I’ve finished packing for Sundance and I have to get up early to catch my flight. Just a couple of months ago I thought I’d be having another slow, cold January in Philly writing some scripts. Suddenly I’m on my way to Robert Redford’s legendary independent film festival in Park City, Utah. And I’m lucky enough to be going along with the feature documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, directed by my friend Jon Foy.
Jon and I have been talking and working together for a couple of years. For my 2009 narrative feature, when my original composer (he who will not be named) missed his deadlines and literally went into hiding, Jon stepped in to score the entire film before its festival premiere. Since then we spend a lot of time commiserating about being unknown, impoverished filmmakers, and we talk a lot of Mystery Science Theater.
But Jon will no longer be unknown now that his film is an official selection at Sundance 2011. It’s been a matter of weeks since he found out; the news came as he was wondering whether he’d be able to go on as a filmmaker. It’s a feeling I know too well, when you’ve put everything on the line but there may be nothing out there for you; your efforts may just vanish into the history of unregarded creations. Yet with one phone call, the whole complexion of Jon’s life changed. I’ve only seen him for a few seconds since then, as he’s been working around the clock, sleeping only a few hours a night, preparing the movie and putting together the team and finances that it will need. The only way I’ll see him before Utah might be at the airport.
Resurrect Dead is a real DIY film, partly by choice, because it can be, and partly because it was hard to get any support along the way (with PIFVA’s post-production grant a laudable exception). The Sundance acceptance changed everything; suddenly people want to be involved, when before it was just a small group of people who were supportive. But because of the small scope and the sudden change in fortunes, Jon has been scrambling in a literal race to raise enough money to get the film to Sundance, let alone with enough in place to capitalize on its appearance there. He’s had to make hard decisions about what kind of support to accept, with what strings attached, and how to allocate any money he could get. Al the problems of being nobody were quickly replaced by all the problems of being somebody. But he’s incredibly fortunate to have gotten some of the best people in the business on his team. Starting with this festival, they will work together in the belief that this project could realize every filmmaker’s dream.