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in Filmmaking
on Jan 26, 2010

Here is Night Catches Us producer Ron Simons’ fourth post from Sundance.

January 24th was a good day.

I finally got to have in-person conversations with two of the powerhouses of the Sundance Institute: Michelle Satter and Anne Lai (both of whom have been crucial in making this film come into being). They’d both fielded worried, stressed, beseeching calls from Sean, Tanya and myself. They were ever supportive with sage advice administered with calming tones and gracious patience.

I also got to meet a number of other filmmakers at the Producer’s Brunch. The key note speaker was Lynette Howell, who produced Stephanie Daley, Half Nelson and Phoebe in Wonderland (a film in which, as it turns out, I briefly appeared as an actor). I’m sure I speak for most everyone in the room when I say that I found her words inspiring, impactful and illuminating. She recommended that every producer there ask at least one other producer how they got their movie made. The two verbs for producers that I took away from her speech were “adapt” and “persist.” In the ever changing world of indie filmmaking (not the least of which is the evolving model of distribution), it is crucial to continue to think out of the box and be creative on every front.

At the same event I met a number of filmmakers who are established as well as others who are well on their way to becoming so. Among them: Ron Yerxa who produced Little Miss Sunshine, Mynette Louie who is a fellow of the Sundance Producer’s program, Rodrigo Guerro Rojas producer of the World Cinema Competition film Contracorriente (Undertow), which I am very much looking forward to seeing. All were warm, open and communicative. I even invited myself to be hosted by Rodrigo on my visit to Bogota (tentatively planned for the late spring).

We then attended our third screening of our film at the Library in the afternoon before a photo shoot with Entertainment Weekly.

Even as an actor I have had difficulty posing for headshots. Now posing with Tanya was, at first, doubly odd until I was able to let go and, as the photographer advised, just have fun. It will be interesting to see if any of those images see the light of day and what the result will be.

Sadly, the day ended on a sour note.

I got an urgent call from our press agent saying that during the press screening of our film (films only get one) something failed and the screening was forced to stop in the middle of the film!! At the time, no one knew the cause of the failure; was it the film that suddenly failed after screening without problem twice before or was it the projector? One of our co-producers raced to the theatre to provide his assistance and support our PR agents there. Unfortunately, it took almost 10 minutes to resolve the problem (which turned out to be the projector deck). By the time they’d rewound the film to before the failure and begin the film again, ten audience members had walked out. It’s impossible to tell exactly what publications the departing viewers represented but, worse, all the remaining audience was unable to see an uninterrupted screening of the film. Sundance was understandably very apologetic and offered to add an additional screening on Tuesday but, in the end, there was no slot for that additional screening. By day’s end, our team and Sundance had not yet finalized a suitable redress for the situation.

The silver lining appeared when we received positive write-ups by both the Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times the following day. These notices were welcome upticks after a night where the dry air and my persistent congestion only allowed me 30 minutes sleep before another full day of interviews. By the end of the night on the 25th, I’d had a positive meeting with the team and our sales agent, seen an interesting film about the rock band The Runaways (titled same) and been invited to two promising late night parties. With 90 minutes sleep the night before, however, I am opting to turn in now at 1:30am. I plan to get up for a 9:30am screening of Dry Land — the dramatic entry about a U.S. soldier returning home to his Texas town featuring the immensely watchable America Ferrera. Better climb under the bed with a quickness…

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