Friday, January 23, 2009

Absolut Mango

More specifics about panels an films at Sundance in a later post, but I wanted to share some of the non-cinema highlights of the festival.

Along Main Street in Park City many storefronts are taken over by sponsors- The New York Lounge was where I saw Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan as I stopped in for a bagel. The music pavilion was where I saw Paris Hilton running from photographers, and just down from the Egyptian Theater was the Queer Lounge sponsored by Absolut Mango.

The Queer Lounge was a great place to hang between shows and panels. For a small donation you could drink all the Absolut Mango vodka you wanted- too mango-y and not vodka-y enough for my taste- and meet a lot of interesting people, queer and not. We met folks from Pixar, who made a little film called Wall-E this year, and just regular film fans who stopped by for a drink.

Just like this post, the Queer Lounge was a nice place to stop and change your mind.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sundance Short Documentary Program

This post was lifted from an email I sent my Flashpoint Academy Documentary students after seeing the Short Doc. program yesterday.

Hello From Sundance,

I have been to six screenings so far and by far the best one was the short documentary program. There were 8 films selected out of 1200 entries. Just think about that 8 out of 1200. The only one you will be likely to see is an HBO Documentary on the actor John Cazale- Fredo from the Godfather. It was great, but it was also the longest and by far the most expensive, and it didn't seem to fit in with the other seven films as it was the most commercial.

A few trends I noticed:

Lots of graphics. Two films were originally designed for the Internet and were all graphics and/or found footage- one about nuclear weapons and the other about Internet censorship.

A third film was about a Canadian artist and they shot an interview, but the entire piece was animated. Very beautiful and poetic.

Another trend- recording dialog and interviews separately and shooting B-roll. No on camera interviews. Two films I saw- one was shot with a digital still camera and the other about people who store their belongings in public storage in Scotland- recorded their interviews on a digital disc recorder separate from shooting.

This is very interesting to me because of the emphasis it puts on the B-Roll. The Scottish storage locker film was great because of the images they shot, and perhaps because there were no talking heads or faces.

There was a fascinating film called Utopia Part 3 about the world's largest shopping mall- in China. The mall is a bust, no one goes, there are only a few stores open, but it really illustrates some of the problems China is having with growth and capitalism.

After the HBO/Cazale film perhaps the most traditional doc. was about high school kids in New Orleans post-Katrina. The filmmaker followed three students who were attending school even though they were living by themselves- their parents and siblings had moved or been taken to foster care. The filmmaker said that 20 percent of students at the school lived without their parents.

The final film- and one I hope I don't have to see again- is called Chop Off. It's about a performance artist who chops off body parts as his art. Very tough to watch- no amputations on screen- and full of medical and media ethics questions.

Those are the 8 films out of 1200 that made it. Just seeing them makes me want to explore some of these techniques and shoot more film.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Sundance Film Festival

Hello from Park City, Utah. I am at the Sundance Film Festival with Flashpoint Academy Academic Dean Paula Froehle. It's my first Sundance experience and so far it has been a lot of fun, very informative, and we even got some business done.

Details and pictures will follow- the dumb filmmaker can't get his pictures off his camera until he returns to Chicago. Here is a quick rundown of our first 36 hours.

  • Two film screenings- a bad collection of shorts, and great Korean documentary called Old Partner about a farmer and his 40 year old ox.
  • Two very interesting panels- one on new ways independent filmmakers can self-distribute their films, the other hosted by Variety and the Illinois Film Office- 30% tax breaks to shoot in Illinois!- about 10 directors to watch.
  • Lots of hanging out talking film, talking film business.
  • A great debate, about the film Doubt, though I think it was determined (I determined) that Betsy Steinberg, head of the Illinois Film Office, and I were right about what happened to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character and everyone else is completely wrong.
  • Celebrity sightings: Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Perry Farrell, Paris Hilton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

More later, more specifics and pics.