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David Poland

By David Poland

Crisis Schmisis!

Sundance 2005: Crisis In Park City


The reason why there is a crisis in Park City is because guys like Kohler, whom I like, and Amy Taubin, who I really don’t know, are busy screaming their danged fool heads off.

Sundance finally makes the forward thinking move of creating World Cinema categories and the softness of the first year’s choices are A CRISIS!

It’s called “the first year.” Sundance has had a decade of indie filmmakers timing their films to end up on the Sundance schedule, if they are lucky enough to get in. The festival has the absolute top choice of indie films from new filmmakers who are not likely to break into Cannes. But that is not the case with World Cinema. Films launch in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian, etc, etc, etc… the machine isn’t used to saving the best for Sundance.

That will change.

A few sales and that will change in a hurry.

As for all the Sundance parties… uh… stay off Main Street. There is only one theater there and nothing playing there isn’t playing elsewhere. And the hype machines have not invaded any of the other theaters. If you are obsessing on Sundance obsessing on Paris Hilton, it is no one’s fault but your own.

In other words… move along… nothing to see here…

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11 Responses to “Crisis Schmisis!”

  1. Joe Leydon says:

    David: I would disagree only with your claim that “the hype machines have not invaded any of the other theaters” at Sundance. Trust me, they’re everywhere, even at the Park City Library. But you’re absolutely right: The people who scream loudest about the “corruption” of Sundance — glam parties, expensive swag, faux indie movies,image-buffing Hollywood stars, etc. — can avoid the trendy flash and filigree through the simple expedient of planting their asses on the shuttle buses and riding to Sundance venues where documentaries, experimental films, shorts and foreign-language imports are given ample display. Just look at the freaking catalogue every year and note how many films are star vehicles or “dependent” productions, and how many more are genuinely independent movies. There are times when I feel the only things wrong with Sundance are some of the people who write about it.

  2. Mark says:

    Sundance is just a good vacation spot in January. How many films actually make a difference come from there? One every two years?

  3. Bunny Wailer says:

    Films that “make a difference?” Skip the features and give props to the docs — Competition, World, Spectrum and otherwise.

  4. Don says:

    Joe’s right, David…Sundance has been taken over. This isn’t a swipe at you or anything…but for a lowly volunteer/press guy with no press pass like me….we common folks have no place at Sundance. Maybe you don’t see it do to your status in the industry, but trust me, the fest is a pain in the ass to have a good time at.
    The marketing/Hollywood people draw more and more and more people there for no reason other than to clog up the town. This last year was my 9th and every year the festival becomes a bigger pain in the ass to attend. Getting into any docs at the Holiday requires a 4 hour committment (getting in line, seeing the film, trying to catch an overcrowded bus). I made one attempt to get into the new raquet Club venue (got there an hour early) and was shut out. Furthermore, I bet 8 people out of 10 could give a rats ass about films and just want to either be a part of the celebrity clusterfuck or “see a celebrity.” Ugh. Lame.
    This unfortunate turn of events is NO fault of the Sundance institute. What are they supposed to do? Say Ghostbar can’t rent out a building on Main? Are they supposed to disallow Blender magazine from renting Harry O’s and having HUGE acts there? Check ID’s so the influx of high school students on the town slows down?
    Even if they do push World Cinema to the forefront, it won’t help the congestion. The Sundance Film festival is a brand name now. A be seen place and that’s unfortunate.
    For me, it’s ALLLLLll about the SXSW film fest now. I met Joe Leydon (briefly) there and I bet you’d agree with me, Joe. SXSW is what Sundance used to be…only much more fun and laid back than it ever COULD have been. However, as soon as SXSW breaks something big (and it could be “Hooligans” this year) it could get overrun too. I hope that never happens!

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    Don: Were you one of the guys who helped carry me off the dance floor at Maggie Mae’s on Sixth Street after I collpased just before closing time? If so, thanks.
    But seriously: Actually, I love SXSW because it’s more like what the Toronto Festival used to be. Don’t get me wrong: Toronto remains my fave festival in the world (with SXSW and Sundance close behind), but it requires a lot more advance planning and tight scheduling than it used to. It’s still relatively easy to discover something serendipitously at SXSW. Three of the major screening venues — the Austin Convention Center, the Paramount Theatre and the Alamo Draft House — are within easy walking distance of each other. And not every screening is a sell-out, so you can make a last-minute decision to see something that strikes your fancy in the festival catalogue. It’s kinda-sorta like what Toronto was like in the mid 1980s, when you might wander out of the Uptown Cinema at 8:10 p.m. and make a spur-of-the-moment decision to stroll over to the Cumberland for an 8:30 p.m. movie. The hordes had not yet started to descend upon the city every year. Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance.. OK, I think I’ll go lie down now.

  6. Don says:

    Sadly, I missed you collapsing. Unfortunately I doubt it was from drinking too much so I hope you’re O.K. I met you going into the Alamo Drafthouse…I write for Film Threat and Eric Campos introduced us.
    I just can’t get over how great SXSW is. This was my second year and I was just blown away at how the festival staff and the festival itself is just geared towards unpretentious enjoyment of FILM. No bullshitting around. We’re all there for the same reason.
    That kind of atmosphere really seems to breed a camaraderie between filmmakers, critics and fans as well as some great discussions on film and that can’t be beat. No posturing or name dropping. Maybe I’m just still young and easily pleased, but I love it there. Free beer +lots of BBQ+ great (true) indie films= 1 great film fest.

  7. David Poland says:

    What continues to stick in my craw, Don, is the two different arguments. Yes, the town is overrun with marking crap. But they do not control your access to movies… that is Sundance Insititute’s responsibility/fault.
    The festival could fix (sorta) the problem by handling it much like Toronto. Have press/industry screenings before the public screening on every film. That will get the insane push from studios/press to get into every first public screening – and on hot films, the second – and expand the opportunity for “real people.” It would also make it a lot easier for the press and the industry. It needs to be a decent sized theater and like Toronto, some films would need an extra screening, but the festival could also give access to volunteers/real people to those free screenings when seats are available.
    Just a thought.

  8. Terence D says:

    I don’t think the average moviegoer even watches one Sundance movie a year.

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    You’re absolutely right, Terence. No one ever goes to see Sundance world premieres like “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Narc,” “sex lies &videotape,” “One Hour Photo,” “The Butterfly Effect,” “Motorcycle Diaries,” “Garden State,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Super Size Me,” “Open Water,” etc.

  10. L.J. says:

    And none of the directors who got their start by showing their first films at Sundance have ever amounted to anything: Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderberg, David O. Russell, the Cohen Brothers, Richard Linkletter…

  11. Don says:

    Really smart points, David. I also neglected to mention that they re-run the last press screening at the yarrow for volunteers so that’s pretty cool.
    I still don’t really know what the festival itself could do to control crowds. They put those huge tents up at the Eccles to redirect the papparazzi…and I guess that helped. And you are right in that a majority of the traffis IS on main Street. But I still feel like the festival is just a bigger and bigger pain in the ass to navigate each year. Plus, I haven’t seen a really GREAT film there in a while. Granted, much of that has to do with not wanting to do line battle for the hot titles. Maybe I’m just a grumpy ole fart at 33 who needs to learn how to suck it up…

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon