Production Diary

Day 216: Sundance Bound! by


Tomorrow I fly in the morning to Park City for Sundance. It will be my fifth time there with a film, and probably my 20th time there over the decades, since my father has lived in Park City since the mid-70s. He moved out there in a Winnebago, and set up camp behind Utah Coal & Lumber, the one restaurant in town, where they made a very good pineapple burrito. This was when Park City was a sleepy hippy town, and I went to what was then called the US Film Festival for the first time in 1981, when the films screening were Melvin and Howard, Heartland, Return of the Secaucus Seven, as well as a great Henry Fonda retrospective that included My Darling Clementine and The Lady Eve. It was at Sundance that I saw my first Cassavetes movie, that I saw the first screening ever of Sex, Lies and Videotape, and of both Poison and Safe. But also any number of films we don’t talk about any more, but that were amazing. Films like Patti Rocks, and Silverlake Life, and Heat and Sunlight. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s did it suddenly click to me that maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that — given that I went to Sundance every year from when I was 15 to at least 25 — that I thought I might become an independent filmmaker.

The last month has been a focused immersion in finishing the film. A week doing the color grade at Goldcrest with Thimios and John Dowdell, which means deciding the lights and the darks, the reds and the blues of the image. We were working in the same room that appears in the movie — the character Eric is a filmmaker and in one scene he does a color grade on the documentary he’s finishing, In Search of Avery Willard. Then a very efficient 5 days at Sound One with mixer Dom Tavella, Sound Supervisor Damian Volpe, and Dialogue editor Dave Ellinwood mixing the film. It’s a very interesting, very exacting process, sitting for day after day figuring out whether the sound of this door creak is too loud, or at what level to play a song in a disco to feel like you’re in a disco, but not blowing the audiences ears out. The film becomes sweeter, almost literally, the colors richer, the sounds deeper. One thing I noticed is how Arthur Russell’s music, used as the score of the film throughout, becomes even more of a character than I imagined. But one thing I continually have to tell myself during both the color grade and the sound mix is not to obsess. Soon enough, the decisions you make so carefully will be swallowed up by the film that’s been made; all the details will be forgotten, and it will just be the movie. No one in the theater is going to think “those crickets are just too loud!”

It’s now 730am and I need to pack. Sundance is many things for me, one of which is a place I have slipped on ice and fallen flat on my back, so I’m focusing this morning on which boots to bring, and how they will look with my suit tomorrow night at the premiere. There are about 25 to 30 of us heading to Park City to be there for the opening, and it should be a fun reunion. I’m not as nervous as I remember being other years, I think mostly because I’m older, and I’ve done this before, but also because the movie feels like a very direct expression of both me and the story. I do however go with my producer’s head, and tonight we’ll have a meeting with our sales team, our producers, and myself to talk about our talking points. Though in the end, to be honest, the film and Sundance itself talks for you. The word will be what the word will be.

Ira Sachs

writer, director, blogger

Ira Sachs is a writer and director based in New York City. His films include Married Life (2007), The Delta (1997) and the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Forty Shades of Blue. His most recent film, Last Address, a short work honoring a group of NYC artists who died of AIDS, has been added to the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA and played at the 2011 Venice BIennale. Sachs teaches in the Graduate Film department at NYU and is a fellow at both the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He is also the founder and co-curator of Queer/Art/Film, a monthly series held at the IFC Center in New York, as well as the newly established Queer/Art/Mentorship, a program that pairs and supports mentorship between queer working artists in NYC.

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