February 2, 2012 —
I arrive in Park City with Sean late on Wednesday evening for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. We accidentally discovered we were on the same flight the day before so we arranged to meet and travel together.
My nerves are buzzing but I have a certain confidence. It’s my third year in a row here and I’m getting to know my way around. This year, travel wise, it’s an easy trip; last year I got caught in Atlanta for six hours because of a snowstorm.
I’m here as the editor of “Simon Killer,” my dear friend Antonio Campos’s second feature. (Faithful readers may remember I’ve written much in the past about his first feature “Afterschool.”) Antonio is amazing to work with and Simon is something special. I am very proud of how the film turned out, although I can also tell that not everyone will be into it.
Main Street is quiet at 2 a.m. when Sean and I roll into town. It’s almost like a time warp how similar it feels to years past. But also so far away. “Catfish” seems like forever ago and I feel that those early days will always be most special. Then, there were no expectations, and the experiences were fresh and full of surprises.
But on the flip side now, I know what to expect and there is comfort in that. Our house is a bit closer this year, as well as a bit smaller. Two big plusses. Our crew is broken up in two houses across the street from each other, which keeps things a bit calmer. Last year, the six-staircase hike was almost too much to bear and there were people in and out all the time.
It’s warmer than I expect for the first few days and my feet sweat during the day in the boots that I bought last week. The past few years, I didn’t have great boots and many damp socks later I have learned my lesson. When it eventually does start to snow I am thankful, and boy does it snow! Over a foot and 36 hours later, Park City is covered in a blanket of white... and then slush.
The “Simon” premiere is Friday morning at the enormous Eccles Theater. It’s completely packed and though I boast not being nervous, the 45 minutes before the movie are some of the longest in distant memory. During the film, I chew through toothpicks like a crazy person, my seat littered with tiny wooden splinters.
I am very aware of everyone around me and I feel like the audience members who are sitting behind me are completely with the film. They laugh and gasp in all of the right places. It’s very satisfying. I’ve never seen it with an audience.
I check my phone on the way to our dinner and party. The tweets and reviews are already flooding in. They are totally polarizied, and though I am completely happy with how the film played my heart starts to sink just a bit when I read a particularly mean tweet.
Over the next few days I see a lot of old friends, a few movies that I love, a few that I hate, and in the end not nearly enough. Some folks and I go to the wrong theater fairly hungover for a 9 a.m. screening and end up sitting though a movie we don’t want to see. It was unfortunate.
I go to a great party and run into an editor acquaintance of mine. We chat for a moment until he shuffles off quickly, saying something about the altitude, jet leg and having to go to bed early. An hour or so later I run into him at the bar waiting for a drink. I smile as warmly as possible. I’m ready to go back home to New York, I think to myself.
The reviews trickle in over the next few days. I read most of them. It’s a pretty even split with people who love the film and people who hate it (some of them almost absurdly so). On the way back to the airport I overhear some people in the same shuttle talking about “Simon.” They call it the “most polarizing film of the festival,” but neither of them has seen it.
The day I arrive back home, “Simon Killer” sells to IFC. It’s great news and though I am pleased to be back to my regular life, a part of me is sorry that I’m not looking out over Park City and celebrating.