THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
By Dale Angell
REAP is so pleased to have Dale Angell reporting to us from the front lines of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival! Dale has a long relationship with Sundance and Utah filmmaking…it's great to have his depth of knowledge and experience to bring to REAP'S audience! [Please see Dale Angell's Bio below.]
Sunday - January 26, 2014 - Well the winners are in and Whiplash is a big winner winning both the jury award and the audience award for dramatic narrative.
One of the things that sort of jumped out at me this year was the sort of lack of "buzz" around the films. Naturally there was talk about all the films, but no "you must see…" talk. I don't think this is in any way reflects badly on the films, more to the point I think, audiences liked everything for the most part. But when both the jury and the audience agree on the film…
Writer/director Damien Chazelle's film Whiplash is a story about a jazz drummer, driven by a brutal teacher-mentor. As is often the case these days, the film was a short here last year.
One film of local interest, and winner of the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary is The Case Against 8, directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White. The local interest is that California's prop 8 was funded by the LDS church and other money from Utah. Prop 8 outlawed gay marriage. It was ultimately declared unconstitutional and there has been backlash against Utah for interfering in California law. Utah also passed a state constitutional amendment in 2005 outlawing gay marriage, and this too was declared unconstitutional only a few weeks ago leading to about four weeks of gay marriage in Utah before opponents received a stay from the courts pending appeal. At any rate, this is a hot topic here in Utah right now and the film's timing was perfect.
One film that did get some local buzz is also the Winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, Alive Inside, directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett. the film is about end stage dementia patents in a nursing home who "wake up" when music is played through headphones for them. Just how the music reechoes their memory is a mystery, but the effect is amazing. The film was covered on the local PBS radio station, and was being talked about, and no doubt this helped it with audiences. But the film moves the audience, and that is what this award is all about. Several films that have won audience awards and yet were ignored by the jury went on to do very well indeed. Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi and Steven Soderbergh's Sex Lies and Videotape come to mind.
Anyway, here are the winners:
Winner of the U. S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic:
Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle
Winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic:
Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle
Winner of the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic:
Fishing Without Nets, directed by Cutter Hodierne
Winner of the Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic:
Low Down, cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt
Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score Musical Score:
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, composed by The Octopus Project
Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic:
The Skeleton Twins, screenplay by Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman
Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent:
Dear White People, directed by Justin Simien
Winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary:
Rich Hill, directed by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo
Winner of Audience Award: U.S. Documentary:
Alive Inside, directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett
Winner of the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary:
The Case Against 8, directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Winner of the Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary:
E-Team, Ross Kauffman, Director of Photography; Rachel Beth Anderson, Ross Kauffman, Cinematographers
Winner of the Editing Award: U.S. Documentary:
Watchers of the Sky, edited by Jenny Golden and Karen Sim
Winner for U. S. Documentary Special Jury award for Intuitive Filmmaking:
The Overnighters, directed by Jesse Moss
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Use of Animation:
Watchers in the Sky, directed by Edet Belzberg
Winner of the Audience Award: Best Of NEXT
Imperial Dreams, directed by Malik Vitthal
Winner of the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary:
The Green Prince, directed Nadav Schirman
Winner of the Audience Award for World Cinema Dramatic:
Difret, directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari
Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance:
God Help the Girl, directed by Stuart Murdoch, and starring Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Pierre Boulanger, and Cora Bissett.
Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Cinematography Award:
Lilting, cinematography by Ula Pontikos
Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize:
To Kill a Man, directed by Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematic Bravery:
We Come As Friends, directed Hubert Sauper
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Cinematography Award:
Happiness, cinematography by Thomas Balmes and Nina Bernfeld. Directed by Thomas Balmes
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Editing Award:
20,000 Days on Earth, edited by Jonathan Amos
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award:
20,000 Days on Earth, directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize:
Return to Homs, directed by Talal Derki
Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize:
I Origins, written and directed by Mike Cahill
And the shorts. Keep in mind that the 60 films selected were from over 8000 submitted. So just getting in is quite an award.
Short Film Special Jury Award for Direction and Ensemble Acting:
Burger, written and directed by Magnus Mork.
Short Film Special Jury Award for Non Fiction:
Love. Love. Love, directed by Sandhya Daisy Sunda
Short Film Special Jury Award for Unique Vision:
Rat Pack Rat, written and directed by Todd Rohal.
Short Film Jury Award: Animation:
Yearbook, written and directed by Bernardo Britto.
Short Film Jury Award: Non Fiction:
I Think This Is the Closest to How the Footage Looked, directed by Yuval Hamieri and Michal Vaknin.
Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction:
The Cut, written and directed by Geneviève Dulude-Decelles.
Short Film Jury Award: US Fiction:
Gregory Go Boom, written and directed by Janicza Bravo.
Short Film Grand Jury Prize:
Of God and Dogs, directed by the Abounaddara Collective.
Winner of the 2014 Shorts Audience Award, presented by YouTube:
Chapel Perilous, directed by Matthew Lessner.
Saturday - January 25, 2014 - There was an interesting panel at the Filmmakers Lodge that was called "Breaking Bold". The objective of the panel didn't seem to fit the actual subject, which was how some filmmakers create, or at least document, the conflict between tradition and the evolving modern world. In this case two documentaries and one dramatic narrative.
Berit Madsen is at Sundance with SEPIDEH—Reaching for the Stars. The documentary film is about a young Muslim girl who has taken up astronomy as something of a hobby with friends. Her father is against this as he feels it is not a proper thing for a girl to be doing, perhaps not proper for any Muslim. One of the ironies here is the long history of Persians as the "inventors" of astrology. For thousands of years Persians have looked to the stars for the future. Keep in mind that in the story of Christmas, the easterners were told of the birth of Christ with a star. It's their tradition. But not for their women.
In one of the most powerful moments in the film, the father tells Sepideh that if she continues to look at the stars with her friends, he will be required to kill her. Its a powerful example of how people who are so ensconced in their own beliefs about their traditions, or what they have come to believe are their traditions, that they loose sight of reality. And fight against change and modernity with their every thought and action.
Zeresenay Berhane Mehari is here with Difret. Difret is a dramatic narrative about a girl named Hirutt. She lives a few hours from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, and is a bright 14-year-old girl who is on her way home from school when several men kidnap her. She grabs one of their rifles, tries to escape, but instead ends up shooting her would-be "husband", killing him. In her village, it is is common practice for men to abduct girls into marriage, which is one of Ethiopia’s oldest traditions. She is charged with murder and must defend her life when the entire society feels what she has done is wrong and threatens their way of life. Strangely, she often agrees, feeling she is the one responsible for all the problems.
