Photo Dump! Part 1

Here are some photos from Sundance! More to come.

From Left: Kristin Borella (Comm and PR) Ali Sarafoglou (SIR), Kristi Patton (Development) Erin Jebavy (Alumni Association), Justin Wilson (Development/co-writer of LUV), Ann Spurgeon (Development) and Bonnie Chi (SIR)

Alumnus Josh Comen from Comen VFX with the Development Crew. Comen worked VFX on Lay the Favorite


Kent Greenwald with his executive producer KoKe, which means "Swift Runner"

Production MFA Student Kamell Allaway

It’s the End of the Festival

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of some really great independent films and long wait list lines. The grand total of the amount of films I have seen during my time at Sundance is 11, which I’m quite proud of. Not bad for a Sundance-newbie. There’s quite a few that I have watched to do a recap on but out of everything that I watched, two films have really stuck out to me as tied for my favorite film of the festival: Hello I Must Be Going and The Words. From all the discussions I have had with people on the bus and waiting in line, the overall consensus with these films have been pretty positive so I’m not alone in thinking these films were stand-outs.

I watched Hello I Must Be Going early Friday morning at the Eccles Theatre. Because I arrived there fairly early, I had good middle seats in the most beautiful theater I have ever seen. The Eccles is the largest theater venue playing films and holds over 1,200 people. If you must watch or premiere a film at Sundance, the Eccles is the place to be. The film I watched is about Amy Minsky’s (played by Melanie Lynskey) journey as she tries to get on with her life after a recent divorce. She has no ambition and is content with moving back into her parent’s home even though she is 35 years-old. However, things begin to change and Amy’s life starts to get back on track when she begins a romantic relationship with a teenage boy.  Directed by Todd Louiso and written by screenwriter Sarah Koskoff, Hello I Must Be Going is a definite crowd-pleaser that makes you root for the characters. I thought the writing was very smart and the direction was on par with delivering the emotions of the characters and bringing the loudest laughs with some camera angles and changes.

Hello I Must Be Going is a great piece revealing how much of a talent the actress, Melanie Lynskey, is. In my opinion, she was absolutely amazing and effortlessly switched between comedy and drama throughout the film. She has done various films but is most known for playing Rose on Two and a Half Men which definitely does not do her any justice in showing her talent. Not only does Lynskey’s performance make an impact, but it welcomes newcomer Christopher Abbott who plays the teenage lover in the film. The chemistry between these two characters is believable and real. Despite their age differences, it is Abbott’s character, Jeremy, who shows maturity and appreciates Amy for who she is and I thought  Abbott did a terrific job portraying that. Last but not least, Blythe Danner who plays Amy’s mother delivers a hilarious performance as the crazy and absurd mother who is full of wise-cracks. She says pretty horrible things at times but the audience could not stop laughing at what she was saying. Her character definitely highlights the comedic elements of the story but Danner never veers towards overwhelming. Overall, the cast delivered exceptional performances and I truly enjoyed watching this film.

Ever Dream of having your Film at SUNDANCE?

Okay so I did catch a couple of flicks today… HIGHLY RECOMMEND LUV, CHASING ICE and SISTER, SISTER

But here’s the thing…. I’M NOT A FILM CRITIC

So if you’re a fan of ALMOST FAMOUS, REALITY BITES,  or THE WAR you might like these films… if not, then I might question your opinion of my opinion. 🙂


So here’s what else I accomplished today at Sundance – other than throwing back a couple of great Irish Coffee’s at FLANAGAN’S… I got the privilege of having lunch with some rad peeps, who have pretty cool jobs – SUNDANCE Festival Programmers.

If you’re like me – you might be asking “what in the hell is a Festival Programmer?”  but then again I highly doubt that you’re like me…so good for you

Anyways, here’s the breakdown of a Festival Programmer;

There are about 13 programmers in total.  They have the sickest jobs, as they review every submission and recommend the ones to move on and eventually select the festival’s final films. They literally watch 17 hours of movies a day. Their job description includes watching, selecting and then moderating the festival, they are the mediators between the Festival and the film.  Also, they are self-proclaimed cat owners.


Overall, the panel of Programmers said – make films that you love… be passionate and infuse that into your project – trust them, it shows….
After the panel answered some q & a’s, I sought out to do some one and one follow up.

These snazzy pictures are with Mike Plante, who is a Short Film Programmer and Shari Frilot, a Senior Programmer.

Given that I’m a Director, Screenwriter and Actress – I asked these two fine folks questions that I’d like to know the answer to.

Cheryl with Shari

I asked Mike how many shorts he watches – umm, mind f@#k, 7600!!!!!  He then has to narrow it down to about 80… those odds are worse than Grad School, Oy Vey.   The main criteria that he uses in selecting shorts (other than quality material) is time frame, he has an allocated time frame to fulfill and given that short films are anything under 50 minutes – he chooses the right short that fits with the festival and the ones that fulfill his time slot.

After Mike was so generous to answer my question on shorts – I got the chance to speak with a Senior Programmer, Shari Frilot.

