We titled this web exclusive 600 at Sundance not for the obvious reason, but more because ICG’s massive presence (at the world’s preeminent party celebrating filmmaking of independent vision and spirit) feels like an army descending upon Park City’s snow-bound streets. From short films to competition narratives and documentaries, to midnight genre flicks and everything in-between, the sheer creative breadth of work shot and crewed by IATSE craftsmen and women is remarkable. Consider that the Guild experience meter at Sundance this year ranges from multiple Oscar nominees like Roger Deakins, ASC and Seamus McGarvey, BSC to a first time feature by Texas-based shooter Peter Simonite (Skateland), and a sophomore Sundance effort from Patti Lee, now returning with a documentary (A Small Act) that she both shot and produced, and was picked up by HBO before a single flake of snow has fallen on the festival. Of course having an army (or armada depending on how slushy Main Street becomes) of Local 600 members to blanket Sundance this year isn’t all that surprising: indie filmmaking is an arena filled with warriors, and not for the faint of heart nor craft.
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Blue Valentine – DP Andrij Parekh shot this intimate and shattering portrait of a disintegrating marriage. On the far side of a once-passionate romance, Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) are married with a young daughter. Hoping to save their marriage, they steal away to a theme hotel. We then encounter them years earlier, when they met and fell in love—full of life and hope. Moving fluidly between these two time periods, Blue Valentine plays like a cinematic duet whose refrain asks, where did their love go? The other Local 600 members featured in the production include operator Oliver Cary, A.C.’s Spencer Gillis and James Daly, and still photographer David Russo.
Happythankyoumoreplease – Seamus Tierney shot writer/director Josh Radnor’s romantic comedy about six New Yorkers negotiating love, friendship, and gratitude at a time when they’re too old to be precocious and not yet ready to be adults. Other ICG crew members on the show, which was shot on the RED camera using Hawk anamorphic lenses, were: Parris Mayhew, Steadicam operator and B-camera operator, David Isern, Steadicam operator and B-camera operator, Kathryn Comkowycz, 1st A.C., A- camera, and Marlen Schlawin, 1st A.C, B-camera and 2nd A.C., A-camera.
Hesher – DP Morgan Susser was behind the lens for this tale of a mysterious trickster who descends on the lives of a family struggling to deal with a painful loss. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman, with a full union crew that included operators Tommy Lohmann and Torry Tukuafu, 1st A.C.’s Sal Coniglio and Jason Garcia, 2nd A.C.’s Joey Maloney and Rigney Sackley, DIT Nate Kalushner, and still photographer Merric
k Morton. Operator Martin Layton and A.C. Kevin Blair Rogers were both day players on the project, which was shot with the RED camera system and anamorphic lenses.
Howl – Academy Award winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman bring their dramatic re-telling of the life of poet Alan Ginsberg (played by James Franco) as a young man: finding his voice, the creation of his groundbreaking poem, HOWL, and the landmark obscenity trial that followed its publication. Shot by Edward Lachman, ASC with a Local 600 team that included operator Gerard Sava, A.C.’s Rick Gioia (1st), Chris Patak (2nd - first week only), Dan Keck (2nd), loader Jordan Levie ,and still photographer JoJo Whilden.
Night Catches Us – In 1978, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement. David Tumblety shot this indie drama.
Obselidia - Zak Mulligan shot this story of about a lonely librarian who believes love is obsolete until a road trip to Death Valley with a beguiling cinema projectionist teaches him otherwise.
Skateland – Writer/director Anthony Burns’ story is set in the early 1980s, in small-town Texas, where dramatic events force a 19-year-old skating rink manager to look at his life in a very new way. Shot by Peter Simonite, with a large ICG tea
m that included stills photographer Steve Dietl, operators Grayson Austin, Gary Jay, Don Reddy, A.C.’s Brice Reid, Peter D. Roome, Bryan DeLorenzo, Jeff Taylor and loader Tonja Greenfield.
Sympathy for Delicious - Mark Ruffalo directed this tale about a newly paralyzed DJ who gets more than he bargained for when he seeks out the world of faith healing. The stellar cast includes Orlando Bloom, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, and Laura Linney. Local 600 members on-board included cinematographer Chris Norr, operator and 2nd Unit DP, Jon Delgado, operators Jay Levy and Jennifer Stuart, A.C.’s Bobby Brown, Cheli Clayton, Mark Colicci, Kristen Eccker and Erik Emerson, loader Noah Thomson, and still photographer Sam Urdank.
