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Sundance Part Deux Day 6


Sundance is about halfway over at this point — and the crowds are thinning out. The local shopkeepers say the rough economy along with the presidential inauguration has had an effect on turnout for this year’s fest.

Almost entirely gone this year are the massive amounts of freebies once offered by most of the festival’s sponsors. The tent where free T-shirts, hats, pens, blankets, tote bags and more were previously given away is now called the hydration station. Sponsored by Brita, it offers free Nalgene water bottles featuring the Brita and Sundance logos. Well, it’s not entirely free. It’s given in exchange for signing a pledge to allegedly protect the environment by using their refillable bottle — and a Brita water filter — instead of disposable water bottles. Once you have the bottle you can refill it at any of several Brita Filtered water stations located around the festival.

Today was a fairly light day for events. We attended a panel discussion on how to get production grants from some of the big names in film supplies and services: Panavision, Kodak and a number of post-production companies were on the panel. The hit film “Napoleon Dynamite,” which was a Sundance entry when we were here in 2004, was made using grants from these very providers.

Later in the evening we attended “An Evening with Steven Soderberg.” Soderberg, who is one of my favorite directors, had one of the first major hits to come out of the festival: “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” There had been a bit of mystery about the event — which turned out to be a sneak peak of his next film. It was an exciting opportunity to see a work in progress and be the first audience to see the film. The movie, currently titled “The Girlfriend Experience,” is told through a disjointed timeline, much along the lines of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and many of Soderberg’s own previous movies. I really enjoyed the way the characters were slowly revealed — and I hate to spoil the revelations, so I won’t go into it much here — but it’s a largely improvised story. And with one major exception, none of the actors who appeared in it have been in front of a movie camera before. After the screening he answered several questions about the production.

One of the great things about Soderberg is that he doesn’t feel the need to hide his techniques from you, or wrap his process in mystery. He’s very direct and straightforward in his answers, which often seem impossibly simple.

To finish out the evening, we received invites to a party sponsored by Kodak. The free coat check and an open bar were definitely a nice touch — it can be tough to find a meal for under $25, but easy to find $7 bottles of beer on Main Street. There was a live band doing a pretty good job of playing mostly ’80s music. When they started playing Joan Jet’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” my girlfriend remarked with a laugh, “It’s obvious they’re playing to a crowd of thirtysomething women.” The party was a chance to network a bit — most of the members of the discussion panel on film production grants were there. So I managed to get a little face time with some people I hope to be dealing with again when I embark on my own project in the not-too-distant future.


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