*UPDATE: In a Jan. 31 report about 10 Sundance 2010 films having been sold for distribution, the Hollywood Reporter listed Douchebag with titles expected to sell in coming weeks. UTA Independent Film Group, which brokered this year's first Sundance sale, the thriller Buried to Lionsgate, represents Douchebag and "a small distributor" is interested, according to the trade pub.
The curtain came down today on the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, 10 days of extreme frigidness that found Drake Doremus' second film Douchebag frozen out of a distribution deal (as of this writing*), the top dramatic prize (which went to Winter's Bone, Debra Granik's bleak drama about a girl from the Ozarks trying to find her meth-dealing dad) and the audience prize (for HappyThankYouMorePlease, about a half dozen New Yorkers trying to stall adulthood, from Josh Radnor).
Still, there was much for the Orange County-bred filmmaker to celebrate.
Sundance programmers were so behind Douchebag--which is about two estranged brothers taking a road trip on the eve of the titular older sibling's wedding--that new festival director John Cooper took it upon himself to write the no-budget dramedy's blurb in the official festival program. Before a frame of the film that took 20 days to shoot (over a 1 1/2-year period) had been shown, Cooper also told Variety that he considered Douchebag the dark horse in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, which included only 16 of the 117 features chosen to play at Sundance (out of 3,724 submissions). The film also received favorable reviews and other coverage as the festival wore on, with many who track the business side of the proceedings listing Douchebag among the few titles getting serious looks from distributors.
It got a serious plug on the bus ride over to its 9 p.m. Jan. 22 world premiere. Robert Redford and his eco-fighters seem to have this thing against global warming. As a result, vehicles are barred from Main Street, most festival parking lots charge $20 a car and aren't even next to the theaters and everyone is encouraged to walk or ride free shuttles to the venues. The theater loop bus was packed heading to the Park City Racquet Club, where Douchebag was screening.
Near the back of the bus, two teen girls laughed at an older man with his back to them. He was randomly yelling, "DOUCHEBAG! DOUCHEBAG! Yay!" Exiting the bus, he turned to look back at his companion--and he was the spitting image of Doremus', only the older gent had white whiskers.
"Excuse me, sir, are you Drake's dad?"
His face lit up as he answered in the affirmative. Then, Rick Doremus of Newport Beach headed to the Port-a-Potty.
Moment later, in the line waiting for the Racquet Club doors to open, a blonde who had been on the bus and had informed she is from Hollywood asked while texting, "How do you spell douchebag"?
The Racquet Club audience ate the film up, evidenced by their applause and comments and questions to Doremus. Here he is in action after that first public screening . . .
Your intrepid, budget-conscious reporter's room in Utah was 11 miles outside Park City, and driving to my warm, rented bed in my little rental car after Douchebag's debut screening, the Mother of All Blizzards hit, with the road getting icier, the sky getting darker and the Ping-Pong-sized snowballs getting bigger, thicker and more voluminous the more I trudged on. It was the scariest drive of my life. Someone later said this was the worst weather to hit Park City in 10 years.
Marguerite Moreau, the Hemet-born actress who plays the douchebag's fiancee and was equally solid in the 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival entries Wake and Lightbulb, got to drive home to Southern California to find her teddy-clad self prominently featured in commercials for the NBC series Parenthood, which premieres in March . . .
The biggest Sundance venue to show Douchebag was the 1,270-seat Eccles Theatre. Doremus explains above how nerve-wracking that was below . . .
If what one hears on Park City buses between screenings is any indication, then the most buzzed-about Sundance film had to be Catfish, a bizarre, cautionary documentary about social networking that finds a New York dance photographer becoming Facebook friends with two Michigan sisters and their mother, none of whom are as they seem.
As blogged earlier, my only chance to haunt a celebrity who was social networking (or, at least, texting) came Jan. 23 when Colin Hanks got onto the bus and sat directly behind me. I stepped off that bus to go see Howl, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's feature that captures a young Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) in 1957 San Francisco.
Here's a tip for first-time Sundance reporters: read ALL the emails the festival sends you before you arrive in Park City. I simply read the back of my press credential, which said credentialed media types could show up at screenings and, once all the paid seats were taken, festival staff would try to squeeze you in.
"That only applies at the Holiday Village," one Sundance gatekeeper informed. As I dejectedly headed for the bus stop, her co-hort added, "He knew that."
Yes, you know what I really like to do: is show up at Sundance screenings when it's colder than a witches testicle outside knowing that I'm not going to be let in.
Oh, but it got worse. I went to the Holiday Village on Jan. 24 to see a film, only to discover I'd arrived 15 minutes too late. I was instructed to go to the press table and see what the next film was I could get into--it turned out to be Smash His Camera--which would not start for another hour.
Based on the time the first Sundance fellow told me it was when he blocked me from entering what I'd come to see versus the time the next film would start according to the woman at the press table, something was amiss.
"What time is it again?" I asked the woman.
"10:10 [a.m.]," she answered.
"Really?" I said, as that was about 25 minutes later than what I had just been told.
"Yeah, see, there are these things called watches," she replied, showing me her wristwatch. "And they have hands. See, one hand is on the 10 and the other is on the 2. That means it's 10:10."
Bitch No. 2, meet Bitch No. 1. Both of you have bright futures as Hollywood talent agents. Or paparazzo blockers. "Smash his camera" is what Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ordered the Secret Service agent protecting little John-John to do to the picture-taker wielded by Ron Galella, who'd staked out and shot the presidential widow and her son riding bicycles through Central Park.
Smash His Camera won Leon Gast the Directing Award Documentary on Saturday, and it deserves all the accolades and theatrical showings no doubt coming its way, as it proves Galella is a more colorful character than most of the people he has spent his life ambushing with his camera (and vice versa, as Marlon Brando proved when he knocked out five of the shooter's teeth). Galella harkens back to another, dare it be said, more honorable era among the paparazzi. As Gast expertly shows, Galella was actually carrying out a love affair with Jackie O. through his lens.
Driving over to lunch with my nephew who lives about 20 minutes outside Park City, I saw an American buffalo, a bald eagle and sailboarders. In between bites at the Spring Chicken Inn, nephew Ian was talking about how people in Utah come to help strangers broken down at the sides of roads? I got to see this in action first hand.
As I was taking the scenic route back toward Park City, at a curve where the little town of Oakley becomes the little town of Kamas, I could see this great view of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. So, I took this side road which looked like it came to a dead end. I figured I could stop there and snap some photos.
Well, it wasn't a dead end. It was a t-shaped intersection with another road. So, I turned onto the other road, planning to make a u-turn so I could park away from traffic, the traffic being about three cars every hour. In the middle of the u-turn, my front tires went into what I thought was solid ground along the side of the road. It wasn't. It was a snow-covered ditch. The front wheels got stuck and there was no way of backing out.
Now I wanted to smash my camera!
A lady who I'd earlier passed walking her dogs came up and got behind the wheel as I pushed the front of the car. No luck. So, I called the rental company and a Park City Chevy dealer called back and said they were sending a tow truck. As I waited, two different cars came up and the drivers asked if I needed help. I told them a tow truck was on the way. Then a guy in a truck came and said he could get me out before the tow truck would get there. He got a chain out the back of his pickup and pulled the car out. I tried to pay him, but he said no. I called off the tow truck and was on my way.
That same night, I experienced the second worst drive of my life going from Park City to the Sundance Resort, which I thought was just off Highway 40. It wasn't. There were about a gazillion highway changes to make along the way. I did not figure this out until I got to an area called Strawberry River, which I realized I was in the middle of nowhere and possibly in another state. (Wyoming?) Somehow, through the fog and dark and lack of signage, I found Sundance and all was well.
With what little dignity this freezing Southern Californian had left, I left Utah the next day vowing never to return, at least not until the spring when most of the snow melts. And I'd come back to follow other local filmmakers. Or to ski. (A guy on the bus told me he and his wife come to ski one day, watch films the next, then ski the next, then see films--I so want to be him when I grow up.)
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Or, maybe I'd consider coming back to shoot the shit with Robert Redford, especially if he's picking up the check at his resort's shi-shi restaurant. And to return to the Spring Chicken Inn. The buffalo burger was great; do you know how empowering it is to see a buffalo and then eat one? It's like man conquering nature . . .
. . . and then getting his rental car tires stuck in the snow.
Finally, at this past Saturday night's Sundance awards ceremony, John Cooper and host David Hyde Pierce let the Douchebag title drop during an inspired rap number set to "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas . . .
"It was Redford's idea," cracked Pierce, who is better known as Frazier Crane's brother Niles. "That was three and a half minutes of your life you'll never get back."
Or three and a half days for some of us.