Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Guerilla Reflections on Sundance – Part 1

I’m tired to the bone after 3 days of straight hustling to get the word out about Down and Dirty DV at the Sundance and Slamdance festivals and all the other -dance festivals in Park City, UTAH. I have that all-too-familiar post-wrap exhaustion. You know the way you feel after shooting a few 16-20 hour days in a row? Well, it’s just like that, only imagine that it was open-bar happy hour on-set every day from 4:00pm-8:00pm. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

This was my second time going down. (The first was at Slamdance a few years ago for a feature I produced called Shelter, which starred Ray Santiago who also appears in this year’s Slamdance entry from the Napoleon Dynamite team, The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang which seemed to be getting some good buzz.) It was extremely energizing. I stayed on the move, but I met a lot of really chill filmmakers and other people from all over the country. I went down to let people know about the whole Down and Dirty DV project and put the preview version of the book and dvd trailer in some people’s hands.

It’s a little nerve-racking when you keep a big project under wraps for awhile before finally letting people take a look at it, you really don’t know how it’s going to be received. You put it out there and hold your breath and hope that people like it, or at least get it. At Sundance, it was both. I got a lot of great feedback and encouragement on the project and shot some great new material to boot. I tried to dispatch Down and Dirty DV T-shirts all over the country. So I'm back even more fired up than before to knock up out the rest of the project and put Down and Dirty DV out to the masses.

Ghengis Blues is Down with Down and Dirty DV

I met and did a short interview with Adrian Belic who made Ghengis Blues, along with his brother Roco. If you never saw it, it’s a great little doc that won the 2000 Sundance Audience Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. It's about a blind bluesman who teaches himself the unusual talent of multi-harmonic Tuvan throat-singing and ends up traveling to the isolated region that birthed the music to perform and form friendships that cross expansive cultural barriers. It's definitely worth owning or putting in your Netflix queue if you haven't already seen it.

Talk about energy and enthusiasm for guerilla filmmaking! If you talk to this man for just 10 minutes, you will probably want to go right out and make another film that instant, even if all you have is a vhs camcorder and some lint in your pockets!

Adrian is a colorful character to say the least. You can't help but be affected by his sincere passion for filmmaking and encouraging other filmmakers. Adrian and his brother, Roco, can definitely get Down and Dirty when they have to. (They shot Ghengis Blues on Hi-8 in rugged mountains!) When I put the book in Adrian’s hand, he instantly got it and saw the value for other guerilla filmmakers.

If you want to know some of Adrian's thoughts on guerilla filmmaking and hear his impromptu prasie for Down and Dirty DV: Documentaries, ch
eck out the quicktime clip below. (*When the podcast drops later this month, I'll put up some of the actual sit-down interview that I did with Adrian later the same day.)

Who goes to Sundance?
Everybody seems to go to Sundance/Slamdance for different reasons. Obviously, if you have a project in one of the festivals, you go down to promote it. However, there are also a lot of filmmakers (established and aspiring) that go mostly go to attend the various panels and to meet and network with other filmmakers. And of course there are DP’s, Agents, Actors, Distribution Companies, and Equipment manufacturers all promoting themselves, their films, or their companies. There are also a surprising number of just film fans, who only go for the movies and parties (if they can worm their way in that is).

So it’s a real hodgepodge of the entire film community and you don’t have to have a film in the festival to make it worthwhile. Personally, I think it’s more enjoyable when you don’t have a project to promote, because then you can actually see some films. It takes an incredible amount of planning, energy, and hustle to really get the word out about your project. (I got to see all of a one-hour block of shorts and attended 0 parties this year. )

Despite my best intentions to see more films, I was just too wiped out at the end of a long day of walking up and down Park City’s steep Mainstreet with a backpack full of fliers, t-shirts, books, and DVD’s… not to mention the camera and sound gear I was lugging to grab more interviews for the video podcast and companion DVD. Sadly, I was in bed before 11:00pm most nights. If it wasn’t for the free RedBull at the Slamdance events, I would never have made it through the days! Thanks guys. I met a lot more people doing some interesting projects that I want to shout out, but more on my Park City adventures in my next post...