Zeresenay Berhane Mehari is a writer/director who was born and raised in Ethiopia, Mehari attended film school in the U.S. and founded Haile Addis Pictures to produce this, his first narrative feature film. Here too, the film confronts the problems of traditional life styles that are in extreme conflict with the modern world and western ethics.
Thomas Balmès is here with the documentary Happiness. It is in Bhutanese with English subtitles. In 1999, King Jigme Wangchuck approved the use of television and Internet in Bhutan, a small Himalayan country. Bhutan is largely undeveloped by western standards, little electricity or Internet, largely "cut off" from the outside world. The King assures the people that development is synonymous with the “gross national happiness” of the people, his actual expression. Conflict ensues with the monks and other traditionalists who see any contact with the outside world as threatening their happiness. One monk in particular is adamant with the children that they need to avoid the modern world. In a wonderful twist, he himself is seduced by outside forces and moves into the city.
French director Thomas Balmès begins the film at the end of this process in Laya, the last village remaining without electricity high in the Himalayan mountains, as roads, electricity, and cable television and the Internet arrive in a rapid growth program. The story centers on an eight-year-old monk who is questioning tradition and wants to get a TV set. He leaves on a three-day journey from Laya to the more or less modern capital of Thimphu. The young monk discovers television, autos, flush toilets, bars and clubs, and all the other seductive elements of modern life.
From the Sundance Guide: Thomas Balmès is an independent documentary director and producer. He brings us to people, places, and sharply contrasting situations that reveal our society from different and completely new angles—the Bosnian war from the viewpoint of Masai warriors, the mad-cow crisis seen from the Indian perspective, a Papuan tribe being converted to Christianity, glimpses of childhood from all around the planet. His films ask questions about what connects us all as human beings.
These films all tell stories of the massive problems facing the world as traditional non western life styles collide with not just the modern world, but the westernized modern world. To those of us in the west these stories often outrage or give us a sense of what is humanistic, ethical and normal. And all show the futile fight of these traditions to survive in "our" world.
Friday - January 24, 2014 - Friday the pace picks back up, new people show up, and the biggest events gear up. One of the most anticipated panels was held at the Egyptian theater called The Class of 94. Twenty years ago there was an explosion of new talent, most totally unknown filmmakers, who together gave us all one of the most memorable Sundance Film Festivals in its history. The panel was revisiting four of the films from that year.
Fresh, by Boaz Yakin was a big budget independent film, controversial at the time as many people thought it was a studio film, not an independent. It was inevitable that as more indie films made money and got attention, that studios would want to find a way to fit into this market without simply showing up and buying films. Fresh was also a film about the black experience, but the filmmaker is white. Some people felt this was a problem, only a black person could tell stories of being black in America. So the film was getting attention of the bad kind. But also attention of the good kind. It was, and still is, a great film. And a very disturbing story. So there was just no avoiding the film at the festival. Everyone was talking about it.
Boaz told us today that his parents were mimes. Really, mimes. He grew up in entertainment and went into filmmaking as it was simply the family business. This is how he was able to get the film financed and distributed. And why some people felt it was not an independent. Today it seems pointless to even have the conversation. What does it matter? In 1994 it seemed like a big deal. The film went on to do very well.
The Doom Generation by Gregg Araki was his third film at Sundance. His films are overtly gay, about the gay lifestyle and gay experience. At the best of times this would make his films controversial, but even more so in 1995. He has now had ten films at Sundance including Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation, Mysterious Skin, The Living End, Smiley Face, Splendor, and Nowhere. His films have also screened at the world’s most prestigious festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, and New York.
Go Fish by Rose Troche was also about the gay lifestyle. As well as being in an unusual cinematic style. So while some hated the film for its overt sexuality, others praised the film as unusual and bold. But there was no escaping the film. It was generating talk, good and bad. She went on to direct Bedrooms and Hallways, The Safety of Objects, South of Nowhere (TV), Six Feet Under (TV), Touching Evil (TV), Ugly Betty (TV), The L Word, Law & Order (TV), Rochelle (TV) and Futurestates (TV).
The timing of Go Fish and The Doom Generation is significant. The 90s were a time of coming out. While films like these would have been seen only in a gay festival, suddenly they were at the biggest festival in the US. And heading to other festivals all over the world. The message was clear, its time to be OK with gay. In 95 the love scenes wee so shocking that audiences left the theater. Some anyway. But what was shocking then, is not even unusual today. Even if these films were the only films to "break out" that year, it would have been a big year. But there was one more film that broke out that year.
Clerks by Kevin Smith was the classical festival "home run". And what happened with the film reenforced the mythology of the indie film getting bought at Sundance. And Kevin became a superstar of indie film overnight. While there were stories of films being bought at Sundance, in truth these distributed films had already been bought before Sundance, or the deals were made after Sundance. People seemed to think that a film showed up at Sundance, was seen, and a distributer bought the film over burgers after the screening. Well, it just didn't happen that way. Not ever. Until Clerks. The only thing different was the deal was over potato skins. At The Eating Place across the street from the Egyptian Theater right after the first screening. The film cost $25,000 and was bought on the spot for $275,000 by Harvey Weinstein.
At the panel Kevin said he was inspired by Slacker. He said, "if Richard Linkletter could make and sell a film like that, he could make a film." He naively made the film thinking he could make it, show it at Sundance and sell it, not knowing the odds of that happening were a thousand to one. But he did it. Clerks went on to be a hit too, and Kevin went on to make more quirky films including the Jay and Silent Bob films, with Kevin as Bob.
The panel was packed. Cooper was moderating. But it was clear, people were here to see Kevin Smith. The weird indie filmmaker who really did it. The myth come to life. And a great guy too.
The festival is now 30 years old. 1995 was its tenth year, and altered the indie landscape and Sundance forever. Just what an indie film is came into question, allowing films to break out of the indie mold and overcome boundaries that were put up to promote indie films in the first place. Tearing down these boundaries really proved that indie films could hold their own and there was no need for special treatment. Whether the film cost $25,000 or $25,000,000 at the end of the day, its a film. Who cares where it came from, who paid for it or how much they paid. The only question is whether it is worth watching.
