Friday, January 25, 2013

MY ADVENTURES AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL, DAY TWO


THURSDAY, JANUARY 24

I knew the balmy weather in Park City, Utah had to be a bit of a bluff. Thus, I woke up this morning to light flurries that seemed more akin to what one would expect here. A fine powder covered the town this AM. Rather beautiful to see. Unfortunately, it was storming at Salt Lake City and soon the airport would be temporarily closed, which would have ramifications on the Festival.

For starters, Craig James Pietrowiak (the head of Table Read My Screenplay) was late in picking screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez (MACHETE) and me up at our house. This was due to the fact that he was on the phone trying to reroute some actors and staff coming in for the table read of my script THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB on Friday morning. Heck, Craig’s sound guy who would be recording the read, was rerouted back to Chicago due to the inclement weather. If I had to read some of the parts due to actor no-shows, well, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem as I’d read all the parts aloud a number of times. (I’m not as good at the female characters!) But without a sound guy how would there be a record of the wonderful event? Suddenly, the festival was filled with quite a bit of unwanted drama.
Screenwriter and new friend Alvaro Rodriguez. (My apologies for not having a picture of Alvaro with me yet!)
Of course, Alvaro and I didn’t know that just yet, only that Craig was late. So it gave us a chance to talk. And because of the hour we had together that morning, we become fast friends. He’s incredibly smart, with a vast knowledge of literature, movies, history, pop culture and politics. Alvaro's also one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet. And I found out that he’s a big fan of Robert Louis Stevenson too. A script I wrote called FIEND won best thriller in the Table Read My Screenplay contest last year at Sundance and was about Stevenson. In fact, Alvaro was thinking of doing a script with Stevenson’s The Suicide Club shorts so we had a very expansive conversation together. And then Alvaro asked to read FIEND. I was very flattered.

When Craig picked us up he informed us of the plane problems but he smiled confidently and told us things would work out. He’s an incredibly savvy and shrewd man, also witty and kind, so I believed him. (Though I was prepared to search the frontier clothing shops high and low asking if they had any tape recorders for sale!)
CONCUSSION writer/director Stacie Passon and Robin Weigert at Sundance.

The first event for us Thursday was the premiere of a movie called CONCUSSION, which turned out to be a stunning feature. The story focuses on an unfulfilled lesbian housewife named Abby (played by the marvelous Robin Weigert) who is looking for something beyond her life with her aloof breadwinner mate, their two adopted children and the impeccably decorated suburban home they live in. She ends up falling into lesbian prostitution and if you think it’s a churlish romp, it’s not. The film is a sensual, sad, and unflinching portrait of loneliness. As Alvaro said, it blows something like BELLE DU JOUR out of the water in its frankness and female POV. You may remember Weigert played Calamity Jane on DEADWOOD on HBO a few years back, and this role couldn’t be farther from that Western ruffian. She deserves Oscar consideration next year, as does the writer/director Stacie Passon.

The snow had stopped by the time we got out of the screening. (Hopefully, the actors and soundman would be able to fly into Salt Lake City soon!) Hungry for a late lunch, Alvaro and Table Read’s Ayla Rose Barreau (a beautiful and terrific actress) and her boyfriend Will Perkins took me to Flanagan’s, an Irish pub on Main Street. Then we headed over to Cicero’s, the bar where the Albuquerque film folks were throwing their party, and the guest of honor was going to be…
The man himself. Robert Redford at Sundance six days ago. Alas, I would not get to meet him.

Robert Redford.

That’s right, the legendary multi-hyphenate and father of the Sundance Film Festival himself was slated to attend. Everyone has asked if I’d get to meet Redford and I always said I doubted it, but now it would seem that pipe dream and my mom’s fantasy would come true. (She already has him directing and starring in THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB in her mind. Not a bad thought, actually.)

But alas, it was not to be. Redford was indeed scheduled to attend. And I had thought if I had gotten the opportunity, I’d ask him to attend the table read tomorrow AM. But there was a death in the family, so Redford flew out for Los Angeles the day before and would not be back for the rest of the festival. Close. Very close, but alas, no Sundance Kid.

But for me my true celebrity sighting here has been meeting Alvaro. He's an incredibly accomplished talent, a Hollywood insider, and a new friend and contact. We went to another screening together that afternoon and spent a lot of time talking together about my work, his work and our fondness for films from the 1970’s and the late, great film composer Jerry Goldsmith. We’ve exchanged emails, cell phone numbers and Twitter accounts, and we’re now good friends. We both felt like we have known each other for a long time, even though it’s been less than 48 hours.
A scene from the controversial ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW that premiered at Sundance 2013.

The last movie of the day that we saw together spurred a good half hour conversation between us because it was a whopper of a film! It’s called ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW and it comes into Sundance with a ton of controversy surrounding it. It’s a black comedy, shot in black and white, filmed without licenses or permission in Disney World and Disneyland. Filmmaker Randy Moore has created a huge, sprawling bizarre and rather unsettling comic nightmare about a family vacation gone awry at the Magic Kingdom. It’s outrageous not only for its range of material, including infidelity, possessed children and alien probing, but also for its blatant satire on the joviality forced upon everyone at each turn in the land of Mickey Mouse. It may never get a wide release because of the lack of Disney’s cooperation, but Alvaro and I got to see it at Sundance, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

With that, I retired for the night. Tomorrow was the Table Read and I wanted to be rested and ready. Craig texted me that the actors were getting into town, and that all was well. And Alvaro texted me late in the evening to tell me how much he enjoyed reading THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB. The first two days at Sundance certainly were a whirlwind and incredibly positive. Now with the table read for the third, I knew it could only get better. Stay tuned for the big event, which I will post sometime tomorrow.

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