Shari is running the New Frontier division of SUNDANCE – which is pretty cool, it’s like going beyond film making and into the artistry aspect.  If you can dream it, and create it and it ends up being really f-ing different… then it might be New Frontier material.
This made me think of my film school chums, who are gamers or hyperlink narrative junkies…

Basically, Shari broke it down like this – the more ECLECTIC the BETTER.  Games telling stories, Performance or Data Visualization… she even recommended a few websites that upcoming filmmakers should check out – (this is for the top 50 festivals) and an organization called Creative Capital.

Overall, the programmers stated that they first review the film (and usually it’s only once) and ask themselves what type of film is the filmmaker trying to make – does it fulfill the requirement?  YES, they watch every submission, as they forum with the other Programmers to discuss their picks.  They also recommended that you submit as early as possibly… don’t wait – just submit your BEST version of your film.They are looking for HD or Film quality as it is the best forum to show on several different types of screens.
LASTLY, I’m doing a SPEED DATING with the Festival Programmers tomorrow and since I already asked all of my questions today – WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ASK?
Submit your question and the top ones, I’ll ask and answer tomorrow!
Check it and thanks for reading.


So the first night ends with a bang…and there is much to cover (Part Two)

Afterwards, I trekked to see Nobody Walks at the Marc and that’s where I saw my first Sundance film. It was a satisfying experience to say the least. Directed by Ry Russo-Young who has previously directed another Sundance entry called You Won’t Miss Me in 2009, Nobody Walks is a film about how a young artist visits a family friend and innocently provokes the family’s suppressed desires to come out to play. It was a great film that showcased the beauty of LA and life in Silverlake. The tangling of the family’s desires was exciting to watch as each character revealed very raw and very human feelings. The impressive cast delivered good performances all around with Olivia Thirlby (Juno and The Wackness) effortlessly charming every man in the movie to unfortunate results. Rosemarie DeWitt who was in the impeccable Rachel Getting Married and John Krasinski from The Office also deliver good performances.

I was quite fond of the script which included a powerful poem that began the repercussions that the characters experienced in the film. Russo-Young co-wrote the script with Lena Dunham who is known more for her comedic writing and voice in the wonderful Tiny Furniture and has an upcoming show called Girls on HBO coming out in April. (Not a shameless plug.) With that many talented people working on a film, it was easy to say that was the best first film I could have seen at Sundance.

Trying to see as many films as possible during my time here in Park City, I watched the midnight showing of Black Rock. Directed by Katie Aselton and written by Mark Duplass, this was a ridiculously fun thriller. Shot on a beautiful island in Maine, the cinematography definitely shines as a fun outing quickly becomes a fight for survival. This was Katie Aselton’s take on a thriller and I welcomed it with open arms. Known for her work as an actor on the FX show The League and the indie The Puffy Chair by the Duplass brothers, Aselton has stretched her directing muscles. She previously directed the raw and emotional Sundance entry The Freebie with Dax Shepard and has now expanded her credits to include a thrilling and emotional film dedicated to showing a girl strut her stuff instead of only the guy doing all the dirty work. It was a nice take on a familiar genre where the strong female cast that included Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth, and Aselton herself all delivered pleasing performances. Aselton’s great personality during the Q&A deserves a shoutout, much like her also very funny Q&A after The Freebie played at SCA in the fall of 2010.

I now understand the allure of midnight films. They are fun, ridiculous, and a fantastic way to end my first night (and a couple of hours) at Sundance. I recommend seeing at least one if you go to Sundance, if sleep isn’t that important to you.

More late night posts to come.


So the first night ends with a bang…and there is much to cover (Part One)

When I decided that this was the year I was going to the Sundance Film Festival, I had an outer-body experience. All I could do leading up to the second week of the festival was make excited squeals and make bizarre hand gestures. The full impact that I was actually going did not hit me until I was in a cab with three friends heading to Park City from the airport.

The first thing you see when heading to Park City is snow. Everywhere is a smooth sheet of white and the snow-covered mountains are gorgeous. I could get use to that.

Despite the glitz of the major premieres and movie stars and industry professionals milling about the first week, the second week is where one has a greater chance of seeing films. Definitely not guaranteed as I later experienced but a much higher percentage to get in. I spent a good three hours deciding what films to see and reading the reviews came out to aid in my decision-making. I decided that I would try to see Wish You Were Here, Nobody Walks, and Blackrock my first day.

I have been looking forward to seeing Wish You Were Here ever since the trailer for the film came out and the prospect of seeing a new film with Joel Edgerton in it was exciting. He’s one of the best actors out there right now and his past film Animal Kingdom which premiered at Sundance in 2010 was a breakout hit. (I also have a weakness for Australian accents.) Alas, my attempt to get in through the wait list came up short. Despite the Library Theater holding over 400 people, only two people from the wait list got in. Yes, only two people were let in. There’s heartbreak for you after waiting in line and seeing a mass of pass and ticket holders rush in only 15 minutes before the movie up until after the movie was supposed to start. People say that you will not see every film you plan to see and I was prepared for that, but it still hurts.

To be continued in the next post for dramatic effect but actually because of length.