Thursday - January 23, 2014 - The Moose is Loose!
Once more I could not get up to Sundance! Arug! We are working on The Giver and it's got us all running around like insane joggers. Instead of insane bloggers. But it's cool to be working on a high profile picture.
So I thought I would share some thoughts on moose. Why moose?
In 1993 the snow fall in Utah broke all records. At Sundance the snow totally covered the houses. Many owners had shoveled their roof to keep their home from collapsing. This is what we call back story. That year I was covering press conferences for the Institute. A crew of one, I would dash from press conference to press conference. The opening Thursday brought the normal Redford press conference at the Sundance Institute. I had to leave fast as I needed to cover another press conference in Park City, 90 minutes after the Redford Press conference. So. I was first out onto the road and down the canyon. As I neared the highway up Provo Canyon, something caught my eye. The biggest bull moose I have ever seen was on the roof of a house eating some leafs that could only be reached that way. I wondered how he got up there, and as I wondered it occurred to me I should turn around and shoot video of this. I turned back and ran into a traffic jam. The press corps were also coming down the canyon, had spotted the poor moose, and were setting cameras everywhere. The moose had just started his 15 minutes of fame (and gotten lunch). So I turned back and headed to Park city to the Nichols Cage press conference. And forgot about the moose.
Ten days later at the awards night party, I was talking with some nice people from Florida and I asked when they had gotten into town. They said they were not planning to come at all, but a week before there was a picture on the front page of the local news paper of a moose on a roof at Sundance and they decided they needed to be there. So the moose not only got a good photo op but boosted Sundance in the process.
Now having nothing to do with this story, some people in Park City decided to rase some money to help some problem areas in Park City, one of which was the ragged Egyptian Theater and the Kimball Arts Center as well as local artists. Reminiscent of Chicago's famed "Cows on Parade" art extravaganza, Park City launched "Moose on the Loose," 21 fiberglass Mooses were decorated in funky colors and themes by selected artists. The "moose-terpieces" were placed all around Park City, where they were displayed for months, and then auctioned off. Many were given back to the city as permeant displays.
Rebecca Lyman was the force behind the project. Lyman spent many hours getting each moose ready for the artists. When she got a moose from the supplier, it was only a taxidermy form made of foam and plaster. She glued on the antlers, hooves and the dangling neck skin called the wattle. The each moose was covered with fiberglass in a shop in Salt Lake and then driven to Park City in the back seat of her car. Lyman said she was "just moosing around" but it was a huge amount of work.
Festival attendees snap photos of the mooses, there is one right on main near the filmmakers lodge, but few know how they got there or how they helped the festival and Park City. Organizers raised well over one hundred thousand dollars helping these venues and therefore, helping Sundance. So moose are the gift that just keeps on giving to Sundance.
Wednesday - January 22, 2014 - Hump day. At Sundance this is a special day. The locals are at work. The out of state people who came to the opening weekend are gone. Out of staters who are coming for the closing weekend are not here yet. That's not to say that there are no people in Park City, the place is still packed, but you can get on a shuttle bus on the first try. On Main Street you can see the sidewalk. (in some places) And even if you don't have a ticket to a film, you may be able to get one. By tomorrow night it will be back to nuts, but wednesday is the eye of the storm.
This afternoon there was a "panel" in the Filmmakers Lodge called "This is not a Panel". Four filmmakers with films in the festival presented whatever they wanted to, but nothing about their films. So they played music (Steely Dan), played clips from films they like, It was fun. Really fun. A classic Wednesday kind of thing. After some debate, it was decided that one of the best lines in any film is "There is a truck on fire, there's a guy on the ski lift who can't get off and we can't stop the dancing chicken". Ah, Werner Herzog!
The non panel was made up of: Michael Tully (Ping Pong Summer), Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip), Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), and David Zellner (Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter) Jenny Slate couldn't make it, and was on a cell phone which was held up to a microphone.Which added more fun to the not a panel.
Did the panel change the world? Nope. Did it advance the cinema arts? Nope. Did it connect people and money. Not even close. Was it fun, and a nice break from films and filmmaking and a great hump day thing? Yep. And I like Steely Dan and Werner Herzog so…
And as the crowds were light, I decided to do the impossible, get into a film!! The tickets all sell out in a few hours after they go on sale, so getting a ticket is not going to happen. But every film and event leaves a large number of seats unsold because there are scores of pass holders who may show up and want a seat, so they just don't sell forty or so of the seats. And that means that forty to fifty people on the waiting list will get in.
The process goes like this: You set up an account online. Two hours before the film starts they allow people to get on the waiting list from their smart phone. Don't have a smart phone? What, were you born in a barn? Get one. Anyway, when the list opens the button on the site becomes active and you click on it. Quickly. Even though this was Wednesday if you want to get into the coveted first 50 numbers you need to click just as the button comes to life. I did this in an effort to get into Shorts Program 1. I counted down with the clock, and just as the button came on, I clicked. And got number 34. Within seconds the coveted fifty were gone. Anyway, you now have your number on your phone and when you show up at the theater, you are placed in line based on your number, and as soon as pass and ticket holders are in, the wait list folks are allowed in. So, I got into the shorts program!!!! Keep in mind that I clicked within a fraction of a second and still got 34. On a Wednesday. So its still a bit nuts even on Wednesday.
I love the shorts programs. This year there were just over 8000 shorts submitted and about 60 shown, so its harder to get your film in than to get a ticket. A lot harder. Less than 1% get in. The shorts are always very "grass roots" too. The features are often well known to Sundance even before they are shot. Sundance exists to promote these films and filmmakers. Nothing wrong with that, but there is a thinking that features all are submitted and the best are picked to show, and the best of those win awards. Sort of like the NCAA playoffs. Sure this happens, but most of the films and filmmakers are known to Sundance and the film that arrives in the mail is not going to get the same shot at screening that a filmmaker who has had a film in before, or is known for some other reason is going to get. Some people freak out about this saying that its unfair, but its not really a contest, it sort of looks like one, but the real reason the festival exists is to put good films on screens. Not make it a game.
But the shorts are more like the mythology of the contest. Of all these films submitted, few are known to the programers, who have the massive problem of looking at all of them, and picking the ones that work for the festival. Notice I didn't say the best films, but the ones that work for the festival. A programer is looking for films that play well together, are fun to see at a festival, and fit the screen time they are looking for. So many of the films not picked may be great, but they don't work that year for some reason. So it's still not a "contest" in the strict meaning of the word.
