January 24th, 2006


The Rest of Friday, Baby

Sorry, I had no time to blog the rest of the trip. I'm writing this Tuesday (hence, past tense), and hope I can remember everything.

Friday afternoon, we went to the Wire Image photo shoot in the HP building. Someone mentioned Christine had her make-up done and "looked gorgeous" but no one offered to fix me. Outside in the lobby, we took snapshots that were displayed all week (along with everyone else's) as part of a demonstration of HP's photo printers. We got copies in leatherlike cases.

Both photo shoots had light refreshments and drinks available, but none of the famous Sundance "swag" of free merchandise. At Wire Image, we did get a bag with a calendar and T-shirt. Swag, swag, we want swag!

Shepherding us through the shoots was "Wordplay"'s PR person, a Courteney Cox double named Anne. We were all impressed with her energy and efficiency, and by the end of our stay everyone wished we had an Anne to organize our lives. Will and Patrick/Christine had especially daunting schedules that Anne managed to keep in order.

After posing, it was back to Deer Valley. The weather hadn't been bad during the day, but night brought bitter cold. We were headed for a party in Patrick's sister's condo nearby but took the shuttle 2 stops rather than walk. We then had to climb a hill of confusingly numbered buildings to find the right place. It looked like our condo except bigger.

At the party, we were introduced to Patrick and Christine's large extended families. Parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, little children, friends were all around. It is a warm, supportive group; we saw them several times and I felt practically Irish by the end of our stay. We hear another shift of family is coming in for the end of the festival.

There was homemade chili (not spicy at all) and salad. Everyone is tremendously excited about the movie. Besides family and puzzlers were people who worked on the movie. One friendly guy named Doug introduced himself as the editor and said he felt he already knew us as he helped cut 90 hours of footage down to 90 minutes. He also already knows us because he reads our blogs – Hi, Doug!

People who have seen the movie told me I did not need to be apprehensive about how I came across onscreen. Merl described me as "f-ing lovable" and "adorable." Patrick gave a short speech thanking everyone. A cake decorated with the theme entries of the film's main crossword was brought out.

Amy had borrowed her friend's car and offered a lift back, which I happily took. The rest of the Puzzle Palace decided to walk (brrrr). We dropped Vic Fleming and Susan at the parking lot and then returned to the Palace, where Amy got a quick tour. Pictures will be posted of the infamous boys' room with its bunk beds.

I can now reveal that this http://www.resortquestparkcity.com/rental/house.html?ID=57&Avail=&Stay= is the Puzzle Palace. Although we had a beautiful living room with a high ceiling and huge windows, we tended to congregate in the dining area, laptops out. Sometimes IMs were sent across the table. I guess this means we're nerds.

Saturday, Baby

This was the big day of the premiere. Dean left super-early to try to score tickets at the main box office, to no avail. Not only was "Wordplay" unavailable, but everything else was also booked up.

We were told to get on line as early as possible, in order to secure wait-list spots for people from our group who might be behind us. The filmmakers had several friends/family to accommodate, and Stella, Amy, Byron and Dean also needed tickets.

We took a shuttle to the Prospector Theatre, overhearing people talk about our movie. We introduced ourselves to what turned out to be a group of Stanford Business School students in for the festival. They were not able to get "Wordplay" tickets, but we gave them pencils. Without fail, people on the free buses were nice, and happy to talk about what they saw or were planning to see. The buses lent a lot of flavor to the festival, besides making it easy to get around.

At the theatre, we saw several attendees from the previous night's party already on line. I got #134 which turned out to be useless. They distributed less than 50 tickets from the wait-list, among which luckily were all our people. Dean was one of the last to get in, and over 200 were turned away. Talk about buzz! After the wait-list tickets were distributed, the participants (and significant others) waited in a conference room. Since the film was done and I didn't have to really do anything, there was no reason to be nervous, but I was edgy and excited.

Finally it was time to start, and we were led in to a roped-off area. First we had to sit through a short which immediately bothered me because the sound was so loud I had to keep my fingers in my ears. Loud movies are a real peeve of mine; I used to carry around earplugs, but stopped after one got stuck in my ear and had to be removed by an ENT. The short itself was not my cup of tea.

Then it was time for the main event. Our sound was a little loud, but not ridiculously so. How weird to see myself onscreen. I caught a few errors. Unless there has been a recent marriage, Katherine's last name is not Barkan. The scoring explanation was not quite right, though I'm not sure how to convey the importance of being accurate without confusing the audience.

I couldn't fully immerse myself in the movie, as I was anticipating my own appearances, but it was still excellent. Particularly affecting were a montage highlighting the camaraderie of the tournament, and of course last year's finals. Patrick admitted that while he felt awful about the turn of events, at the same time it made for a great story. The finals sequence was done really well. People tittered at the final shot of me, and I wasn't sure why.

Afterward, we had a Q&A onstage. I couldn't see the audience at all with all the lights. I think it went well. Wordy's son-in-law and Lisa's mother introduced themselves.

We post-mortemed a bit in the conference room. I wanted to see a movie "Thin" about anorexics, in the same location, but the volunteer told me they had already given out 100 wait-list tickets, and my chances were slim. So we decided to go eat. Utah not being anything like New York, a nearby restaurant was no longer serving lunch (after 2), so we headed for the Marriott, thinking it fitting after a movie about Stamford. Lunch was incredibly cheap, especially for a hotel.

We went back to the transit hub and Dolly's bookstore, where Will was signing books. Anne stood by keeping things moving, and there seemed to be a steady stream of customers. One man introduced himself as the head of Columbia's School for the Arts and said he had won an NPR puzzle contest for a sentence telling a story, with each word beginning with the next successive letter of the alphabet.

Soon I was back on a shuttle to the 1000+ seat Eccles Center to try to see "The Night Listener" based on a Maupin work. I was going to look for Trip and Brian, who planned to go there after another event. On the bus a woman recognized me from "Wordplay." She was with a guy who said he was on his way to see it. Huh? It wasn't showing again until Sunday. It turned out to be the press screening at 5:30; my busmates worked for Entertainment Weekly and Premiere. We exchanged a few "do you knows" (a few people at Millionaire had come from EW).

At Eccles there was a huge line with no sign of Trip. I spoke to some nice people in front of me, who were willing to go to a 9:30 movie in the same place if this didn't pan out. Finally Trip and Brian came out; they had been waiting inside for over 2 hours and did not get in, so I had no chance at all. We headed home.

Amy and her friend Lisa (who had not gotten in to "Wordplay" and worked on her blog while waiting) came over for dinner. Stella has been cooking up a storm. Byron and his friend Mary visited later, and we played more Encore. The others had blondies and milk. Will was invited to an EW party; he met the woman I had talked to on the bus, who mentioned the encounter. At EW, he also met Al Gore, not realizing that ALANDTIPPER had been in that day's puzzle. While Will told us of his glamorous encounters, we reminded him we'd been sitting home playing Encore and drinking milk all night.

Patrick and Christine had taken Will back to the Puzzle Palace. They heard the press screening had an unheard-of number of attendees (over 150, many more than the 15 that usually show up for docs) who applauded at the end. Since they were headed to Albertson's, the 24-hour supermarket, Stella asked if they could pick up a few groceries, and Christine was nice enough to come back with them later. We would have been happy to wait until the next day. Such nice people!

Sunday at Sundance

Trip and I had tickets to an 8:30 Shorts program (as opposed to our Shortz program), and Dean joined us. On the bus was the Columbia dean who Will met yesterday, and our Dean went over and wrote down his winning NPR entry. Dean assumed he could get in off the wait list at that hour, and was right. A guy sitting near us was the DP on the first short and gave us bug buttons. Not far into the piece, Dean whispered, "Why did you bring me here?" and I agreed it was pretty horrible. Trip, on the other hand, liked it. It was supposed to be a horror film, but was just too creepy for me. At the Q&A later, someone pointedly asked if the filmmaker would be doing any more homoerotic date rape movies.

A few other shorts were OK, and Bob Odenkirk's piece about a guy taking his clueless date to a Holocaust Museum was funny. We were most affected by the dialogueless "Fourteen." "Wow," we all said as the screen faded to black. The filmmaker (who brought along the excellent 13-year-old star) said she originally had 12 pages of dialogue, but realized it would be more effective without any. The shorts are now online at http://festival.sundance.org/2006/watch/index.aspx.

Next was the "Wordplay" brunch at a restaurant on Main Street. We were welcomed by the O'Malley/Creadon clan, and Anne soon told us there was a new group present: potential buyers. One of them looked familiar - it was the man across the aisle from me and Will on the flight (who had the same headphones). I prodded his memory, and he soon recalled seat 26C and the girl who climbed over us. We were pulled away for various photo ops including a segment where we talked the anchor through Sunday's puzzle. For one piece we needed full plates of food in front of us, which made Al really hungry as he had not yet eaten. The food was good, with things like scallops as well as traditional brunch food. They only had onion bagels, so I did not taste Utah bagels.

