WMM Sundance Diaries 2016 (Part 3)

Your guide on where to go, what to see, and how to get the most out of your Sundance/Slamdance experience.

Party Down
Amanda Lippert

I have listed below our final itinerary, which, for the very little time we spent planning, was pretty full. We saw multiple films every day. We went to at least one party every day. And spent a portion of every day meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.

To get the most out of this festival, it’s best to spend as little time at your hotel/condo as possible. There is so much to do and see. Getting into parties at Sundance is the absolute best way to network, but getting in can be a bit of an art form. If you are going to Sundance with a film, you will automatically be invited to parties by publicists who want filmmakers to come to their events. But if you’re not there with a film in the festival, and it’s your first time, it can be a bit of a challenge to get in the door. Most parties require an RSVP weeks in advance, which is near impossible if you don’t know anyone. The best way to get in is to connect with friends that have been before. RSVP emails are generally sent out BEFORE the festival – so as soon as you plan your trip, start connecting with friends on Facebook and ask if they’ll forward you invites when they receive them. You won’t automatically get into every party that way, but 50% of the time, it will work. Another way to use your friends is to simply get in line with them at parties and say you are their plus one. If the party is not really exclusive, this will work nine times out of ten. Another way to get into parties is to do your research. A lot of parties are sponsored by big companies that are also sponsoring the festival. Dig around and find the sponsors, and about a month before the festival, sign up for their email lists and follow them on twitter. Some companies will send out RSVPs this way, or set up promotions to give out a limited number of tickets.

Once you’re at the party, the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be flowing, and you’ll find yourself in the position of being surrounded by hundreds of creatives waiting to be your new best friend. Some tips for networking:

  1. Know your limits – If you’re here to network for your career, you’ll want to maintain a level of professionalism, even in a fun environment. I’m all about finding balance between being casual and 100% yourself, while also not embarrassing yourself in public because you’ve had a little to many free cocktails.
  2. Easy Access – There’s nothing more embarrassing than offering your business card, then bumbling clumsily as you dig for it in the bottom of your tote bag full of schwag. ALWAYS carry business cards, and ALWAYS make sure they are somewhere you can pull them out quickly and discreetly. Also – ALWAYS ask for their business card. If they don’t have one, get their phone number and email in your phone, then add it to your Favorites. This might sound weird, but when you check your favorites tomorrow morning, you’ll be glad those contacts are in one place and not lost in the abyss of your contact list.
  3. Ask Questions – This may sound obvious, but the simplest way to start a conversation is to just ask why they’re at the festival. Almost everyone associated with a film will have a badge with their title, and most people are so excited to be there, that they can’t wait to talk about their project. Feeling a little out of place, because your project didn’t get in this year? That’s okay – you’re still special. You’re probably working on a project right now, or have another strong reason to be there. Tell them about it, and find out if you can offer them help in any way – either through offering an introduction, offering to help with their next project, or just asking to keep in touch because you really love their work.
  4. Follow Up – This is the part most people drop the ball on. The festival is a whirlwind experience and it’s easy to forget who you’ve bumped into and what you talked about. Without follow up, these new friends will fall into the cracks of your memory. If you are doing a good job keeping all your business cards together, and saving new numbers into your Favorites, you can spend a couple hours when you get home to go through and contact every person you met. Let them know you enjoyed the conversation and that you’d like to stay in contact. If they live in your city, ask them to coffee or lunch. Not everyone will get back to you, and not everyone will want to stay in touch, but the ones who do could end up being your most valuable collaborative partners on your next project, or even a lifetime friend to look forward to seeing at next year’s festival.

Itinerary:

Monday

2:00pm Arrive and unpack at The Swiss Alps Inn
3:00pm Bright Ideas Party
7:00pm Slamdance: Let’s Be Evil
9:00pm Slamdance: Becoming Blair and Fursonas
11:30pm Hot Tub at The Swiss Alps Inn
3:00am Sleep

Tuesday

10:30am Woke up late, ate, started writing blog
3:00pm Sundance: Shorts Program 4 in Salt Lake City
5:00pm Slamdance: Hot Tub Filmmakers Panel
7:00pm Dinner at Wasatch Brewery
8:00pm Slamdance: Anarchy Shorts Series
10:00pm Kodak Dance Party
|3:00am Sleep

Wednesday

9:00am Sundance: Agnes Dei
12:00pm Lunch at Main St Pizza and Noodle
12:30 Explored Main Street filmmaker lounges and loaded up on snacks and schwag
3:00pm Settled into the Acura lounge to write blog
5:00pm Slamdance: How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town
7:00pm IFP Party and Private Screening of Charlie
9:30pm Sundance: Mi Amiga del Parque
11:00pm Private Dance Party at the Swiss Alps Inn
2:45am Went to bed early

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our final impressions on Sundance and Slamdance.
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Reviews:

HOW TO PLAN AN ORGY IN A SMALL TOWN (101 minutes)
SLAMDANCE
Michaelangelo DeSerio

Aren’t expectations a funny thing? We make all sorts of assumptions and attachments about a movie based on all sorts of things:  titles, stars, subject matter… movie poster. When my friend and travelling companion suggested we screen HOW TO PLAN AN ORGY IN A SMALL TOWN, directed by Jeremy Lalonde, I found myself guilty of some of my own. Now in my defense, without reading the description, I had assumed it to be a documentary, but in watching the film I found myself in good company as it is a piece that centers so much on expectations and assumptions.