The shorts are also very "cutting edge", generally speaking. There is a long standing tradition at Sundance to pick shorts that are "unusual". In other words, not usual. These films are not made to make money. They are made to showcase talent, or just for the hell of it, or just for the passion of the art. So they can function as a "laboratory" for exploration. Features often don't take risks, not large ones at least, as there is often seven figures spent and a need to repay this money. So, even the filmmakers who do have a desire to go too far, often before they can do this on a feature, they need to prove themselves or their ideas in a short.
John Copper (Cooper) festival director, was the shorts programer for years before becoming a feature programer and now the director. Cooper really picks the strange stuff. He has a real love for it. Here too, there is a feeling that the shorts can and should be riskier than the features. If Sundance wants to encourage risk, then reward it here in the shorts. And Cooper has always done that.
There are now nine shorts programers because of the huge number of submissions. I had a fun talk with Landon Zakheim, one of these programers before heading off the the shorts program.
The program consisted of:
Allergy to Originality - A humorous, animated op doc explores the rich history of adaptation, plagiarism, and other forms of appropriation in art.
Butter Lamp - A photographer weaves unique links among nomadic families.
Dawn is a quiet young teenager who longs for something or someone to free her from her sheltered life.
Gregory Go Boom - A paraplegic man leaves home for the first time only to discover that life in the outside world is not the way he had imagined it.
My Sense of Modesty Hafsia - An art history student, must remove her hijab for an oral exam. To prepare, she goes to the Louvre to view the painting she has to comment on.
Subconscious Password - Chris Landreth, the director of the Academy Award–winning short Ryan, plays Charles, a man paralyzed by his inability to remember a friend’s name. Thus begins a mind-bending romp through a game show of the unconscious—complete with animated celebrity guests.
Untucked - This documentary explores the iconic "untucked" jersey worn in 1977 when Marquette University won its first and only national college basketball championship. It was designed by one of Marquette's players, Bo Ellis, under the fearless leadership of Coach Al McGuire.
Tuesday - January 21, 2014 - Insane day! Unfortunately not at Sundance. One thing about Sundance in Utah, is that life goes on around it. For those of us in the film business, it's hard to totally disconnect when you have projects going forward. At Redman things are busy. Very busy. We have a big Harvey Weinstein film setting up post that starts production in a few days. And a big feature starting tomorrow. Plus an album in mix in the recording studio that needs help. So everyone is running around like their hair is on fire and little time for Sundance. So I thought I would take this opportunity to tell the Sundance story, after all its what we do, right?
The actual Sundance Film Festival started in 1984, making this it's 30th year. The Sundance Institute started in 1980 at Robert Redford's ski resort, Sundance. Redford had bought the resort in the seventies. It was a horrid little resort with a rope tow. I don't remember what it was called, as it was not memorable, but Bob had big plans for it. He had been coming to Utah for some time, as I understand it clear back in the sixties. The place is more beautiful than can be imagined on the east slope of Mt. Timpahogos on Utah's alpine loop. A friend who is well connected at Sundance tells a story of running into Bob and his future wife while hiking the area in 1969. Perhaps… Anyway, that year Bob's film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released. Bob had been in television sinse 1961, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made Bob a super star. He also produced Down Hill Racer that same year, which died, well the studio killed it, but it died. Bob had tried to self distribute it but couldn't not make that work.
At any rate, Bob bought the resort and after a time built a house. In 1972 Bob filmed Jeremiah Johnson there at Sundance, with his friend Sydney Pollack directing. Sydney Pollack also fell in love with the place and in 1980 the two men, with help from others, formed The Sundance Institute. Sundance's goals were to help up-and-coming filmmakers, workshop their films, find ways to get the films distributed and help put funds and films together. Simple. Or not.
In 1978 (as I recall) the Utah Film Commission started the United States Film Festival. A friend, Laurie Smith was the real force behind it, but the Commission launched it. The main goal was to get Utah better known as a place to make films. If filmmakers came, they would want to come back. Or so it was thought. After two years running in Salt Lake City at Trolley Square, it was moved to Park City because it was thought filmmakers were freaked out by the whole Salt Lake City thing, and they would feel "safer" in Park City. And they could ski. The festival lost thousands of dollars every year, but improved every year. Conservative politicians attacked the festival as a waste of the tax payer's money. They wanted it stopped. In 1983 the Film Commission announced they would not continue. It was also the first year the festival made money for the tax payers. Go Figure.
At any rate, Bob and Sundance saw the festival as a way to give their films a venue and get wider distribution for them. He had been part of the festival from the start helping the film commission to run the festival, so it was an easy thing for Sundance to take over the festival. But, Bob knew that if this was going to work it had to go big. In 1984 the festival went back to loosing money, lots of money. But what a show! What a party! Word got out that if you wanted to see something amazing, The Sundance United States Film Festival is where it's at. And with Sundance behind it, big sponsors came on board. And the Film Commission came back in with big money too. So, they too, were back to loosing money on the festival, but the critics were quiet.
Every year for the last thirty the festival has gotten better and bigger. The "United States" was dropped from the name after a few years and the world started calling it simply "Sundance" The money that Utah put up has been returned a thousand times over proving that government priming the pump is actually a good idea. Utah is the production center it wanted to be and groups like our little shop at Redman sees huge movies coming through our place, John Carter, On Mars, The Lone Ranger, Skyfall, Dr Who and a very long list of other features and television shows.
So, I've spent the day putting out fires at the studio, and I can now get back to Sundance. See you tomorrow.
Monday - January 20, 2014 - Monday always marks a return to some level of sanity at Sundance. The opening weekend is so jammed, a party on every block, no place to park, full busses and general mayhem. It took me two and a half hours to get from Main Street back to my car Saturday night, even though it was only about one and a half miles. I attempted to take the parking shuttle, as I could not get on any of the buses since they were all completely packed, so I switched to taking a bus that went to the ski resort, which passed within about half a mile of my car. So I ended up riding on a bus packed overflowing with people in ski boots, skis and snow boards. The bus can hardly move in the traffic and people. The easy part was the walk to the car.
Every opening Saturday is like this. If you don't want to be part of something like this, don't come on opening weekend. But what's the fun of that? When I was teaching at Brooks Institute we were a partner with Sundance, and threw a party every year on opening Saturday. One year we rented four limousines, put huge Brooks Institute lettering down the sides, and used them to shuttle people from Main Street to the party, knowing full well they would get stuck in the traffic and take an hour at least to make the trip. So, we set up a party in each car, the people on them had a blast while they crawled through traffic, and thousands saw our signs.
