Independent Film Star Opal Dockery and Forrest Whitaker
2013 Slamdance Film Festival
Sundance 2013: A Wrap Up, Summary & Overview
By Jack Truman
Day 5 – Going Home – An Overview / Summary of Sundance / Slamdance 2013
All right. Here we go.
It's Wednesday morning. I'm back at the Vegas apartment. After 4 days of the meat and potatoes at Sundance and Slamdance 2013. What they call the Park City madness. Back to modern day civilization.
And I'll be honest. I'm glad to be back home.
I'll try to talk a little here about an overview / summary of this year's experience at Sundance 2013, how my final day went, and some final thoughts about this year's experience at Sundance and Slamdance in Park City.
I'll start with saying this. It's nothing like it used to be.
To be honest, this experience was overall, if I had to put it in one word, a real dud. That's the best way to put it. I'm glad I've experienced being there at Sundance and Slamdance previous years with a film and as a filmmaker. Or I would have thought it was always like this if it had been my first time there.
Opal and I were there for 4 days this time around: the busy meat and potatoes of the festival over the opening weekend: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That's the heart of Sundance, Slamdance and the Main Street madness during the festival. Everything that's anything really goes on during that time before it starts winding down the last few days. So I'm glad we were there during the heart of everything. Usually, I stay for the entire festival. I'm so glad I got out and came home after the first 4 days. If the meat and potatoes of the heart of the festival experience was a dud, I can just imagine what the final days would be like with just screenings going on. Really disappointing compared to previous years.
That being said, let's get to the parties and events during Sundance and Slamdance. Overall....not very good. Overall....what parties? Now, I do have to say this. The parties that Slamdance put on at the Public House (opening night and Sunday night) were the best of the bunch. But other than that, none were good. I'll repeat that. None were good. At least the ones that I was able to get into. Many Sundance and industry parties I had been invited to and RSVP'd, they didn't even have me on the list. Really pissed me off. The ones I actually got into, overall, were no good. Some you had to pay for your drinks. What kind of a party is that? There were only 1 or 2 events that even had some kind of food. And then some events were so mobbed with lines to get in, it was over an hour wait in line just to get in to the mob of all those rats in that party. That's a good way of explaining how it felt at about 95 % of those events. You felt like a rat in a room of over rats. Nothing like it used to be. For example, my last night in Park City, after the screening of the cool Slamdance film MUSGO, I was chatting with the actresses from the film, and they were asking me if there were any parties going on that night. I felt really bad when I had to honestly say I knew of none. Hell, I remember previous years, there were parties and events day and night to choose from. It was hard choosing which to go to. You didn't have to be invited. Everyone around town, on the street, and at the screenings were telling you about events and parties to go to. And they were good ones. Plenty of food, drink, cool people, fun networking. And you know what? Even the big industry parties that were hard to get into weren't that hard to crash. It's a completely different ball game now. At least it was this year. I didn't like it. That's about all I have to say about the parties, private events and mixers.
Let's talk about the films. The ones I got to see....overall...were pretty bad. I never remember a festival year at Sundance and Slamdance where most of the films I saw were not very good or not good at all. And the ones I thought were the best of the bunch, didn't have to be that good to stand out. The films are nothing like the used to be. I would be watching these films and thinking to myself, how the hell did these films get in? How did they make the cut? You've got to be kidding me. Out of 6,000 to 9,000 films to choose from, and these were the best of the bunch? Shit. Damn. I couldn't believe it. And you talk about the Sundance films. In previous years, whereever I was at on Main Street, whether it was someplace with Sundance or Slamdance, I could always make conversation with someone to ask them what Sundance films they've seen that stood out to them, and everyone would ramble off a handful of standouts. And generally, they would be the same films everyone was talking about. This time around, no one was talking or buzzing about specific films at Sundance. And the films at Sundance? A big majority of them were studio made films. Take, for example, the Sundance film LOVELACE this week. That is not an independent film. 6 months ago, I saw an advanced test screening of the film in Burbank. Those test screenings in Los Angeles? The studios pay millions of dollars just to test the films with audiences. Those type of films...Not independent films. From what I was hearing, the films getting deals had got deals well before the festival started. And the few that were getting deals during the festival were generally the truly independent films. So that was nice to see. It used to be that when you had a film that made Park City, when my first films were there, the festival advice was to not let anyone see the film until the screening in Park City. You would get the calls from the big studios. Wanting to see your film and make a deal before the festival. But you were advised to hold off and make them see the film in Park City, let the buzz build, and the bidding wars and fights take place there. Not anymore. At least this year, you see the bulk of the deals made well before the festival started. So Hollywood. Nothing like it used to be. But overall, the films this year around....not good. A few good ones. But I'll leave it at that.
