Sundance Hustle Week 2 | 54 days

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Countdown until Sundance – 54 days

Days until I arrive – 61 days

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12/2: A summary of my Sundance Hustle week 2: Building on my connections and social media

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12/3 Review of The Candidate (1972)

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12/4 Sundance 2001: What can I learn from this year?

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384521 20: The marquee of the Egyptian Theater announces the Sundance Film Festival January 19, 2001 in Park City, UT. (Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

 

 

Sundance 1994

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I can imagine Sundance 1994 was very innovative and inspirational with the raw films that premiered. Wes Anderson featured his first short film Bottle Rocket which will lead to the feature Bottle Rocket. Kevin Smith’s Clerks. received an NC17 rating just by language. Just by two dudes talking about  life. Go Fish directed by Rose Troche, would be one of the first lesbian films that would lead to commercial success. Hoop Dreams directed by Steve James would be one of Roger Ebert’s favorites of 1994 and would lead to many more groundbreaking docs, and Hugh Grant would become a known household name after the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall that year. But it’s not 1994, I will be going to Sundance 2016. What can I learn from Sundance 1994? Pay attention, look for what’s raw, don’t let the glitz and glamour distract me from the films that are telling a story, a raw story, with no apologies.

Clerks., directed by Kevin Smith

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Hoop Dreams, directed by Steve James

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Bottle Rocket (Short Film), directed by Wes Anderson

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Four Weddings and a Funeral, directed by Michael Newell

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Go Fish, directed by Rose Troche

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Sundance Kid & Sundance Film Festival

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Robert Redford was voted out on the name of the Sundance Film Festival. George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was a money job for him. He didn’t want the festival to be associated with him and a big money picture. But he was out voted and the rest is history.

Despite Redford’s initial objections to the name of the festitval, I thought it would be interesting to write a review of the film by paralleling it with the film festival.

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Bolivia is where I’ll start. An hour and ten minutes into the film Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and their lady Etta Place arrive in Bolivia. They go there in hopes they’ll find riches, gold, and happiness, and live free and safe from any law enforcement. When they arrive they are surrounded by pigs and llamas. They find themselves in a very rural environment, far from their Wild West surroundings in Wyoming, and far from the New York City which they’ve just left behind. They are in a very foreign land with a language they don’t understand.

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If Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s art form is robbing banks, they must translate this art to their new life. First step, learn basic Spanish vocabulary: “Give me the money”, “Hand’s up” “Where is the safe? Open it.” Comparing the film to Sundance the film festival, the art form here is film, and the new environment is Park City, Utah, where the translation is fostering new film talent. “Filling the gaps” as Redford would say. This is a new environment for film to thrive that brings a new hope to the filmmaker.

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The use of music was a controversial point by using pop songs, like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” for one of the scenes with Paul Newman and Katherine Ross. Redford was not a fan of this song being included in the film. But honestly I like it, it kind of reminded me of Altman’s western  McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) which featured a soundtrack by mostly Leonard Cohen.

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Even if the pop music wasn’t favored by some, I feel the music heightens the importance of this twist on the Western, and I feel revived it in some way, influencing new twists on the art form. Case and point, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992) featured at the Sundance Film Festival, and brought attention to the film and the filmmaker that may have not received at any other festival.

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Regarding the cinematography (Cinematography done by Conrad Hall), three important aspects of how the movie was filmed represents what is important and what is necessary for a film to showcase at Sundance. First aspect is that there is a transition of sepia to full color, creating a western feel that brings us from the old into our present. Second aspect, Hall uses a long lens during the chase scene with the posse, creating immediacy without recognition, making the posse blurry and keeping the reality symbolic. And the final aspect, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid end the film in freeze frame when they jump out at the shooters, keeping them immortal in that frame.

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The key words here are present, symbolic, and immortal. These are the three things that are important for a Sundance film. A film offering some kind of  symbolism to our reality and creating something long lasting. Sundance is about featuring original films and new filmmakers to a festival audience, and exposing the real gems to the masses, like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995).

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So even though Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a big budget box office hit, there are gems in that film that I think represent what makes a good Sundance film. The originality, essence, and heart that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brings to the screen embodies what’s important to take away from each film I will see at the festival. And that’s what I’ll keep in mind.

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Sundance Hustle Week 1 | 57 Days

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Countdown until Sundance: – 57 days

I arrive in – 64 days

  • Bought my credentials to get in to coffee hours and Q&As
  • Figured out the waitlist process for tix and will get on list in January
  • Learned that passes are the best guarantee to get in to films, but I am going to take another route with tickets
  • Digital program film guide comes out 12/11, pick my films to get on the waitlist for
  • Learned my film critic buddies have enough worries of their own for the fest, so I’m going to reach out to my promoter friends, then go from there.

Tomorrow! My review of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) and my parallel of the film with the Sundance Film Festival.

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Words from Redford . . .

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Robert Redford, founder and president of the Sundance Institute, addresses reporters during the opening news conference of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 in Park City, Utah. The independent film festival runs Jan. 16-26, 2014. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Excerpts from http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/29/it_started_as_just_a_hope

ROBERT REDFORD: You know, it’s interesting. I think of it—because it started—it was a big idea back in 1985. It was a big idea with a small start, because there was no support. There was only one theater in Park City. Sundance, the place, is not here in Park City; it’s 40 miles away, higher up in the mountains, tucked away. It’s where our lab programs are. That’s where the development process is. That’s where our nonprofit, Sundance Development, for the documentaries and the film and the theater and so forth, music. Park City works out for us because they have something we need, which is theatrical distribution capability, and we give them something they need, which is a venue to attract people. So, the first year, there was maybe 150 people that showed up. We had one theater, maybe 10 documentaries and 20 films. And now it’s grown to the point where it’s kind of like a wild horse. I can’t begrudge it. I mean, that was the dream. It started as just a hope. Then, when it became a reality, it started to have its own momentum.

And I thought, “Well, what if we can start a development process where young artists can have a voice, but we can help them develop their skills so they can at least get their films made?” That was the labs that started in 1980. Then, once that happened and we started a development process at Sundance, suddenly we realized that we were helping them develop their skills so that they could get their films made, but there was nowhere to go, because the mainstream had not allowed any space for them. And that led to the idea of a festival. So, originally, it was just an idea that maybe we can have a community of filmmakers coming together and share each other’s work. And maybe if we were lucky, somebody will come, and somebody else will come.

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Excerpts from: http://nofilmschool.com/2015/01/sundance-2015-robert-redford-history-and-future-film

“I believe change is inevitable, and I think we can see there are people that go with change, there are others that don’t because they’re afraid of change. Because it’s inevitable I want us to be able to ride with it and use it to our advantage. The festival was meant to use change to underline the word diversity. And diversity is something I think we represent… The filmmaker’s films show how change is affecting the life we life and the society we live in.”

“Distribution is the end point, that’s what everyone dreams for and hopes for. It’s complicated. I’ve had some experiences that have been sad, I’ve done some films that have had no distribution or poor distribution. So I can identify with what young filmmakers are going through. I think distribution should be a topic for discussion. Filmmakers should have a voice in that because very often they’re left behind.”

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“… I felt Sundance would be a gap filler, and if we focused on the independent films that were smaller and more diverse we would in a way keep something alive. It wasn’t an insurgency against Hollywood, it was just trying to keep alive something that was dying. To keep alive the idea of diversity and independence.”

“When it started in Park City it had one theater. We didn’t have that in [the Sundance Resort] 40 miles from here. It was an experiment: can we create a place for new films to be seen with just one theater? We had 25 films or so and we would stand out in front of the Egyptian and try to get people to come in. Word of mouth created an audience. We created an opportunity for filmmakers to show their work. But I wasn’t aware of, at the time, that we were creating and opportunity for audiences. I had not anticipated that it would be a two way street for filmmakers and audiences. I don’t believe in expectations, I think that’s dangerous, so I didn’t think about it. What i thought about was, ‘are we going to survive?’ I didn’t know for five or six years what was going to happen. And when it started to happen I wasn’t prepared. It grew way beyond my imagination, and here it is.”

[re: Charlie Hebdo attacks] “Clearly theres’ an attack on freedom of expression in many places, not exclusive to Paris. We believe in diversity and freedom of expression. You see a lot of films here that are going to upset other people. As far as we’re concerned we will do everything in our power to keep that alive.”     

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“Another thing happening at the time was Hollywood moving toward being centralized. The money was in the burgeoning youth market — big cartoons, Superman and Dick Tracy, high-budget cartoons. They were great, but it didn’t interest me. It was no longer a place where I could do the smaller work. They weren’t making those films anymore.

“I thought, Uh-oh, we’re going to lose this opportunity to give voice to new work. Okay, there’s a space here where we can take new artists who are independent — who have skills but need help. We can provide mentoring and help them develop their skills to the point where they can get their films made. So that’s how it started.”

“I was able to start the lab program. I’d contact my colleagues — accomplished screenwriters, accomplished actors, directors, cinematographers, and editors—and I said, ‘Would you be willing to volunteer time to help new filmmakers?’ And I was lucky — they came.

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“A few years later, we were succeeding in developing some filmmakers accomplished enough to have their films made. That led to the idea of a festival — a gathering place where we can bring them together and we’ll share their work and they’ll share their work with each other, a home where they can come—and if we’re lucky, somebody else will come.”

“Suddenly the merchants started to come,” says Redford. “The agents came, the managers came, the publicity people came, the paparazzi came, then the fashion houses came. It’s not as much fun for me as it was in the beginning. It’s time for me now to go back and focus more on what I love doing and what I was meant to be, the artist at work or the director. That’s where I want to be now. It’s the endeavor — the joy for me is in the struggling, the not knowing. It’s the climb up the mountain.”

 

Road to Sundance | 60 days

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Countdown until Sundance: – 60 days

I arrive in – 67 days

This week:

11/25:  A summary of my Hustle Week 1: Getting set-up and workin’ on my angle in

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11/26: Robert Redford in George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

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American actors Robert Redford (left) and Paul Newman in a still from the film, ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ directed by George Roy Hill, 1969. (Photo by 20th Century Fox/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

11/27: Review of Kevin Smith’s Clerks. (1994), why Sundance was great for this film.

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