Sundancing With Ben York Jones and Like Crazy

Editor's note: Ben York Jones, who grew up in Irvine, graduated from Chapman University and lives in Corona del Mar, had barely started blogging for the Weekly from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, when news broke the film he co-wrote had become one of the first indies to sell there. Entertainment Weekly reported Like Crazy, a drama about young lovers (Anton Yelchin and Felcity Jones) from the U.S. and the U.K. separated by an ocean, sold for $4 million to Paramount Pictures. More good fortune for Like Crazy, which Jones' childhood friend in Santa Ana, Drake Doremus, directed, came during the awards night that capped the fest Robert Redford co-founded. Excerpts of Jones' Sundance reports follow. Full coverage is at


THURSDAY, JAN. 20: Back in the snow, boots, gloves, exhaustion, an ever-shifting schedule, free drinks, meeting people who have inspired me since I can remember. It's all here. So is “Team Crazy.” Last year, I was here as one of the leads in the comedy Douchebag, which was selected for the U.S. Dramatic Competition (to most, the festival's most exciting category). I was a new face. Signing autographs, taking pictures, having people yell, “Hey, Douchebag!” at me from across the street. It felt so good. The recognition for years of hard work. This year, I arrive as the co-writer of Like Crazy, also in the U.S. Dramatic comp. Writers have always taken (been given) a back seat (the trunk?). We're not the faces; we're not the captains of the ship. But we designed it. See, what I really want to do is direct.

FRIDAY, JAN. 21: A crazy-glowing article on Like Crazy and the film's director—one of my best friends, Drake Doremus—in today's Los Angeles Times by renowned critic Kenneth Turan has phones ringing, well, like crazy. Producers Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling are hustling (like crazy), and the buzz is as good as it can get. It's safe to say, Like Crazy is the hot ticket here.

SATURDAY, JAN. 22: This morning, the house is, well, a mad house. Debate ensues over who gets to stay on the overstuffed guest list to our premiere tonight and who gets cut. A 1,300-seat house of eager film buffs, critics and filmmakers awaits the world premiere of Like Crazy. Negotiations for the sale of the picture begin over lunch at Butcher's on Main Street. Cast, crew, family, agents, managers and hovering distributors are the company. Eventually, Drake, Jonathan, Andrea and our legal reps separate from the pack and get down to business. We're all back together later on the red carpet for our world premiere. Pics. Ticket exchanges. Take your seat; the show is about to begin. After the end credits, the lights come up to reveal a tearful audience. A connection is made. I begin to cry.

SUNDAY, JAN. 23: It's midnight, and Team Crazy's leaders continue to negotiate with multiple distributors. Occasional updates from Drake indicate “We're close.” At 5 a.m., word comes: “Paramount bought the film. Wide theatrical release in the fall. More to come. . . .” WE DID IT! The feeling is indescribable. We go off like fireworks. Bang! Then thump—head hits pillow. Sleep. See you in two hours, you talented bastards!

MONDAY, JAN. 24: The 11:30 a.m. Like Crazy screening at the Library goes well. Great Q&A. For the first time at one of our screenings, I am asked a few questions. A woman is called upon and begins to ask a question—then stops. “I'm sorry. I'm trying. . . .” She begins to sob. My insides shrink, and my eyes moisten. I look at Drake; we are both fighting it. It occurs to me how amazing it would be if the entire theater suddenly let go and burst into tears. Even now as I write this, my eyes carry water. She asks her question. I don't even remember it. Really doesn't matter. Connection is made. Communication. Emotion. Love. I'll never forget this moment for the rest of my life. Film critic Elvis Mitchell compliments us afterward: “It's your world, baby. It's your world.”

SATURDAY, JAN. 29: We arrive at tonight's awards ceremony without a care. We are here to have fun; we have no expectation of winning anything. A prize that is only bestowed when it is deemed appropriate is being given out: a Special Jury Prize for Best Actress. The winner's name is read: “Felicity Jones.” Team Crazy, in total disbelief, goes bananas. Jonathan accepts for Felicity, who'd already left Park City. Sitting next to Drake, we agree this is as good as it gets. So deserved. Felicity is about to become a superstar, and I can't think of anyone smarter or more beautiful from all angles to be in that position. For me, it's an out-of-body experience; her win is enough to send us home walking on sunshine. Sundancing? Yes. Indeed. Finally, we come to the last award of the night: the Grand Jury Prize for Best Film, U.S. Dramatic Competition. Over the past few years, Sundance jurors have given the award to edgy stories such as Frozen River, Precious and Winter's Bone. Jason Reitman takes the stage to present. The accomplished director of Juno and Up In the Air and 2011 jury member had been giving us extremely subtle hints throughout the week as to how much he enjoyed Like Crazy. At Sundance, rather than just say, “And the winner is . . .” the presenter first explains why the particular film was chosen (without fully giving it away), building dramatic tension. “This is a film about love,” Reitman says. Drake and I dig our fingers into each other's legs. Jason feeds another tidbit. We gasp, “Oh, my God.” I well up with an unexplainable mix of emotions. Almost dizzy. Time slows down. “The Grand Jury Prize goes to a film we love: Like Crazy.” Team Crazy explode out of our seats. Jumping, howling, pure ecstasy. Validation. Hard work. Art. WE JUST WON SUNDANCE! We storm the stage. Jonathan steps up to the mic and speaks for us all. Then Drake says a few words; like the film we wrote and he directed, his words are heart-felt and genuine. Applause. We run backstage, and POP! Champagne! Constant camera flashes. Drake douses Jonathan in the bubbly. Our new Paramount family congratulates us. I call my mom, my dad. The party continues, and within minutes, pictures and headlines hit the Internet. IMDB front-page news. Calls, e-mails and texts flood in. I remind myself never to forget this moment. This may never happen again. This is our moment. This is our voice being heard. This is a dream realized, but it feels nothing like I imagine it would. It's more tangible. It's not one moment. It's what we make of that moment, now that it has passed.


This article appeared in print as “Sundancing! Like Crazy’s huge film festival success—through the eyes of the OC native co-writer.”

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