This is the first year I've gone to Sundance and Slamdance, and when I left town, haven't had a bag full of business cards from contacts I made during the festival. This time around, it wasn't the same with the networking. Didn't meet a whole lot of new people. But it was nice seeing old friends at Slamdance, and on Main Street. That made up for that.
This time, the whole Sundance / Slamdance / Park City madness / Main Street experience felt more like a short getaway; a little mini-vacation; a family reunion with old film making friends rather than the business of filmmaking and making movies through networking and working the festival. It was just a different experience this year. Not at all like previous years. Not many new contacts. Weird. Different. Even as early as last year, even though I was really seeing changes in Sundance and Slamdance becoming more commercial and Hollywood industry driven, a lot of things were the same. Not this year. This year was just really weird.
That's enough of the bad experiences, of the ones that were bad. If you want to call them bad. Not to sound negative. But I really want to let people know how the Sundance Film Festival experience really is. And how it's changed over just the last 7 years. So people have an idea of what they're getting into.
Now, let's get into the good things / best things from the festival:
I saw and connected with some people I hadn't seen in quite some time. That was great. Even people I had met last year here at Slamdance. It was great reconnecting with a lot of them.
With Opal, we were able to get some great creative ideas for our projects we're working on.
One thing that opened up my brain and reinforced the independent spirit was with Dan's film BETWEEN US. His film story reminded me that you don't have to have your film premiere in Park City. You can make a feature film, it can play other festivals on the festival circuit, and then screen at Park City. That film really reinforced me to get made the feature film version of PHONE SEX GRANDMA. And some of these films made me realize how easy it's going to be to get the feature film made.
I was able to get the buzz started on my NO BUDGET FILMMAKING book. Got fliers out to some people around town, got Dolly's Bookstore on Main interested in carrying the book, and next year, at Sundance 2014, will have a book signing for the book at Dolly's during the festival there on Main Street. It's gonna be great having the new book on the film festival circuit this year at different festivals where my films will be playing. Then bringing the book back to Park City next January.
The weather was the best yet. No snow, ice and terrible freezing weather. It was clear and sunny during the days, and then clear late at night during the drive back each night to Salt Lake City. I never remember weather being this good during the festival. That really helped.
The best thing about the festival: was the free Vegan Veggie burgers every day at the Morningstar Farms building. Opal and I really enjoyed those. We found out about them the second day we were there, and had them every day. That was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that. That time made for really relaxing enjoyable eating time. To me, that was the most fun time at Sundance. That's pretty bad to say, when you're on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival, and the best thing you have to say about the festival is some free sandwiches you're getting. I think that says a lot about how the festival is right there. Coming from a veteran independent filmmaker whose been here for several years with films.
I don't want to come across as a pessimist with this writing. But I want people to really know what they're getting in for if they want to make their movie and have it in Park City during Sundance. I don't look at myself as a pessimist. I look at myself as a realist. That's what I trying to write. Realism during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Now, I'll wrap up with a quick overview of my final day in Utah:
Got up yesterday morning about 8:00 in the Motel 6 room in Salt Lake City. Was really tired from the last 4 days, but had to get up. Drank coffee to wake up while I wrote yesterday morning's blog. Woke up some more with a little more coffee, then packed up to head back West. Left the Motel 6 room about 11:00 heading back to Burbank.
We made really good time. Got to Las Vegas around 5:00 p.m.; only about a 6 hour drive. Stopped by the mail box to check the mail, then had to go around town to get some things done and run some errands while I had the time. We got to the Vegas apartment around 7:00 p.m.
It felt really good walking into the Vegas apartment. And being in a home environment. Very cozy and relaxing. Worked on the computer for a couple of hours, which felt refreshing. Started feeling like I was getting back to civilization. Unloaded the car. Ordered a vegan pizza. And then started fading until I conked out around 1:30 in the morning.
For me, the 2013 Sundance experience is over. Put to bed. Another chapter of my Park City experiences with Sundance and Slamdance. Every year is a little different there. I'll close with saying this: with each year at the Sundance Film Festival, there's changes going on. In my opinion, not for the better. Sundance is really drifting away from the true independent film experience. Which is really sad to see. Slamdance is trying really hard to stay to true independent filmmaking. And that I do like to see. But the overall experience from the festival on Main Street in January is rapidly changing each year. Not for the better. I will say this though. Every year, it is great to return to the Park City madness. Whether a better experience from the previous year or not. It's still the Park City madness.
And there's nothing else in the world like it.
Actors: Make Your Own Film: