Connecting the dots

by Carey Lundin, Co-Producer
Indie feature “Sweet Home Chicago”

I didn’t go to Sundance just to watch movies. I went to soak up the creative spirit of the vanguard of filmmakers.

I went with Dan Halperin, the co-writer, director and co-producer of “Sweet Home Chicago,” the coming-of-age story of four teenagers on the South Side of Chicago in 1959. Dan’s a veteran of Sundance, who met Steve Soderbergh the year the independent world changed with the premiere of his “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”

Like most indie filmmakers, we are searching for financing and the right cast. To be taken seriously, you have to see and be seen at Sundance. The buyers and studios are there for the same reasons: To make deals, and to see what people are talking about and doing.

All other festivals are training wheels for Sundance. Even Slamdance, screening across the street from Sundance’s Main St. theatre, was a radical upstart just a couple of years ago. Now it’s an important venue for finding new talent.

We realized that producers are dot-connectors. For instance: Last fall our screenplay was selected by the IFP Marketplace in New York. There, we met a director looking for editing help, so we introduced him to our editor. His film premiered last week at Sundance. That’s where we met his executive producer, who lives in Chicago (sorry I can’t name him) and he soon may be embarking on his next film venture. From New York, to Sundance, to Chicago, we’re connecting the dots.

Dan Halperin

Not only did we make connections, but we were inspired by what we saw. Sundance accepts wildly novel and edgy ideas, which both inspired us and reinforced that some of our ideas were acceptable within that context.

A perfect example was Lars Von Trier’s “Dogville,” an Ibsen-like filmed play with hand-held camerawork by the director himself. Barely more than a staged reading, it was a cinematic adventure.

So was the HD “Down to the Bone.” It’s a wintry day-of-a-film about a working-class mother going through recovery. The film rang so true it could have been a documentary. Then there were documentaries that took obvious liberties with the truth. Because Sundance accepts these films, so does Hollywood and the general public. In the end, storytelling is the only thing that matters.

At Sundance audiences wanted to know, is it film or digital? And more surprisingly now?is it a drama or a documentary? For an answer, look at last year’s winner, “American Splendor.” The lines are becoming blurred.

Film is an open book right now, and it’s all about expression. And we’re excited with the prospects.