Welcome to the Rileys – Cinematographer Chris Soos, 1st A.C. Michael Charbonnet, 2nd A.C. Jonathan Robinson, loader Amy Vincent, and still photographer Patti Perret brought their many combined years of experience to this story of a “damaged soul” (James Gandolfini) making a business trip to New Orleans and seeking salvation by caring for a wayward young woman. Directed by Jake Scott and also starring Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo.
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
CASINO JACK & The United States of Money - Cinematographer Maryse Alberti continues her creative partnership with non-fiction producer/director Alex Gibney in this probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies.
I’m Pat _______ Tillman - Director Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary examines the story of professional football star and decorated U.S. soldier Pat Tillman, whose family takes on the U.S. government when their beloved son dies in a “friendly fire” in
cident in Afghanistan in 2004. The film was co-shot on S16mm, HDcam, and with archival materials by cinematographers Sean Kirby and Igor Martinovic with Ludovic Littee as camera assistant.
A Small Act – When Hilde Back sponsored a young, impoverished Kenyan student, paying roughly $15 dollars per term to keep him in primary school she never expected to hear from him again. But Chris Mburu never forgot this small act of charity that helped propel him to Harvard, and become a respected UN human rights lawyer, dedicating his life to battling genocide and crimes against humanity. Mburu tries to replicate Hilde’s generosity by starting his own scholarship fund, which will educate bright kids in his village so they can also succeed and give back, but he is stunned when only two new students qualify for sponsorship. Simultaneously, Kenya falls into ethnic-based electoral violence, and Chris knows that ignorance fuels ethnic hatred and education has never been more important. Cinematographer Patti Lee sho
t and produced this feature length non-fiction profile that was picked up in advance of the festival by HBO. (Lee will be part of the Women In Film panel discussion - “Choosing Artistic Freedom” – Jan. 24th, 350 Main Street, 12-2 p.m.)
Smash His Camera - From filmmaker Leon Gast comes this story of Ron Galella - sued by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, punched out by Marlon Brando - the actions of the nation’s most notorious and reviled paparazzo opened up a Pandora’s box
of constitutional issues, from right to privacy to freedom of the press, not to mention the ever-growing vortex of celebrity worship that has now consumed American culture. Cinematography by Don Lenzer.
WAITING FOR SUPERMAN - Last year’s Sundance winner for Documentary Cinematography, Bob Richman, is back, working with fellow 600 DP
Erich Roland, in this examination of the crisis of public education in the United States. Writer/director Davis Gugenheim’s film is told through multiple interlocking stories - from a handful of students and their families whose futures hang in the balance, to the educators and reformers trying to find real and lasting solutions within a dysfunctional system.
Abel – Mexican film star Diego Luna co-write and directs this story about a peculiar young boy, who while blurring reality and fantasy, assumes the responsibilities of a family man in his father’s absence. Shot by cinematographer Patrick Murguia.
The Company Men - Series television pioneer John Wells writes and directs this tale about three company men who attempt to survive a round of corporate downsizing while trying to fend off its effects on their families and their identities. The powerhouse cast includes Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper. Cinematography was by 7-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins, ASC, with Guild camera assistants Andy Harris, Matthew Haskins, and Zack Shultz.
Cyrus - The Duplass brothers return to Sundance with their singular brand of filmmaking, suffused with pathos, romance, irony, and a dollop of horror. Alone and acutely depressed, having just learned of his ex-wife’s wedding plans, John encounters beautiful and charming Molly at a party. The two get along famously and launch a passionate affair, until Molly’s 21-year-old son, Cyrus, enters the scene. Will Molly and Cyrus’s deep and idiosyncratic bond leave room for John? Cinematographer Jas Shelton leads a full ICG crew that included operators Tod Campbell and Tom Clancey, 1st A.C.’s Keith Jones and Rick Lamb, 2nd A.C. Ron Elliot and RED camera technician Gavin Wynn.
Get Low - Robert Duvall and Bill Murray star in this film, equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend, about a mysterious hermit living in 1934 Tennessee who arranges his own funeral…while still alive. Anamorphic cinematography by David Boyd A.S.C., with an ICG crew that included operators John Priebe and Brian Gunter, 1st Camera Assistants Lee Blasingame and Julie Lenox Donovan, 2nd Camera Assistants Ross Davis and Hugh Brasselton, Film Loader Sherri Leger and Still Photographer Sam Emerson. Directed by Local 600 cinematographer Aaron Schneider, also starring Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, and Bill Cobbs.
