Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, where indie moviemaker Jayce Bartok talks about the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding from the trenches of his own crowdfunding campaign. Have a question for Jayce about his movie, Tiny Dancer, or just crowdfunding in general? Ask away at .
I might as well just start at the beginning. Tiffany, our son and I arrived in Salt Lake City in the middle of the night, got in a rental car and drove up to Park City, where two films I’m in—Price Check and Predisposed—were having their premieres. All the venues we passed as we rolled into the city—the Eccles, the Yarrow—were aglow as hordes of people exited midnight screenings and queued up to catch shuttles. We pulled up to our hotel—the Chateau Apres, a quaint ski dorm that’s remained basically unchanged since the 1970s—and checked in. It was 2am, and the lobby was abuzz with bloggers, moviemakers, critics and volunteers, all clicking away on laptops. A scant bit of sleep later, and our eyes popped open for our first full day at Sundance.
The first film I caught was Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On, a harrowing exploration of a love affair between two men (beautifully acted by Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth) that goes painfully wrong. It’s the kind of film that keeps Sundance real: No stars; plenty of very serious sex scenes (important to the film’s theme of desolation); oh, and crack. I took our intern, Shea Hardiman, with me, and her reaction was definitely: “Gulp. So this is Sundance.”
As we mingled in the lobby before the screening, the Sundance Effect—where you’re constantly running into familiar faces on the shuttles, in the streets, in lobbies—began to kick into gear. There was Michael Taylor, editor of Price Check, with his wife Judy Becker, production designer extraordinaire (We Need to Talk About Kevin), both old friends. And talking to Michael as we approached: Ira Sachs himself. Michael gave us a quick introduction to Ira, and then off we went into his movie, which is based on his own life experiences. I spent the next two hours trying to reckon the tall, quiet man I met with the film’s charismatic, troubled protagonist.
I should add that, over the course of the five days we spent at Sundance, everyone we know seems to have been staying at the Chateau Apres. On our first morning, I looked up from my coffee and saw Bob Hawk, the indie institution who discovered Kevin Smith and countless others, staring back at me. Each morning at the Chateau yielded a new old friend, apparently drawn to the hotel by its 1970s charm and low room rate. As I sipped my coffee, I kept thinking that I’d land a new recruit for funding Tiny Dancer, but I soon realized that the few new faces I was seeing belonged to an interesting assortment of Sundance regulars—journalists, actors who were at the festival to get discovered or skateboard distributors drawn to the fest to promote skating and see films.
Each morning, I started my pitch the same way: “I’m in two films here as an actor, but my wife and I are making our own film, Tiny Dancer. Would you like to see the trailer?” One morning in particular yielded an interesting response from a journalist: “Oh, I saw Price Check last night. Who were you?” “Um, the old friend of the main guy.” “Oh! The asshole!” was his response. “You were such a great asshole! Congrats!” What does one say to that? “Thanks?!” Hoping to get an interview, what I actually said was: “I am a great asshole, and I also have a cool film that I’m working on!”
Later that first day, Price Check—directed by Michael Walker, produced by Dolly Hall and starring Parker Posey and Eric Mabius—premiered at the Eccles Theatre. I nervously walked the red carpet, blinded by the flash from the cameras and surrounded by photographers yelling “Over here! Over here!” It was surreal and awesome. I got to reconnect with Parker, who is amazing in the film, 15 years after we were both at Sundance with SubUrbia.
The audience in the Eccles loved it, and afterwards we took to the stage for the Q&A, Parker leading the way with her off-kilter, bullshit-destroying comments on Price Check and the state of indie film. (Read her interview on Indiewire for a great take on the indie film world and Sundance.) It was great to be part of a film that played so well in front of such a huge audience. Electric.
After the premiere, Tiff and I celebrated for a while at a party for the film’s small cast before we had to go relieve Shea, who was back at the Chateau watching our son. My last look as we left the party was of Parker cutting loose on the dance floor with Josh Pais (who is hilarious in the film) as the local band playing the party screamed “How you doing, Price Check?” from the stage.
Thursday was a little more relaxed. I went skiing with an old family friend who happened to be in town. While on the ski lift, I pitched him our new model for funding Tiny Dancer by selling shares for $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000. Ironically, at the end of our three hours of amazing skiing, the last thing he said to me was “I’ll take a share.” My reaction: What?! He isn’t even a movie producer! He isn’t even attending the festival!
Sundance Lesson #1: Fundraising doesn’t have to happen on Main Street.
I ended the night by catching a midnight movie, director Rodney Ascher’s Room 237, on the various nut job theories about the true meaning of The Shining. I was totally freaked out as I drove down the snowy, winding roads on the way back to the hotel. I had The Shining on the brain, especially as I walked up the frozen-in-time hallways of the Chateau to our room, where our little son was sleeping. I was praying he hadn’t scrawled “REDRUM” over the bed.
Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I’ll break down the events of our next two days at Sundance, including the premiere of Predisposed!
Jayce Bartok is an actor/producer/writer/director who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. He wrote, co-produced and starred in The Cake Eaters and can currently be seen in USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature films Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo, and Price Check, both of which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. To stay updated on his Tiny Dancer progress, follow @JayceBartok and @TICNYC on Twitter.