The movie is not a documentary, but a comedy about a sex columnist, Cassie, who returns to her hometown after the death of her mother (a morality-heavy young adult novelist and local celebrity), having left years before after being ostracized from the community due to a scathing article about the town’s small-mindedness and prudish nature. When the local miss-perfect, former rival and wife of Cassie’s teenage love Adam, Heather, confronts Cassie, she challenges Cassie to help guide her and a group of townsfolk in throwing an orgy to prove the article false. After assembling the orgy line-up, all manner of slip-ups, false starts and missed signals ensue and make for a hilarious viewing experience. In the course of the tutorial it is revealed that Cassie is not only a virgin, but also very much not over Adam. Despite the ridiculous high-jinx unfolding around (Natalie Brown’s brief appearance as Anna is painfully funny), it is the complexity of the characters that makes this movie so much more than just another blue comedy. Instead of caricatures posing as people, the movie offers believable humans wading through strange and shifting waters. The movie is awkward at its onset, like the director and characters’ journey into the subject is, with most of the characters initially seeming simply to be their stereotypical roles in any small town, but in the act of the pact of becoming an orgy participant, each character splits open to reveal doubt, insecurities and their secret individual longings for “completion” that reads as anything but flat. The experience settles some of these longings but regardless of the level of resolution and release, all involved coalesce into if not an orgy, a community.

Back to those expectations and assumptions, and how they pertain to the movie. Every character comes into the orgy with expectations and intended outcomes. Some get exactly what they are looking for while others find something completely new and previously unconsidered. The director too, follows his own expectations out: having approached an orgy with such obvious ignorance, like Cassie, of what an actual orgy is like, he, and the movie by extension, concludes with different and greater understanding of his subject matter. It’s this innocence that enriches the experience, disarming the viewers’, myself included, expectations of what is to come. The innocence makes for sincerity, and sincerity makes us care far more than we normally would for a sexcapades film or a raunchy comedy. Lalonde gives us something not only hysterical but also endearingly human and relatable, and that is something that we could all grow used to expecting.

CHARLIE (22 mins)
IFP LOUNGE -PRIVATE SCREENING
Lin Laurin

We went to a party at the IFP Lounge and stumbled upon a screening of the drama/comedy CHARLIE, by Shawn Ryan (director/writer/lead actor). This colorful 22 minute short is a heartwarming story about Charlie, a young man with an abusive mother who decides to stop talking since nobody ever listens to him. The story takes place on Christmas Eve when Charlie, after running away from his mother and stepfather, faints outside of a house belonging to the Sanderson family. They decide to take him in and let him be a part of their lovely Christmas celebration. This is a touching portrait of a young man who gets more comfortable in his own skin in the presence of the loving Sanderson family. This was a fun and cute film with a great cast. I was very impressed with Shawn Ryan both as a filmmaker and actor and I also really enjoyed Mo Collins’ performance. Something very interesting about this screening was that it wasn’t a part of the Sundance festival, but they decided to screen it in Park City while Sundance was going on. The screening was very well produced and the energy in the room was wonderful. I thought it was so inspiring to see strong filmmakers creating opportunities for themselves. To find out about future screenings or read more about CHARLIE, visit its Facebook page.

ME AMIGA DEL PARQUE (86 mins)
SUNDANCE
Lin Laurin

This Argentinian drama by Ana Katz is about the new mother, Liz (Julieta Zyllerberg) and her struggles with finding herself in this new face of life. Liz is alone with her newborn baby while her husband is traveling long term for work. She scuffles with isolation, self doubt and doesn’t feel connected to other young mothers around her. One day she meets Rosa (Ana Katz), another supposed young mother in the park. They form a friendship that makes Liz feel more liberated, but she also always has doubts about whether Rosa is trustworthy or not. This film touches upon the little subtle nuances that are in between our big life events. It truthfully describes the struggle modern women often face: trying to remain independent and career focused at the same time as they want to be great mothers and keep up with domestic work. Because of the uneventful and very realistic nature of the plot line, the film was at times hard to watch and at other times a little boring. I left the screening feeling a tad depressed and the audience didn’t seem to receive it all that well. I don’t personally mind movies that make me feel depressed and uncomfortable and I think it was a beautiful, realistic and important story about a subject that seldom is touched upon in cinema. There are no more Sundance screenings of ME AMIGA DEL PARQUE, but I’m sure the film will be at other festivals or independent movie theaters in the soon future. I would really recommend going to see it as long as you’re up for a film that is on the slower side.

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