I was determined to see more movies (I had a long list of things I wanted to see), so headed for the Holiday complex to check out the waiting lines. The 6 pm "Wordplay" (which was so booked we were just told to show up for Q&A afterward) in the same complex already had a line. I opted for "KZ," about the Mauthausen concentration camp. I was #43, and got in. I think everyone made it, as there were a few empty seats up front. The movie was grim, as expected. Most affecting were graphic descriptions of the gas chambers, and interviews with widows of SS officers who claim they had no idea what went on.

By then, "Wordplay" was starting, and I confirmed there was no room for me in the theater. In the hallway a woman and her friend recognized me. We had all just seen "KZ" but they were also at Saturday's "Wordplay." We talked and exchanged blog info, and the conversation soon appeared on her blog. http://sundancefilmfestival2006.blogspot.com/

Anne was there and assured me I could get back into the building when it was time for Q&A. I walked around the nearby Albertson's (I really needed some lip balm, but didn't get any since I'm often allergic to its ingredients), but nothing much in the attached mall was open and it was cold, so I headed back. Some of the puzzlers were already in the lobby. I met more people from the sales group, who were well-spoken, knowledgeable and optimistic. Our movie is in good hands.

We were let in as the finals scene was starting, and it affected me yet again. I had learned at the brunch that people laughed at my final shot because it featured me struggling with a torn-up umbrella. Oh no, my mother will be so ashamed! We stood in single file against the wall. It seemed like a lot of people streamed out before the Q&A, though a few came back as they passed us and realized who we were. This Q&A went OK (there were still lots of people), though the general feeling was that this audience wasn't quite as enthusiastic as yesterday's.

I considered trying to get into a Ralph Nader bio (which Will attended), but thought it best to get back and eat. I had been out since early morning. Before dispersing, we took group shots of the puzzlers and production people, and insisted Anne get in the shot.

Home at the Palace, we found Amy with her friend and her friend's friend, as well as Byron and Mary. We are quite the social hub. The chicken was taking a while to cook (which also happened previously; either our oven is slow or Utah chickens do not want to be cooked), so we played more Encore, if I recall correctly. Will had been invited to a fancy Discovery Channel party, but instead came home after the long Nader movie; he's leaving early Monday and agreed to take a tote bag of my overflow stuff.

The Close of the Trip

I had tickets to an 8:30 a.m. movie, so it was another early day. On the uncrowded theatre loop bus, a guy sat down right next to me - and told me he had seen and loved "Wordplay." He's in charge of programming for a Boston film festival and already approached Patrick about showing it. If our movie is sold at Sundance (and it looks like it will be), I'm not sure if they'll want to go to other festivals or just wait for a commercial release. I'm willing to support the movie in festivals, if asked (media whore!).

The movie was "Who Needs Sleep" which is basically my slogan. This was by veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler, about long hours by Hollywood crew leading to sometimes fatal traffic accidents. While I appreciate that long hours and fatigue are not good, I'm not sure how strong the case is that the employers are directly responsible. It was a good educational, activist piece which I could envision on public television. Wexler answered questions afterward.

In what was becoming typical Sundance tradition, the couple next to me and I conversed. I gave them "Wordplay" buttons and the woman said she knew someone who knew us - it was Dean! Small world, as always. My neighbors recognized Roger Ebert (finally, a celeb!) and we saw his white head in the audience.

I envisioned a marathon day of 4 movies. I had tickets to "Quinceanera" at 2:30 and wanted to try to get in to "Sherrybaby" (with Maggie Gyllenhaal) at noon and "Art School Confidential" at 6. There was also a 1 pm showing of our movie at the Sundance Institute, an hour away. Some puzzlers were planning to go, but I hadn't paid attention to the transportation arrangements as I thought I was seeing another movie.

I realized I needed to confirm the airport van for Tuesday, so headed home instead of trying for the noon movie. I did the van business, and found everyone was going with editor Doug shortly in his (actually Patrick's) Suburban. I had no ticket, but we knew Christine had a bunch, so I decided to make the trip, forfeiting my other movie (Sundance must make a lot of money with people not showing up and wait listers taking their place). Merl, Marie, Tyler, Al, Stella, and Brian went, too.

I'm glad I did. The ride through the mountains was scenic and beautiful. Sundance is literally a retreat, with several wood-paneled buildings and a ski area right there. Amy and Lisa also arrived (Lisa was finally able to see the movie). While waiting in the lobby, we saw a lovely "older" woman with no makeup. "That's Glenn Close!" someone said. Wow, another celeb.

