Tuesday, February 14, 2006

As we crawl over the horizon: AN OPEN LETTER TO ROBERT

This entry should mark a short return to the comical rants and raves that had been previously offered through this "blog" wrapped in aluminum foil at no additional charge. There will be some update of my continual struggle of spit-shine polishing Rusted Sun Film's second feature film, DIVINE MANIPULATION OF THE THREADS if you continue to read on. However, I will take this opportunity to write an open letter to a man I have grown to respect.
This man is an icon of how Hollywood changed throughout the 70's and 80's. Twenty five years ago his started an Independent Film Festival that would allow the "little guy" a chance to take Hollywood by the balls. He is an actor, a film maker, and a legend in his own time. (Yes, it's recommended that you read the entire letter).


Dear Mr. Redford,
I took notice to a quotation that has been attributed to you, through an interview with the publication Newsweek. The statement of note was not shockingly inflammatory yet it did send a fervent wave of awareness through the system. Seeing such a bold statement made by the founder of the infamous Sundance Film Festival on it's 25th anniversary voyage was a warm welcome to the heart and soul of this particular filmmaker. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on a hefty feat. Twenty-five years is quite an accomplishment for any marriage. I'm sure that there was a great deal of blood, sweat, tears, and most of all dedication that went into this labor of love that started back in 1979.
I'm certain at some point through your career in film, you saw a gap in the process that needed to be filled. There were a lot of people out there that wanted to make films, had been making films, and were/are breaking their backs and bank accounts to tell a great story. Hollywood had shut the door on them paying the poor souls no attention. So, rightfully you started a process that allowed these budding and talented individuals the opportunity to show the people that wouldn't give them the time of day (through an overpriced lunch menu) that great films could be made outside of the Hollywood system. For many many years it worked brilliantly. Sundance became the singular festival that could make a young filmmaker. Distributors started to pay attention to the no-name geniuses that finally gained recognition through your dear Sundance. The entire industry started to follow suit. You had accomplished your goal early on and continued to push filmmakers to raise the bar. Congratulations on making your festival the best of the best and another congrats for a twenty-five year run. Now that we have all of the mutual B.S. out of the way... back to the comment which originally caught my attention:

"To the outside world, it's a big fat market where you have people like Paris Hilton going to parties. Now, she doesn't have anything to do with anything. I think the festival is close to being out of control."