Anyway, come Monday it seems quiet by contrast. It's not at all, but it seems that way. This morning was a great meeting in the Egyptian. Sundance has promoted the event, and a general theme, as "Free Fail". There are several panels as part of "Free Fail". Mondays panel was called "Exploratory Detours" and was moderated by author, scholar, and curator Sarah Lewis, whose upcoming book The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery will be out in March. Long name, but interesting subject. So many achievements, Academy Award filmmaking to tech inventions are not discoveries but innovations, corrections after failed attempts.
Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford was part of the panel. Bob as he's is affectionally known here at Sundance. When Bob shows up, it's a indication that the subject is important to Sundance.
The panel was introduced by John Cooper, Director of the Festival. Known only as Cooper, his introduction also indicates the importance of the panel.
Panel Members included:
Dave Eggers is the author of eight books, most recently The Circle. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco, and co-founder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth.
Sarah Lewis has served on President Barack Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, been selected for Oprah’s “Power List,” and is a faculty member in the MFA program at Yale University's School of Art. Her debut book, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, will be released in March 2014.
Charles J. Limb, MD is an associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins University, a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, and editor-in-chief of Trends in Amplification. Dr. Limb studies the neural mechanisms behind deep creativity, especially in relation to music and other art forms.
Robert Redford is recognized the world over for the roles he has played and the projects he has directed or produced throughout a distinguished stage and film career. He is an environmentalist and advocate for social responsibility and political involvement and has nurtured countless innovative voices through his nonprofit Sundance Institute and Film Festival.
Jill Soloway is an Emmy-nominated director, writer, and producer known for her work on such shows as Six Feet Under and United States of Tara. She won the Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance 2013 with her first feature, Afternoon Delight. Soloway is currently working on Transparent, a pilot for Amazon Studios.
Christopher Stone is president of the Open Society Foundations. He is an international expert on criminal justice reform and the leadership and governance of nonprofits. Prior to joining Open Society, he taught at Harvard University and directed the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Formerly, Stone led the Vera Institute of Justice and founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.
As Bob pointed out. if you fear failing, you can't break from convention. The search for success usually leads to sticking to the "normal" way of doing things, the "safe" route. When spending the kind of money and time it takes to make a film, it's not easy to allow yourself the right to fail. Bob went through a list of things he has attempted over the years that failed. His first independent production, Downhill Racer, failed at the box office. (I, for one, saw it in the theater and loved it.) Bob then took his film, bought several other films that had "failed" including Stunt Man and some documentaries, and tried to show them at universities and collages. Fail again. No one came to see the films. Then in 1980 he started Sundance and in 1984 took over the United States Film Festival at Park City and finally, success. Fourteen years of failure before launching the best known film festival in the US and perhaps the world. And not so much because of "sticking to it", but by looking at what was not working, figuring out why, and adjusting.
Over twelve years ago I was teaching at Sierra Nevada Collage at Lake Tahoe, and we had a faculty member, on loan from Carnegie Mellon, professor Randy Pausch. Randy was loaned quite a lot by Carnegie Mellon in those days. Anyway, we were working on "Assessment", something colleges address quite often, how to grade students work. Randy had his own take on the subject. "Don't grade the students work, grade the students learning". Much harder to do. A great student doing a great project seems to deserve an "A" and it impossible to make an argument that this is wrong. But what about the student whose project is a disaster, but who put themselves into the project 100% and learned so much from the failure that their next attempt will most likely succeed. Randy said this is "A" work. A complete failure of process yet a success? Randy could not sell the idea. A few years later Randy delivered "the last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon and, well - if you have not seen it, look at it. It's on Youtube. I don't know what more to say about that. But you could say he hit a home run. He also ripped my heart out.
Enough of the heavy stuff. Out on main the loonies were loose! What great fun! Monday is a relief but its still Sundance after all. Films, people. I had a free veggie burger at Morning Star farms, who were giving out a bunch of free stuff I didn't really want, including a Red Bull which I gave to someone else as I don't drink that. There was a mob of people trying to get a look at someone, no one knew who they were trying to see, but there were a few hundred people blocking the street to get a look at whoever it was. And Wonder Woman was keeping us safe from the alien space ship. Or so she said. Ah Sundance, back to abnormal.
Sunday - January 19, 2014 - More high tech news from Sundance. It seems that everyone is thinking the net and new media are going to be a gateway to new filmmakers. And they may be right. Just yesterday one of the actors in the morning meet and greet for up and coming actors at the Filmmakers Lodge, Josh Wiggins, got his start on YouTube acting in shorts he and his friends were making.
Last night hitRECord on TV launched on Pivot. Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts a new show made up from pieces pulled from the hitRECord site. hitRECord gathers thousands of videos from its members, much like YouTube. Unlike YouTube the videos can be downloaded by the other members and altered, edited, added to or whatever, and then re-uploaded. The site also asks its members to post videos based on a subject. For the pilot they asked for videos on the number one. These were edited into longer pieces, other members added music and more content, HitRECord also edited and altered them until they had enough material for the pilot. The show airs Saturdays on Pivot at 10e/7p.
HitRECord's Jared Geller was presenting clips at the New Frontier area Saturday morning. The New Frontier area is in the box office - Sundance Store area and has displays and films in new media. Several others were also presenting new ideas on internet distribution, all of whom are former Sundance filmmakers who have embraced this new and changing media landscape and of filmmaking and distribution. Chris Horton (director, #ArtistServices, Sundance Institute) along with Jill Soloway (director, Afternoon Delight), Tiffany Shlain (filmmaker and founder, The Webby Awards), Jared Geller (producer, hitRECord), and Dennis Dortch (CEO/founder, BLACK&SEXY.TV) were sharing their thoughts in these areas. Soloway also showed her television pilot Transparent.
But hitRECord is the really the new thing. And while it seems that media made in this way would just be strange, interesting perhaps, but just plain weird, this is not the case. It's amazing what is being made this way with tens of thousands of "filmmakers" collaborating on each piece. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's talent certainly helps make this a hit.
On the dark side…..
Shortly after the presentation at the New Frontier there was a presentation at the Egyptian Theater. The venue is significant. Sundance only puts important films and events in this prime venue. This presentation was called "The Power of Story". The theme is documentary story and involving and motivating people by selling stories.
