I’m supposed to be on a plane this morning with four of the most incredible women on the planet. Half of the Audience Awards’ headquarters staff is headed to Sundance Film Festival. For all but our one grizzled veteran, it is their first Sundance Film Festival experience, as it would have been mine. We have been riding the wave of revolution, the #FemaleLens revolution, and Sundance is an amazing extension of that. With the Women’s March on January 21st, the Women at Sundance Brunch and our own launch of the Audience Awards Women in Film Challenge, we are almost solely focused on pushing forward the initiative of gender parity that Sundance Film Festival has so greatly championed thus far.
To be fair, I’ve only been a “woman in film” for a short time. I’ve only been paying this much attention since January 24, 2015. That was the night I saw Whiplash in a small arthouse theater in the quaint college town where I reside. We walked out of the movie, rushed to our car and as soon as I slammed the car door against sub-zero Montana temperatures, I found myself downloading Damien Chazelle’s script on my phone. Which was odd. I’ve loved movies all my life but never thought about the fact that there was a screenplay (which no one else thinks about either, in case you were wondering). I had a hard time paying attention to my husband (a drummer) as he blathered on about that much bleeding on our way home.
I was struck with my own obsession. I had to find out how. I had to know what words Chazelle had written in order to convey… THAT. How do you put together dialogue and action in such a way as to accurately convey the power shift that happens between Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in the last ten minutes of the film?
Ten lines of dialogue in as many pages. That’s how.
Brilliant actors. Crystalline vision. Collaboration in the purest, most… orgasmic form.
I couldn’t have known that chilly Montana night where that moment would take me. There was no way to anticipate that a little less than a year later I would embark on my own attempt at a full-length feature. I mean, who the hell did I think I was? I didn’t do things like go to Sundance Film Festival or write screenplays. I’m was just a 39-year-old wife and mother of two. Sure, the words “movies” and “obsession” could have been joined when describing the inner workings of my personality. But I was the watcher, not the maker. Screenwriter. Ha. Never crossed my mind.
Yet, since that fateful night, I’ve written and am now in pre-production for my first full-length feature. A lovely little dark comedy about cancer, wrapped up in the kind of family-of-choice, you-parent-my-kids-I’ll-parent-yours, BFFs-forever bacon of which delicious movies are made. Amazing humans – award-winning humans – are being drawn to this project through almost no orchestration on my part, including many above-the-line women in film who are forging the way for a first-timer such as myself. One of those women is a producer whose film, Lemon, is premiering at Sundance Film Festival this year.
I will not be there to see it. Yesterday my family got a shocking blow. Our nephew – a beautiful, life-loving, Broncos-loving bundle of love – lost his battle with lupus. As excited as I was for my first Sundance experience, Park City, Utah, has nothing on Billings, Montana, for me right now. I want to be with my family more than I want to be anywhere else in the world, so I’m taking my bag, all packed for Sundance Film Festival, and my devastated little family and I’m traveling to be with my niece and my sister-in-law today.
Yet those four kick-ass, strong, rockstar women who champion other women in film with every ounce of their energy, they’ll be experiencing Sundance Film Festival. They’ll be shining their light through the #FemaleLens, because it’s about damn time we march together toward gender parity in the world – and in this industry. I can’t be there with them, but YOU can. If you’re in Park City and you’re experiencing the exhilaration of being part of the revolution, document it. Facebook Live, YouTube Live, post a video or a picture of your Women in Film experience at Sundance Film Festival and tag us so I can see what our efforts have wrought. Keep your eye out for how Sundance and Slamdance and Park City, Utah, expose the #FemaleLens and share it with Audience Awards and our amazing crew. We’ll put together a “best of” reel at the end of the festival and share it with the world.
My broken heart is with you and all the good, hard work you’re doing.