Robert, if I may call you Robert... from one filmmaker to another... WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST DECADE? "Out of control," you say? Although your film festival may be the apex of greatness for all other festivals to aspire to, it has been consumed by the disease of the film industry that you were desperately trying to escape. It didn't just happen this year. This has been going on for quite some time. I'm sure that during hibernation, the Groundhog isn't aware of Starbucks buying up properties around his comfy little hole-in-a-stump... But at some point during his fantastic February voyage he's going to see that there is a line of designer-clad idiots pumping ten-dollar bills into the palm of an acne-ridden seventeen year old for designer coffee. If that little bustled blurt confused you... you're the Groundhog.
I realize that you cannot control the streets of Park City. These vendors slide into town riding their trail of oily bullshit offering shiny new silver dollars to people that will willingly rent out their homes, businesses, and shit-houses to anyone. They give away thousands of dollars worth of "free" goods to those "invited" to their parties so that some paparazzi will snap an opportune photo with said celebrity using their product. iPods, Sidekicks, cell phones, sneakers, watches, jewelry, shirts, jackets, cars, gift certificates, specialty liquors, portable DVD players, XBoxes, PSP, hand-jobs... you name it, they're giving it away to any sellout shit-heel that will show up, sell their soul, and smile for the camera. I'm going to give you a hint as of what the hell has been happening out there while you've been hiding in your cave.
NO ONE GOES TO SUNDANCE TO WATCH MOVIES. I distinctly remember having a conversation with an acquaintance that works in "the industry" just before the festival kicked off this year. The conversation had to deal with last year's big winners and how both of the films were shot in Memphis, TN. Therefore, our backwards-ass, good-ole-boy river town has gotten to experience a portion of Sundance's allure. The statement arrived with a smirk that was meant to display how naive I had become while living in the dream of what I thought the Sundance Film Festival meant. The individual spouted, "No one even watches the films at Sundance. They go for the parties, SWAG, and snowboarding. It's an all expenses paid vacation." I noticed the nice new iPod nano he kept playing with. I guess they'll have a few of those to hand out this year, eh? They like the idea of getting together for a film festival party... just minus the whole "having to sit down and watch film" thing. The majority of film makers invited to the festival actually do watch the films. It's the rest of the slags that you have to beware of. Example: Metallica played a venue in support of the film The Darwin Awards. Can you name the actors in that film alone? Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, David Arquette, Chris Penn,
Julianna Margulies, Wilmer Valderrama... Sounds like a fist full of name actors to me. What the hell is "indie" about that? Perhaps the "World Premiere" idea of Sundance has come to a backlash. Stewart Copeland's documentary on The Police... I love the band but having the Police show up at Sundance seems a little odd, especially when Sting doesn't even stay for the screening. He comes all the way to Sundance and then doesn't even stay for the movie. Maybe he wanted to go catch the Metallica show.
A MOVIE WITH A 10 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET (or just under) IS NOT AN "INDIE FILM." Most of the actors involved with these Indie films that eventually get invited to the Sundance Film Festival are familiar faces with the public. They usually get paid a handsome sum to star in these films. It more than guarantees that some distributor is going to buy the film... okay, smart business move for the filmmaker and investors. However, can you think of the last time that a film with NO BUDGET made it into Sundance? Don't think that a great film can be made without a budget? I implore you to think again... look a little harder... perhaps take part in the screening process. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of those actors that will take their hard earned "studio money" and then transfer it into a budget for an "Indie film" that they've always wanted to do. I do however think that an actor getting paid $20 Million per role is just slightly insane. I could work everyday of my life and collectively never make $1 Million (if I continue to work in the News industry... no one ever said that I would get rich doing it). The best hope I've got to ever even work with that kind of budget would be to win the lottery. I play the lottery twice a week in the hopes that I could pursue making films for a living. The odds of winning are about the same as a no-name director with no-name actors in his clever little film has of getting an actual shot at Sundance.
The films that won this year were provocative. There are people out there still making great films for the greater cause. Together we can solve this problem. It's Utah, get some burly-ass guys with handlebar mustaches wielding Shotguns to guard the integrity of the festival. Keep anyone that has a dog that they can fit in a bag out of town. Keep anyone that dresses like a preacher or a pimp out of town. We can ship in some hobos from Memphis to mug the assholes that wear too much "bling." There are ways to fix these problems that will cost you no more than a few permits and a couple of Greyhound bus tickets. Here's a stroke of brilliance, get a few cameras rolling and we'll document the Sundance clean-up effort from tip to tail. Imagine the joy we'll all get from watching the tapes depicting an angry crowd of filmmakers flinging gutter-soaked snowballs at celebrity sluts in pink mini-skirts. It won't cost anything... hell, it's even publicity for the shitheels that fall under attack.
I'm not suggesting that you close-up shop and shut down your darling film festival. I'm not saying that Indie films have to be digital and cheap. I'm merely stating that when you don't clean house every once in a while, you shouldn't be surprised when you peel back the rugs to find parasites, dust bunnies, and Paris Hilton. You've done a great service with your film festival. I wish the best for it's future... But we've got to become a little more selective on who we're in bed with. Take it all with a grain of salt. I don't know very much about the film industry. I simply know that I love making films. I also know that "we" (meaning the filmmakers that know that they don't have a shot in hell at getting into Sundance) have been talking about your festival for a while. More specifically, what is terribly wrong with it. There are a lot of articles out there. Google it. Read some blogs. Read some articles. Ask around. You'll figure it out. I still have faith.

Sincerely yours,
Bevan B. Bell.

[DMoftheT Update: Still polishing scenes. Half-way through that process. Wrap party this weekend. 7pm - ? Saturday, Anthony's house. Rock the Question Mark.]

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mozel Tov: Rough cut updates

The only explanation for the photo is that Joe was celebrating his picture wrap by crushing a can of soda, while I stare blankly into the abyss of complicated edit sessions. This past weekend marks another end-date of sorts. Over Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and the majority of Sunday I set out to complete the rough-cut edits for all of the remaining unedited scenes of the film. By 10pm Sunday I accomplished that feat. There were about 14 or 15 hours worth of wild-eyed blank spots where my fingers and mind worked with a machine-like ethic... rarely getting up to eat, take bathroom breaks, or shake off the thing I'll call "Monitor hypnosis."
When one spends that much time in front of a computer, editing clip after clip, detailing audio takes, working around continuity problems and keeping a flow to the scene something drastically changes. Things don't appear as they seem, the mind doesn't work as it's supposed to and a robot mindset takes control. It was worth it. It might have been the only deadline I've kept for myself throughout the entire process ...And to tell the truth I'm ready to see the final product (or something arguably close to how it will end up). The rest of the week will be spent polishing the edits, paying particular attention to issues of color, brightness and contrast, and pacing. It's far from over but we've crossed the apex. It's all downhill from here... at least until the premiere... then the festivals... anyway, we'll be finished with the film soon even though the journey may be far from over. Oh yeah, then there's the making of documentary I have to finish.
So, those of you that actually give a crap, we're going to have an Official Wrap Party very soon (possibly this weekend... call Christine). I need a moment to let lose and have some reassurance that we're not all fools wasting our time on a project that no one will want to see. I'm sure that someone out there will eventually say that and I'll have to start finding remote areas in which to hide the bodies. So, keep your chin up kiddo... the movie will be finished soon.