1/20/2011 – Arrival

Arrival

I’m sitting on the plane with Jon Foy and Justin Duerr, the star of the film. Finally a chance to catch up. Things are moving almost too fast to believe. They are getting interest from the New Yorker and The Carson Daly Show. Jon says, that’s what happens when you have a publicist. The one thing they splurged on, apparently. What he seems most excited about is that Matt Groening is on the documentary jury this year at Sundance, which means he’ll watch the film. Jon’s also excited to be around celebrity film composers like Thomas Newman and George Clinton who will be in Park City this year.

Things haven’t been all fun and celebrities. Jon’s barely slept this week. He opens a little canvas bag and hands me a big, big videocassette. It’s the backup HD-CAM master, adorned with little stickers saying things like “1080p”. Jon picked it up one day ago, a clone of the one that he overnighted to Sundance two days ago. Things aren’t a hundred percent settled because Jon still hasn’t heard confirmation from Sundance that they received it, although the package seems to have arrived. In the last few weeks he’s been wrestling with immense technical difficulties to get the film presentable, and at times it seemed possible that the film might not screen. The ghosts of this battle still hang around him.

I ask Jon about what specific goals he might have with the film and he says that they can’t have any, really, because everything is so up in the air. That’s how fluid the situation is. Jon has a ten-page agenda that his girlfriend made up for him. Almost every hour, especially in opening weekend, is programmed. He’s being guided through this process by Doug Block, the film’s new Executive Producer, representative, industry heavy-hitter and all-around good guy. Jon is so happy to have Doug’s help with everything in the film’s new phase.

On the last leg of my flight I’m sitting next to the daughter of Buck, the eponymous subject of a doc premiering this weekend… the flight attendants give a shout-out to us during the safety instructions… the airport shuttle is full of film people; one who just sold his film to IFC. It’s premiering tomorrow at Sundance and simultaneous video-on-demand. Another passenger is the personal assistant of a producer.

The north end of Park City is a warren of identical condos, shopping centers and snaking continents of snow. I have to leave my bags in a dark frigid lot while I wander among them looking for our unit. The Resurrect Dead crew are over at the fest HQ picking up our credentials and a goody bag, heavy with music CDs. The HQ and a few of the major theaters are all right around the corner from our condo, although Park City’s downtown itself is a bit further to the south.

Most of our group is vegetarian and poor, so we hit the grocery store and come back to the condo to make microwave meals and plan strategies. Meanwhile Jon is out with Doug at a party hosted by IndieWire. We have to decide who among us will be able to go to tonight’s Opening Night Party, for which there are only three spare tickets. Jon calls with news of another coveted ticket. He’ll meet us at the party.

I finally get my official credentials, which it seems that everyone else in town has too. It’s a massive plastic ID hanging from your neck with your name, the film you came with, and a magic hologram. The niftiest one I ever had. We make plans to host a festival of credentials in Philly called Cred Fest, featuring four-foot-tall credentials and awards including Best Credentials.

A bit after 11 we reach the Lodge, a multi-story structure with lounges and fireplaces, and find a line straggling out the front into the biting cold air of an echoing plaza. I decide to wear long johns to all future parties. Some people are waiting stoically wearing only suits. At the end of the long line, we are processed by an army of models wearing headsets and black outfits. A theme starts to appear: things are actually free – drinks, coat check, amazing food. I’ve been to other fests as a director, and had to shell out for everything at every event that was supposedly being held for us.

The vibe in the party is egalitarian and casual, if a little reserved. The music is barely too loud for networking, perhaps by design. People are clumping together in the groups they came with. The average age could be 28. They are cutting the head off the Stella Artois with little knives. I meet two people, both of whom are from Salt Lake City! The celebs must be at some cool private party somewhere, which feels perfect actually. It’s clubby to be here with the ‘community’ way up in the mountains, the young hard-working makers, the soldiers on the front line.

Jon arrives and spends a lot of time picking the brains of a fellow director with Sundance experience, Peter Richardson, whose film ‘How To Die In Oregon’ which is premiering here too. Peter is exceedingly nice. Jon reports that all of the doc filmmakers he’s met have been truly nice. In fact, Peter gives us a ride home, though I have to lie in the trunk space so we’ll all fit, and with my head on the floor I gaze up at the snowy peaks sliding past, glowing blue as the projector on the moon begins to roll.

 

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