Jack Goes Boating - Philip Seymour Hoffman stars and directs this romantic comedy about a limo driver’s blind date sparking a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace between two working-class New York City couples. Shot by Mott Hupfel III with a New York based crew that included assistants David Flanigan, ,Dan Hersey Larry Huston, Elizabeth Singer and Kyle Repka, Guillaume Renberg handled motion control and remote operator duties, while Craig Haagensen operated A-camera. David Knox was the underwater director of photography and K.C. Bailey was unit stills.
Nowhere Boy – Seamus McGarvey, BSC, goes behind the lens for this U.K. story about a teenaged John Lennon confronting wrenching family secrets as he finds his musical voice in late 1950s Liverpool, England. Starring Aaron Johnson and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Please Give - Director and screenwriter Nicole Holofcener returns to Sundance with this comedic story set in New York City about a husband and wife who butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives next door. Shot by Yaron Orbach with assistants Spencer Gillis, Robert DiGiacomo, and Brett Walters, operators Jeff Muhlstock and Afton Grant handled Steadicam chores, Ludovic Littee was the B-camera operator and Pitor Redlinski was the still photographer.
The Runaways -
In 1970s LA, a tough teenager named Joan Jett connects with an eccentric producer to form an all-girl band that would launch her career and make rock history. Starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, the indie feature was shot by Benoit Debie with assistants Jay Hardie, Randy Stone, Forrest Thurman and Tony Villalobos. Michael Stumpf handled A-camera and Steadicam, with additional Steadicam by Andy Shuttleworth. Stills were by David Moir.
Twelve – Director Joel Schumacher comes to Sundance with this chronicle of the highs and lows of privileged kids on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that involves sex, drugs and murder. Kiefer Sutherland and 50 Cent head up the cast. Cinematographer Steven Fierberg, ASC, was behind the lens with a Guild crew that included assistants Rene Crout, Rob Koch and Elizabeth Singer, D.I.T. Sam Kretcher, operators Chris Hayes and Alex Jarnagin.
Armless – New York based Guild member Jonathan Miller was the operator and additional cinematographer for this dark comedy about a man who has Body Integrity Identity Disorder (a real-life psychological condition), which drives him to find a doctor who will cut off his arms. The man’s wife thinks he’s having an affair, and he can’t tell anyone his dark secret. Miller says the micro-budget ($100,000) project was shot in 15 days with a skeleton crew. “We shot on an HDX900,” Miller states. “The camera starts out on dolly and sticks and as the story gets crazier we were handheld for the final act.”
SPOTLIGHT (new section for 2010)
Mother & Child – Xavier Grobet, ASC, shot writer/director Rodrigo García’s story about the lives of three women – a physical therapist, the daughter she gave up at birth three decades ago, and an African American woman seeking to adopt a child of her own – that intersect in surprising ways. The strong cast includes Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Jimmy Smits, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Countdown to Zero – Robert Chappell was one of five shooters to photograph Lucy Walker’s fascinating and frightening exploration of the dangers of nuclear weapons. The documentary feature exposes a variety of present day threats and features insights from a host of international experts and world leaders who advocate total global disarmament.
Teenage Paparazzo – Adrian Grenier presents this documentary about a 13-year-old paparazzi boy who snaps a photo of Grenier, leading the actor to explore the effects of celebrity on culture. Steven Fierberg, ASC was one of the cameramen on this multi-year project.
PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT
Buried – Eduard Grau shot director Rodrigo Cortes’ film about a U.S. contractor working in Iraq, who awakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone, it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap. Ryan Reynolds stars in a film Grau describes as, “an absolute technical and narrative challenge,” that overtakes Hitchcock´s Lifeboat for the Guinness world record of the most contained movie ever produced!
Frozen - Will Barratt shot this story for director Adam Green about three skiers who are mistakenly stranded on a chairlift and forced to make life-or-death choices that prove more perilous than staying put and freezing to death. The 1st A.C. was David “D.R.” Rhineer.
HIGH school – Mitchell Amundsen shot story about Jr., about a random drug test that coincides with a high school valedictorian’s first hit of pot. The offbeat cast working for director John Stalberg included Adrien Brody and Michael Chiklis. Michigan locations throughout with a Guild crew supporting Amundsen of 1st A.C. Andy Hoen, 2nd A.C.’s Will Brick and Gregg Horvath, loader Nick Gilbert, and still photographer Neil Jacobs.
