Wednesday, January 16, 2008 | 02:54 PM ET
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This is the fourth time I’ve been invited to Park City, Utah to attend Bob Redford’s little vanity project (which has become one of the top five film festivals on the planet), and it’s my third world premiere. Funny place to have a world premiere, in a remote mountain ski resort in one of the more conservative states of America — especially considering I don’t ski — but that’s show business.
When I first traveled to Sundance in 1995 with my movie Super 8 ½, the festival was essentially two snow banks and a pre-eyeliner Jared Leto. But even then it had apparently become too mainstream for some disgruntled film folk, who started up a parallel film festival, Slamdance, that year. (A few years later, an alternative to the alternative, called Slamdunk, would emerge, followed by Tromadance, the only festival with no entry fee and free screenings.)
I can’t remember much about my screening in 1995, but I do vividly recall attending Larry Clark’s Kids, the sensation of the festival, as the guest of its executive producer, Gus Van Sant, and its writer, Harmony Korine. I remember because Gus and his then-boyfriend, D-J, and I smuggled a bottle of tequila into the screening and kept slipping it to Harmony, who was under the legal drinking age. Fun times!
The following year, I presented the world premiere of my movie Hustler White. at Sundance. Hollywood had really begun to descend on the festival with a vengeance, like a plague of sewage (see: the South Park episode about Sundance). It was still fun, but there were too many agents and entertainment lawyers and other men in black running rings around the poor Parker Poseys, desperately looking for the next big thing. As I had partly financed my film by pre-selling U.S. rights, they pretty much left me alone. Besides, a movie featuring an amputee hustler who pleasures his clients with his leg stump isn’t necessarily the kind of indie fare they’re looking for to break into the multiplexes.
Four years ago I returned to Sundance with The Raspberry Reich, a sexually explicit movie about the leader of a gang of extreme left-wing terrorists who makes her straight male followers have sex with each other to prove their revolutionary commitment. Once again, it wasn’t exactly Little Miss Sunshine, and as it had been pre-sold to US. distributor Strand Releasing, I wasn’t paid much mind, although the film did go on to play at over 150 film festivals worldwide. This time I was a little shocked to discover that Sundance had become so overrun by Hollywood types that Paris Hilton herself was in attendance. In fact, at one party, I was asked to relinquish my banquette beside the DJ booth to make way for the Queen of All Emptiness. Only to prove that chivalry wasn’t quite dead yet, I magnanimously complied.
Returning this year with my new movie, Otto; or, Up with Dead People, all bets are off. It’s another world premiere, but this time we haven’t pre-sold the U.S. territory. I will be attending with my Canadian co-producers, Jennifer Jonas and Leonard Farlinger of New Real Films, and our sales agent, Charlotte Mickie of Maximum Films, who will have the pleasure of trying to sell a melancholy gay zombie movie with political overtones to a mob of distributors looking for the next Juno. On the upside, I’m in the Park City at Midnight section alongside Diary of the Dead, directed by recent Toronto resident George A. Romero, the master of the zombie genre. Apparently we used the same camera to shoot our respective zombie movies, the Panasonic 900 HDX. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
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