Doug managed to find me a ticket, and we sat in the back row and saw the movie. This time, I was able to be absorbed all the way through and get lost in the story. I STILL cry in many places. I am loving this movie. The celebrities seem almost superfluous, though I realize they help sell the film. The tournament story is just riveting, even though I already know the outcome.

We did another Q&A and there was an especially warm feeling with this audience. Chatting among ourselves outside, we were joined by Glenn Close, who asked to meet us(!) She is not a puzzler but heard good things about the movie, and enjoyed it. Classy lady (pix to come). There was also a warm feeling among the "Wordplay" gang, and we were invited to a birthday party for Patrick's 2-year-old. We stopped at home and picked up Stella's quiches and vegetables which would otherwise go to waste, and headed for the party condo, which was just around the circle from ours. This was more like an apartment building than our unit. We had pizza and other food with the family. We were wondering if there would be an "announcement" but not yet.

Back home, Trip and Brian revealed they had finally gotten some swag! They went to a GLAAD party, and received books, CDs, grooming items, and something in a metal pail.

Christine had invited us to another party later, given by our sales agent. We arrived at the bar fashionably late (well, at 10 instead of 9:30). With a few gestures, Anne got us in the door despite the crowd outside. She led us to an upstairs room to dump our coats. We stayed there a while, getting introduced to (and having photos taken with) Rachel Dratch from SNL and Morgan Spurlock of "Supersize Me." Busy day, celeb-wise. The party was a little intimidating (I'm not good at mingling, though a handful recognized me from the movie), but they had excellent hors d'oeuvres (we figured out where to stand to get them fresh out of the oven). One room had dancing, but the only time they played something good (Usher's "Yeah") no one was dancing and I didn't want to initiate it. The buzz about "Wordplay" is better than anyone expected, and everyone is thrilled. Close to 1 a.m. I smelled pot and decided to head home, not even saying goodbye to those still there.

Looking at pictures of the party (which include the women of "Wordplay" posing with Morgan Spurlock), I see the following people were also there: Timothy Hutton, Kevin Smith, Michael Rapaport, Russ Tamblyn and (Tyler's gonna die!) Amber Tamblyn. http://editorial.gettyimages.com/source/search/FrameSet.aspx?s=ImagesSearchState%7c0%7c-1%7c28%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c1%7c%7c%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c7%7ccinetic%7c-8193%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0&p=7&tag=3 [UPDATE: link is no longer working. Click on it and search Cinetic Sundance].

Coming in we saw small shopping bags lined up near the door. Finally, swag! I grabbed a bag on the way out, and opened it while waiting for the trolley. Huh? It was a book on credit. I rustled through the tissue paper, looking for a hidden gift certificate. Nothing. Strange. I ended up leaving the book on a shelf in the condo.

Busing out to Deer Valley one last time, I felt nostalgic about the trip and wished I could be there longer. I didn't get to see nearly enough movies, though many will undoubtedly be released commercially. Going home may be a letdown, but it looks like this is the beginning of a wild ride.

Back to the real world

I packed in the bathroom after getting back, since I had a 7 a.m. van pickup. I only got about 3.5 hours of sleep (I averaged 4-5 on the trip). I had quiche for breakfast, and got the van with Dean. It was goodbye to the Puzzle Palace; I never did use the jacuzzi. I'm not sure it was OK to leave our leftover food behind, but Housekeeping or the next renters may be able to use it.

I was discombobulated with the early hour, lack of sleep, and massive amount of luggage (even with the extra tote bag I gave Will, I still had a lot). While checking in at the airport, I noticed the zipper on one suitcase was torn, and was given tape to fix it. It looked flimsy and I worried the whole thing would come apart in handling.

My bra apparently set off the security alarm, but they decided I was OK after much patting down.

On the flight, I drafted LJ entries, and read most of a New Yorker from 1997 (I'm way behind). While taxiing on the runway, they noticed frost on the wing and brought in trucks to apply steam. That was a bit scary, but everything went OK.

Arriving at JFK, there was a long wait for luggage. The zippered suitcase survived, but my garment bag strap broke. This made it very difficult to drag my bags to the taxi stand, and again to carry them up. I gave the driver a nice tip, so at least he carried everything up the steps to my back door.

I still am going through E-mail, and just remembered to get the regular mail. Lots of mail. Not to mention catching up on blogs. It'll be a while before I'm back to my routine.