The Violent Kind – James Laxton shot this feature story about two second-generation members of an outlaw biker gang, Cody and Q, who take a break from their busy schedule of sex, drugs, and stompin’ fools to attend a party at a secluded cabin. The soirée soon goes to hell, people start dying, and a fine biker mama gets possessed by . . . well, by something foul indeed. It’s all more perverse fun from the utterly demented minds of writers/directors the Butcher Brothers (aka Phil Flores and Mitchell Altieri). Reuniting with much of the cast from their cult favorite The Hamiltons, the Butchers continue to surprise and offend in delightfully equal measures.
U.S. DRAMATIC SHORTS
Gone to the Dogs – Quenell Jones was the camera operator on director/screenwriter Liz Tuccillo’s short film about a dinner party that turns ugly when one of the guests brings her dog along.
Laredo, Texas – Two-time Emerging Cinematographers Award Honoree Eduardo Mayen hits Sundance with this short documentary-style film, written and directed by Topaz Adizes, that takes place in the border town of Laredo, Texas. Sam trains Juan for his first day at his new job, fixing pay phones. However, tensions boil as Sam suspects that Juan is an undocumented worker.
U.S. DOCUMENTARY SHORTS
The Poodle Trainer – Cinematographer and Emmy Award winner Marc Greenfield teams up with DGA director Vince Malone for this non-fiction profile of Irina Markova, a solitary Russian poodle trainer who reveals her transcendent relationship with her dogs, the childhood tragedy that sparked a lifetime of working with animals, and the welcome isolation behind the red velvet curtains of the circus.
The Kids are Alright – From Sundance veteran Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon, High Art) comes this tale about two children, conceived by artificial insemination, who bring their birth father into their family life. The stellar cast includes Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Annette Bening. Shot by Igor Jadue-Lillo with an ICG team that included A.C.’s Mark Figueroa, Leoncio “Loncho” Provoste, Gaston Richmond, and loader Aaron Ticheron.
The Romantics – Sundance producing veteran Gail Niederhoffer (Grace is Gone, Lonesome Jim, Dedication) directs a film based on her own novel – a generational comedy that takes place over the course of one night at a deluxe seaside wedding. The director of photography was Sam Levy, with a Local 600 crew made up of 1st A.C. Nicola Benizzi, 2nd A.C. David Feeney-Mosier, loader Dan Merrill, JoJo Whilden
Local 600 shooter David McFarland has two features premiering at Slamdance 2010: Cummings Farm is an awkwardly hilarious farce that centers on six people casually deciding to get together for an evening of group sex. Set on the bayou of south Louisiana at an old strawberry farm, the film follows characters taking their last steps away from sexual freedom and irresponsibility into committed and monogamous relationships - some more reluctantly than others. Although the participants initially act casually about the affair, as the insane prospect of actually having to go through with it approaches, their true colors shine. Drones features Brian Dilks as an office worker, who spends his days at OmniLink in comforting monotony; facilitating the movement of product around the country, faxing, copying, joking with his best friend, Clark, and harmlessly flirting with fellow cubicle-mate, Amy. After discovering an improbable secret about his best friend, everything in Brian’s safe life of workplace detachment is no longer an option. Close encounters of the office kind, like sales or intergalactic war, are an uncertain business.
Academy Award-nominated director of photography Don Burgess (Spiderman, Forrest Gump, Contact, Terminator 3, The Polar Express, Castaway, and The Book of Eli) teams up with Chris Woods (who has directed over 400 commercial campaigns for clients like Jeep, Budweiser, Corona, Toyota, Visa, and Mountain Dew) for this exciting interactive panel discussion at the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival (Jan. 21-26, Salt Lake City). Launched in 2001 with the support of major sponsors, X-Dance has grown to become the premier action sports film festival in the world. While the films and the athletes change from year to year, the mission of X-Dance remains constant: To nurture the growth of action sports filmmaking and to honor achievement on both sides of the camera. Sponsored by GoPro Cameras, the panel discussion is January 23, 4:30 p.m., at the Off-Broadway Theater (272 South Main St.) located across from the Gallivan Trax stop. A full X-Dance film schedule and event listing can be found at: www.x-dance.com
Photo Credits: Happythankyoumoreplease photo courtesy of KT Comkowycz, Howl and The Extra Man photos by JoJo Whilden, Welcome to Rileys photo by Patti Perret, Photo of Don Burgess courtesy of X-Dance, Gone to the Dogs courtesy of Quenell Jones, The Runaways photo by David Moir, A Small Act photo courtesy of Patti Lee, Sympathy for Delicious photo by Sam Urdank, Blue Valentine photo by Davi Russo, Obselidia courtesy of Zak Mulligan, Get Low photo by Sam Emerson.