From the Sundance catalogue, "Stories tell us who we are. They allow us to form values, organize meaning, and interpret the world. When shared, they transmit ideas, influence behavior, and inspire agency. They are the key to our understanding of society, democracy, and the world."
But what is documentary and what is propaganda? If the goal is to motivate people to take action, or donate money, or vote, then are there lines that can be crossed? And how do you know if your story motivates people? You can show the film and hope, go by your own reaction, test with sample audiences but is there a better way to test? It seems there is. The panel was made up of filmmakers and scientists.
Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps and the recipient of numerous broadcasting honors (six Peabody Awards and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship). He’s also an accomplished author whose work includes Ties That Bind. Most recently, he is the executive producer for StoryCorps animated shorts and the half-hour animated special Listening Is an Act of Love.
Louie Psihoyos is widely regarded as one of the top photographers in the world. He was hired directly out of college to shoot for National Geographic and created images for the magazine for 18 years. He brought the Academy Award–winning documentary The Cove to Sundance in 2009 and continues to work to expose global environmental issues.
Jess Search is a producer and CEO of the BRITDOC Foundation. BRITDOC works to fund and promote social-justice films and journalism and also administers the PUMA Impact Award. Her recent Sundance films include Dirty Wars.
Who is Dayani Cristal?, Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer, and The Square. She is the cofounder of Shooting People, an innovative online filmmakers' community.
Darren Walker (moderator) is the president of the Ford Foundation. Prior to Ford, he held senior positions at the Rockefeller Foundation and the Abyssinian Development Corporation. His career in the social sector followed a decade in international law and finance. He is a member of several boards, including the Arcus Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Friends of the High Line, and the New York City Ballet.
Paul J. Zak is a scientist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity. He is the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University. His current work focuses on the neuroscience of building high-performance organizations and the neurobiology of narrative.
While the panel seems to be about filmmaking, the "star" of the panel was Paul J. Zak, AKA Dr Love. His work with the molecule oxytocin has gained him that name as he claims the oxytocin hormone is responsible for feelings of love and trust. Though often referred to as the "trust hormone" or "love hormone" oxytocin is also being seen as a brain chemical that does a lot more than just bring people closer together.
Paul J. Zak thinks it can be used to measure a persons response to a story. In conjunction with other bio feedback, he is testing films to gauge their influence on people, are they motivated to action? To donating money? To voting? He claims an 80% accuracy with his tests. The story can be adjusted and edited until it creates the greatest influence. The testing involves showing a person the film while monitoring pulse, respiration, palm sweat and other vital signs. At the beginning and end blood is drawn and tested for oxytocin and other markers.
It seems that some people are not moved at all. Ever. But most people are moved to some extent by the story. Bench marks can be established for motivation in different areas. The story can be adjusted until the goal benchmark is reached. At that point they have your vote. Or your involvement. Or your money.
In a time of NSA data collection, databases on every humans shopping, driving, eating and sleeping, will filmmakers and the people they work for also have a database on how we react to story and what we need to hear in order to get our support?.
While technology is providing new markets, there is a dark side to everything. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Where does this path lead?
Saturday - January 18, 2014 - It seems that the subject on everyone's mind is how the high tech world can launch more film projects and give filmmakers more access to audiences. But this morning, that was set aside, to get back into the film industries favorite subject, actors. There are several young actors here, some in their first features, who are blowing minds.
Josh Wiggins is in fhis first feature, Hellion. Wiggens plays a boy from Texas who is a hellion, an out of control trouble maker with attitude. His father seems incapable of gaining any control of the boy. What make the film work is Wiggens character. Wiggens feels the writing made the acting simple, also he is from Texas and is in ways the hellion of the story. Yet nothing could work this well without everything being right, not just the script, which truly is as good as Wiggens says, but Wiggins breathes life into the character. Wiggins got his start on YouTube, not only making film there, but getting seen there. It would not be overstated to say he launched his career there. Sort of the modern day equivalent of of the thirties stories of being discovered at a lunch counter in Hollywood. Just tonight I overheard talk about the film on the bus back to my car, and yes, that's a good sign for the film. And good news for Wiggins who is perhaps only 16 although he plays someone younger in Hellion and totally sells it. Wiggins is also unique as he is one of only two Americans featured this morning.
The other American is Boyd Holbrook whose career has taken off. His first film was Milk in 2008 and he has amassed a large list of credits since. He was here last year in Very Good Girls, and back this year in two films, Skeleton Twins and Little Accidents. His roll in Little Accidents hits close to home for him. He is from Appalachia, and while the story takes place in a coal town in West Virginia, he said this morning, these are the people he grew up with. This is close to him, and he empathizes with the character and the story. In the last year he has also been in The Host and Out of the Furnace.
Kodu Smit-McPhee is an Australian and another young actor who is amassing a long list of credits. He is at Sundance with Young Ones. In the last year he also shot Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with director Matt Reeves who he also worked with on Let Me In. He also just wrapped on Slow West. In 2012 he appeared in The Congress which premiered at the 2013 Directors' Fortnight at The Cannes Film Festival. He has also played in The Wilderness of James in the title role of 'James', and starred in A Birder's Guide to Everything which premiered at the 2013 TriBeca Film Festival, and played 'Benvolio' in a film adaption of Romeo & Juliet. He was also the voice of Norman in Paranorman which was nominated for 'Best Animated Feature' at the 2013 Academy Awards, and also received a 2013 BAFTA Awards nomination for 'Best Animated Film. Quite a year for him. He was in The Road in 2009 and My Father in 2007.
You may mistake John Boyega as an american from Los Angles, as his accent in Imperial Dreams is totally LA. But he is 100% brit and has the accent to prove it. His LA voice is made up, but he told us his background is the english equivalent of growing up in Compton. And his love for films like Boys in the Hood helped him perfect his LA accent. He stars in the anticipated Half of a Yellow Sun due out later this year and in March he starts filming Testament.
Astrid Bergès-Frisbey is at Sundance with I Origins. She has acted in films in Spanish, English, French and Catalan. Her english debut was Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides in 2011. In the last year she finished Home is Where Your Heart Aches, and was in Julliette released last summer.
Carla Juri is here with the German film Wetlands. She was born in Ticino Switzerland and speaks Italian, English, French and German. In 2010 she was in the Italian film seres L'uomo die baschi and in 2011 the english film Fossil.
