Park City 2014: Sundance Film Festival Diary, Entry Three
by Jeff Meyers

In which MovieMaker correspondent Jeff Meyers catches some hitRECord samplings, a Norwegian psychological thriller,  and (what else?) parties parties parties at Sundance 2014.

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Saturday, January 18th gets off to a slow start. Last night’s midnight movie takes its toll and I decide to abandon the 8:30am showing of Camp X-Ray, starring Kristen Stewart. The choice may have been a good one: Word from critics and random fest goers is decidedly mixed (though Stewart’s performance is said to be solid).

Instead, I check out a trio of episodes from Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hitRECord, a collaborative open-source variety show. Since 2005 Levitt has been attracting members (now 300, 000 strong) to his DIY site, creating collaborative songs, short films and animation (not to mention for-sale compilations at the hitRECord.org online shop). Each 22 minute program is like Vaudeville 2.0, with Levitt pulling duty as a singing, dancing, back-flipping MC. The kid has definitely got talent and I’d be lying if I said the fast-paced mix of user-generated entertainment isn’t infectious and, at times, affecting. If you’re a fan of This American Life, then this might be up your alley. Levitt has big plans for hitRECord, as both a platform for collective creation and a kind of democratically empowered studio. The challenge, of course, is determining how such an enterprise will eventually reward its contributors. Creators deserve to be compensated for their efforts – especially in a profit-making enterprise. You can catch episodes of hitRECord on Pivot TV.

Lunch is spent at the Tisch School (NYU) alumni event with a group of filmmaker friends. Two have had features appear at past Sundance festivals and a third premiered his horror film at Slamdance last year. It’s a great mix of people and everyone seems to know someone. This year, Tisch alumni and students were attached to 23 of the 56 films in competition. The host throws out a bigger, more impressive cumulative number when it comes to Sundance’s 30 years (unfortunately, I can’t recall the figure. I am certain that the three glasses of wine I’ve had contribute to that ignorance.)Misaligned schedules and poor shuttle planning land me back at the Press and Industry venue where I decide, on a whim, to catch a Norwegian-backed English-language film entitled The Sleepwalker. To be honest, this is how I prefer to fest; walking into a movie blind, with little to no expectations.

The film is a tale of two estranged sisters and the dark past that still echoes through their lives, The Sleepwalker boasts topnotch performances (including one from co-writer Brady Corbet), an arresting 1920s modernist brick house as its setting, and some savvy character reversals. It’s the kind of film that encourages you to reevaluate each sisters’ relationship after the lights come up. I can’t say that the movie offers up many surprises – its revelations are pretty obvious – but how it presents its complications is unsettling, a feeling that is aided by Sondre Lerche’s off-kilter score. (FEST BUMMER OF THE DAY: Lerche is scheduled to play at the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe on Tuesday afternoon. I am sorely disappointed that an interview will keep me from seeing him perform.)

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At The Sleepwalker screening I meet a staff writer at Total Film, the U.K.’s biggest movie magazine. After the movie (she liked it a bit more than I did) we head off together to the Austin Film Festival happy hour, where the room is mobbed and director Richard Linklater is taking pictures with party-goers.

Chatting with the Total Film writer I learn that not only is she a big fan of horror movies (she has a side gig writing under the moniker of Penny Dreadful), she ‘s also a fan of my friend Phil’s movie Subject Two (which was the opening midnight movie at Sundance in 2006). I shoot Phil a text to come join us and half an hour later I’m the third wheel in a monster-movie gush-fest. Luckily, I bump into a pal associated with Slamdance and we spend an hour or so trading stories and complimentary beers.

I briefly consider rounding off the day with a late night screening but decide socializing is the better part of valor (amazing what rationalizations can be had after a few drinks). I caravan from party to party with an ever-growing group of filmmakers. At one point I do a head count: two film journalists, two novice producers, a fellow in marketing at Fox Searchlight, three directors with first features under their belt, a festival programmer, a documentarian, a professor from William and Mary College, a designer for movie posters and websites, and a D.P. looking to garner interest in a comedy series he’s developing (it centers around a food truck and is called, shockingly enough, Food Truck).

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If for no other reason, hanging with a crowd of film lovers and film-doers like this truly makes Sundance the must-attend festival that it is.
SUNDANCE SURVIVAL TIP: Bring a hanky or tissue with you where ever you go. The dry cold air is known to cause more than a few nose bleeds. I have dark red drops on my jeans to prove it. MM

Read Entry One of Jeff’s Sundance Diary here and Entry Two here. The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 16-26.

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