheeky sign at Java Cow, a popular coffee & ice cream shop in Park City.
For the final event of the evening, I met up with Craig again for drinks at the Wasatch Pub, a local watering hole. (My outlaws would be so proud of my vernacular, wouldn’t they?) We were joined there by DC Sayre, the winner in the Table Read’s animation/fantasy category for his script DARBY PETTY AND THE LOST TREASURE OF THE IVERNI. Also meeting up with us was Alvaro Rodriguez, the writer of MACHETE, one of my favorite action pictures of recent years. They’re great guys and we all had a fun time talking movies and sharing a couple of pitchers of the bar’s homemade beers. Alvaro is a special guest at the Table Read event on Friday, and he will be reading the narration in my script. How cool is that?

I returned to my room quite tired but elated to be here and looking forward to screenings and parties the next day. Craig, who’s also a big honcho at the International Screenwriter’s Association, has connections everywhere and is getting us in to a party Thursday night sponsored by the Albuquerque Film Experience group. They helped BREAKING BAD get made down there. And Craig promised me that there would be a special guest attending that party and it would give me a lot to talk about. So stay tuned, friends. And come back for my diary from Day 2 tomorrow!

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