Friday - January 17, 2014 - Evening - Main Street in Park City is the heart of the action. Crazy things, fun things, wild things. Just walking the street is part of the experience.
Main is the location of the Egyptian Theater, the old venue, the symbol of Sundance. It's a small venue, remodeled ten years ago, it was rather "rustic" before that, but always fun. Many years ago some of us would sit in the spotlight nook outside of the projection booth treating it as our "private box seat". It's a requirement to see at least one film here.
There are kiosks covered with film posters. Most will be covered by someone else's poster within minutes of going up. A few years ago David Roy had a film here (Man of the Year) and many of us were "papering" the town with posters for about 90 minutes before each screening. As we would be hanging posters working around the kiosk people right behind us covering our posters with theirs. The harry eyeball was used to try to dissuade this, but to no avail. After about 3 laps around the kiosk we had a "peace accord". We agreed that anyone whose screening was within the next hour would have their poster respected until 20 minutes before their screening. The things you need to do just to get your poster up for half an hour or so. By the end of the ten days most of the kiosks are about 2 inches deep in paper.
And there is music. Bands, street musicians, I've even seen a guy with a piano out on the sidewalk in the snow. Can't be good for the piano. And other performers doing their thing.
There are small festivals that have tagged onto Sundance. Slam Dance is the best known, but there has also been Slum Dance in a fake soup kitchen, Slam Dunk, Moon Dance and the list goes on. Sundance is not too keen on these people, they brought the crowds here and these shows ride their coattails, but they are for the most part harmless and add to the weird atmosphere and fun.
There are many Sundance non-film venues here too. Sponsors set up displays and hospitality suites here and throw big parties, Sundance has Sundance House, the Music Cafe, the Filmmakers Lodge and other offerings.
And people give away swag. Expect to get a free burger, one or two CDs, I was given a novel today, a CD and a burger all within about ten minutes. Some people treat this as a sort of scavenger hunt, seeing who can get the most stuff over the week. Drop into the Utah Film Commission, you will need a shopping bag to carry all the stuff they give you, which is fine because they will give you the bag too.
And this is the best place to see stars, if that is something you are into. All of the filmmakers are here, walking around, talking up their film, doing interviews, and eating free burgers. Main is where it is at!
Friday - January 17, 2014 - Afternoon - Friday afternoon brought #LessonsLearned panel to the Filmmakers Lodge. The panel was packed, with spillover in the eating spaces and even outside listening on the PA system. Why the hype? Perhaps because Joseph Gordon-Levitt the head of HITRECORD ON TV was there, better known for his work in films (Inception, 50-50, The Dark Night and way more), and television, or hosting Saturday Night Live.
He is also in a film here, Don Jon. But what brings him here is his online "thing" HITRECORD where media is presented, edited by users and reposted. Totally new concept in entertainment. And not boring. Just how this works long term is anyone's guess, but it is evolving. Which is what it is supposed to do.
Also on the panel was Jason Hirschhorn of REDEF, Evan Ratliff from Atavist, Chet Kanojia of Aereo, (an online distribution company) and Bob Moczvdlowsky from Twitter. Twitter, nothing new there right? Wrong, Bob is head of music at Twitter. Yes, Tweeting music. Something new, possibly something big. Bands can Tweet their new tune. And connect to resources to sell their music.
The music landscape has been changing, changing like the weather. Remember albums? 20 million sales of those albums? A big sale these days is 2 million. Downloading single songs is the new reality. So, Tweeting your new single? Easy to see that more changes are coming.
And not just to music. HITRECORD alters the way movies are made and distributed. In some ways it changes what a movie is. Where sites like Aero are more like "normal" distribution, as is Amazon and others, they can change with the winds as the entire notion of filmmaking shifts. And they also distribute books. And they give a large split to the artist.
Just as REAPMEDIAZINE.COM and other sites have changed the way we all get film news, and sites like YouTube have changed what is available as video, (do check my weekly show on Toy Man Television channel on YouTube) sites like these continue to alter the entire notion of film, video, books, music and interactive media. So there were lots of people there. Some to see a famous actor, most to see where they fit into this brave new world. And hoping to get their film out and sure, make money. Nothing wrong with that.
Friday - January 17, 2013 - Morning - Have you ever noticed how much fun it is to laugh at totally inappropriate times? This morning in the Cinema Cafe was an appropriate time. Three very funny comedy writers, who have films in the festival, were presenting their stuff, and making people laugh.
Richard Ayoade is a well known professional 'fool' with great credits. Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, Man to Man with Dean Learner, (which he directed and co-wrote) IT crowd, Making videos for the Arctic Monkeys, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Super Furry Animals, Kasabian, The Last Shadow Puppets, and Vampire Weekend. His first feature was 2011's Submarine.
Yeah, he's funny. His film here is The Double about a timid isolated man whose exact double appears one day. And no one notices. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as Simon and James. James is nothing like Simon, except he looks exactly like Simon, which is easy to overlook as Simon is so easy to overlook. Great comedy for the modern world. Ayoade claims it's based on a book by Fyodor Dostoevsky. And he should know so let's take his word for that.
Maya Forbes has been a comedy writer for The Larry Sanders Show on HBO as well as many other TV shows and moved into features here at Sundance this year with Infinitely Polar Bear. A film from her own past, it's a story of a manic depressive man trying to raise three children on his own in an attempt to win back his estranged wife. What could possibly go wrong? Starring Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide.
John Slattery, who has four Emmy Awards for his work in Mad Men, is here with Gods Pocket about Mickey who looses his stepson in an "accident" and trying to hide the truth from the boy's mother ends up juggling the body which he can't seem to bury. See, it is fun to laugh at totally inappropriate times. Slattery is best known for his rolls in Iron Man 2, The Adjustment Bureau, Traffic, The Station Agent, Flags of our Fathers, and Charley Wilson's War.
The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks and John Turturro. Looks like a winner!
The script is based on a novel, which Slattery had the rights to when he wrote the script, then lost. Yet he kept writing for two more years without knowing if the film could ever be made. He claims he had nothing else to do, loved the script, so just keep working on it. The rights then opened up and the film moved forward. And now it's on the screen.
At this point none of these composition films have been shown, so there is no buzz as yet about them, YET! But if clips and the filmmakers are any gauge, they are all three worth a watch.
