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on Jan 23, 2012

While on the plane to Salt Lake City, it occurred to me that it might be fun to do Park City coverage as a live blog from the perspective of someone who’s never been there before. I have a press pass for Slamdance, so I’m mostly covering that.

22 January; 2:18am

When I arrived in Park City, all anyone was talking about was how there was a complete lack of snow. Well, today the snow arrived. Man, did it arrive. It snowed pretty much all day. By the time I left to meet Marty Lang for dinner around 5pm, it was getting difficult to walk the sidewalks without getting wet. By later in the evening, people were having trouble commuting to Salt Lake City.

The snow is going pretty much sideways, so you spend a lot of your time with your head down, which is great until someone stops suddenly right in front of you to pick up a glove and you nearly run into them before stepping quickly to the side. Turns out it’s Michael Emerson, which makes him the second cast member of LOST I’ve nearly run over this year.


The third screening of the day is BINDLESTIFFS, a modern re-working of “Catcher in the Rye” (sort of), made by high school students. They’ve been pretty impossible to miss, as there’s about a million of them running around in bright yellow ponchos and handing out lighters.

To the surprise of no one, the show is sold out. After all, they’ve really been working to get people there. The crowd is standing room only and they’re fucking pumped. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been at a screening with that much energy. But first, comes Shaun Parker’s short film Hope. You Like Crap, which he describes as “7 minutes of your life you’ll never get back”. I guess that’s technically true, but I don’t really want it back. It’s really the simplest short you’ll ever see. Parker takes a student film he made 20 years ago and in a voiceover narration, just eviscerates it. He’s just brutal, criticizing his directing, the acting, and even the extras who were “douche bags” from his dorm. It’s hilarious and self-deprecating and flat-out awesome. It should be required viewing for film students everywhere.

Then comes the main event, Andrew Edison’s BINDLESTIFFS (which I’m told has to be all caps, for some reason). It’s one of those films that the buzz around it is pretty high, so I’m excited to see it, but let’s face it, this is a film by high school students. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll be terrible. Interesting and enthusiastic, for sure, but terrible all the same.

But it isn’t.

It’s really fucking good.

BINDLESTIFFS is funnier than Superbad, and raunchier too. Way raunchier. It’ll be an interesting dilemma to watch play out. Any publicist or distributor with half a brain should be able to figure out how to get this thing to make money. High school kids will love it. College kids will love it. You could play the fuck out of this thing in Midnight Screenings. But there’s no way they’ll ever get an R rating. There’s probably 5 or 6 scenes that by themselves would guarantee an NC-17, and they’re all in the same movie. And they’re being performed by real high school students. Not 25 year olds who look young, but real 17 year old kids. There’s a lot of issues inherent with that.

And it’s pretty well-made too. Edison knows what he’s doing with a camera more than a lot of Sundance directors over the years. The film is well-shot, tightly edited, and features three really strong performances from the lead trio of Edison, Luke Loftin, and John Karna. They’re working off an improvised outline, but the dialogue plays better than lots of scripted indies. There is a sub-plot with a security guard that’s longer than it needs to be, but it hardly pulls you out of the film. It’s a small concern, mostly because you just find yourself wanting to get back to the kids. I was kind of stunned at how good it is.

It screens again Thursday at 1pm. It will sell out.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.

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