Thursday - January 16, 2014 - For almost 30 years, the third week in January marks the start of the Sundance Film Festival. Sundance took over the United States Film Festival in 1985 and transformed it into the premier film festival in the United States. The original film festival was started by the Utah Film Commission in Salt Lake City and after a few years made the brilliant decision to move it to Park City where it began to thrive. I bring all of this up because the festival has out grown Park City and runs venues in Salt Lake City, Ogden and at the Sundance resort in the mountains above Utah Valley.
The opening day is always full blown nuts. The festival offices are packed, lost people wandering about and people like myself trying all day just to get their press pass. Then it gets more on Friday and Saturday. Some complain about the crowds and the fact is seems you can't get into a screening. As a person who has been there from the very beginning, working with the United States Film Festival and later Sundance, I can tell you, the crowds are great. They are the fans that make the movies happen, the people standing in line all night to be in the seats for the first screening on a major film, the average person who shells out their cash to see a film, buy a DVD, watch a pay per view or download to their iPad. And they come to Park City to be there when the next big thing happens. Somewhere in a hotel room or condo the next Kevin Smith or Michael Moore or Steven Soderbergh may be planning to build audience support at their next screening. People come from all over the world to be here when that magic happens. And the magic happens because people come. So don't complain about the crowds, celebrate them. You are one of them and they are you.
So how do you get into a film? Ah, now it gets extra fun. It's your goal to get into the film you want to see. And now you need to play the festival game. Everyone has a plan, when to get into a waiting line, how to find a ticket, how to choose a venue. And don't think you can impress your way into anything. "Do you know who I am?" buys you nothing except perhaps a smile from a person who is being polite. So make a plan.
Assuming you didn't get a ticket, which is the easy way to get in, you need to join a waiting list, which means waiting in line just to get on the waiting list. But don't despair, depending on the film and the venue and the schedule, if you get in line early you will meet some fun people who are doing the same thing, and usually will get into your film. If you are early. The venue is large. And you are not trying to get into a seven PM screening of a premier.
Now, as I pointed out a while back, the festival has outgrown Park City. And films are showing in other venues in other places. Salt Lake City has some of the best venues. Ok let's just say the best. But it's not Park City and so some of the magic is lost. But on the flip side, there is parking, light rail, cheaper food and massive venues. And inspite of perceptions, Salt Lake City is a real uppers area, with regular people who like regular things like a good film and a good beer. You will not want to come to Sundance just to hang out in Salt Lake, but it's only a short drive away and often a nice break from the madness of Main in Park City. And on weekends at prime times it may be a way to get into a film you want to see. But you still need to be there early, these venues are full too. But often you can get in there with a bit more ease than Park City.
The Broadway Theaters are in the center of town, are good theaters, have off-street parking, and are a block from a light rail stop. They are also the home of the Salt Lake Film Society.
The Tower is Salt Lake's art house theater. Fun and a bit eclectic, the Tower is in Salt Lake's 9th and 9th area, a unique district with good food and shops. Parking is a bit of a problem, but a fun venue. Often very hard to get a seat as it very popular and rather small.
Check in tomorrow for more updates on Sundance - time for some Zzzzzzs.
Please CHECK OUT Dale Angell's great production facilities and resources for when you are in UTAH!
Redman Movies - (camera grip rental, shooting stages)
LAB6 Studios - (film dub stage, recording studio, edit rooms)
Toy Man Television - fun films which will include filmmaking, the studios, model railroading, auto racing, tree house building and just a bunch of fun things)
Radar - (mobile post rooms, DIT service
Dale Angell started recording sound by recording bands in high school in Salt Lake City. Later he turned to art and attended art school in Utah and Paris, but in 1974 he accidentally discovered filmmaking when one of his room mates needed cash to buy weed and sold his cameras to Dale. The camera bag included a Bolex and the book Independent Filmmaking by Lenny Lipton. The book and camera started a life long love and vocation in filmmaking. As Dale had experience with sound, the Utah film community turned to Dale and his friend and soon to be business partner Tom Ruff to do their sound work. Soon they were mixing and scoring dozens of films in Dale's garage in a makeshift dub stage which soon was out growing the garage location. Not your average garage studio, the "Hall of Audiences" had 35 and 16m dubbers, film projection, Crown tape recorders and a 5 rank pipe organ. (Yes a pipe organ, Dale and Tom are still into that.)
They were soon doing work for the networks and indie films and relocated to a downtown location that they shared with Film Group. Many films were edited here, some mixed here some only edited, but included cult classics like Don't Go In The Woods and Lady Street Fighter, network television movies of the week, IMAX films for the national parks, and one of Jimmy Stewart's last films, Mr. Krueger's Christmas.
Dale was also designing soundtracks during this period for Sunn Classic Pictures. Sunn Classic was known for four walling odd pseudo documentaries such as Chariots of the Gods and In Search of Noah's Arc as well as network television such as Grizzly Adams. (Dale was the voice of the bear in the final feature film). Sunn was also instrumental in helping the Utah Film Commission launch the United States Film Festival in Salt Lake City. Dale was involved from the outset, mostly as a "seat warmer", as few people attended the events and films, Sunn employees would be shuffled to venues to provide audience so it looked like there was more interest than there actually was. After floundering in Salt Lake City for two years, the festival was moved to Park City where it became a success. Several years later it was taken over by the Sundance Institute and became The Sundance United States Film Festival and later just Sundance.
Soon Dale and Tom removed to LA, Tom went to work at Sound FX, later Film Leaders mixing and recording ADR and Foley. Dale continued as a sound editor but in 1984 returned to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah in their MFA program. He soon started mixing sound for the student films, building a dubbing setup, as well as teaching. A post he held for the next 14 years. He continued to work with Sundance at the festival in Park City, now mixing sound for events as well as shooting video.
He then moved on to teach at Sierra Nevada College at Lake Tahoe, and two years later, moved to Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara and Ventura California. There he once again built a dub room as well as a Foley-ADR room. He also penned books on editing workflow and sound design using Pro Tools. He continued to work with Sundance, now as an Institute Partner (sponsor) with Brooks Institute.
After 10 years at Brooks, in 2013 Dale retired and returned to Salt Lake City. He has rejoined the University of Utah as an adjunct as well as working with Sundance mixing sound for events. He has also opened a sound studio, LAB6 as part of the Redman Movies complex and has also just released a YouTube series, Toy Man Television detailing the fun things to do as a retired person. (Perfecting the high art of screwing around.)