Day 6. Tuesday.
9:00 a.m. Our first African-American president is inaugurated. In Washington D.C., movie stars and politicians cry and celebrate. In Park City, Utah, Destin and JoJo dance in the middle of Main Street. In Karen's downstairs guest room, I sleep. It's not that I don't care. I do. On this particular day, I just care about sleeping more.
3:00 p.m. I take a bus to Eccles to join Destin (who had spent part of the night before playing Rock Band with Topanga from Boy Meets World), Joy, and Brad. We watch Push. Not the sci fi movie with the dumbest premise ever. Another movie named Push, which is about - and don't read this if you think you're going to see it in theaters - a black high school student in 1980's Harlem named Precious, who is: illiterate, obese, pregnant by her father, emotionally and physically abused by her mother, and HIV positive (because of her father.) Oh, and her first child by her father has Down syndrome. It's extremely powerful, with great acting. The audience gave the filmmaker a standing ovation. But later that night, I was talking to another actor who had been at the screening and he was like, "Is he being serious with that movie? She's fat and she can't read the word 'day' and her father rapes her and she's pregnant with his child and her kid has mental problems and her mom beats her and she's dying? Of AIDS? At some point, I just wanted to tell the movie to shut up." I could see his point, but other people didn't seem to feel that way - the movie ended up winning both Sundance's grand jury prize and the audience choice award.
5:30 p.m. Destin and I meet Jared (the other A.D. from the crew) to watch something that was listed in the film guide as "Sneak Preview with Steven Soderbergh."
6:15 p.m. Steven Soderbergh and Festival Director Geoff Gilmore sit on stools on the stage. Soderbergh starts talking about how people keep asking him what movie they're going to show. He has this whole coy little speech about how he doesn't know why people think they're going to show a new movie of his... he just doesn't know how these rumors get started... oh, maybe it's because he's going to show movie of his! This would be a more effective surprise if the words "Sneak Preview" could be interpreted to mean anything other than that they were going to show a movie of his.
6:20 p.m. The movie starts. It's a low-resolution cut of Soderbergh's next movie The Girlfriend Experience, about an escort having problems with her boyfriend, and starring real-life porn star Sasha Grey. At one point, an escort reviewer gives the main character a bad review, calling her dull and pretentious with a flat affect. These are basically my thoughts on the movie. Extremely talky and edited to be non-linear for no discernible reason, the only thing I really liked was the cinematography. Fans of the Red camera (by which I mean you, Bays) will be interested to know that only two scenes in the whole movie were lit.
7:30 p.m. I'm relieved that Destin and I have to sneak out of the movie early to go to the shorts awards ceremony. We take the shuttle over. I ask Destin if he wishes he had bothered to take a shower that morning. Because... what if... something happens where people... might perhaps want to take a picture of him? He acts like he doesn't know what I'm talking about.
8:00 p.m. We arrive at the shorts awards reception. TIME columnist Joel Stein, who had a short in the festival called Joel Stein's Completely Unfabricated Adventures, describes it this way:
I'm not sure where the award ceremony for the feature films was held, but the shorts awards were given out a mile from town at a weird '80s dance party with a really bad buffet in a room without seats. I did not see Robert Redford.I didn't actually think the buffet was that bad. In fact, I seem to recall this mushroom bread pizza thing that I may have gone back for thirds on. I don't see Robert Redford either.
8:30 p.m. Sundance people announce the winner of YouTube's Project Direct contest, and they screen the film, Perfecto. Unfortunately, the sound system is awful and most of the crowd can't hear the dialogue. If you want to watch it, you can here.
8:45 p.m. I start getting texts from cast and crew asking me if they've announced the awards yet. I just text back, "Not yet" but now I'm kind of feeling pressured. I mean, there are 96 shorts! That's only a... 1.04% chance of winning. I really don't want everybody's hopes to be up.
9:00 p.m. People move downstairs to hear the announcement of the shorts awards.
9:05 p.m. The Honorable Mentions are announced. I didn't realize there would be so many... eight are awarded. The three that I've actually seen are Omelette, a Bulgarian film set during the '80s when inflation prices made food staples nearly impossible to afford, Love You More, a British film written by the writer of Closer and exec produced by Anthony Minghella (this seems like cheating to me), and The Attack of the Robots from Nebula-5, which was in our program, a weird, funny, sad black and white Spanish film about a mentally handicapped young man who thinks Earth is about to be destroyed. The fact that I actually really liked all of these makes me wonder if I'm finally getting Sundancy taste or if Sundance is finally getting Steffesy taste. Short Term 12 doesn't get an Honorable Mention. Part of me thinks this is a good sign. I tell that part of me to shut up.
9:11 p.m. Next they announce that Lies, a short film I haven't seen, has won the International Prize. (If you click the link there you can see that Sundance calls this the "International Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking." Nice.)
9:12 p.m. The guy says he's getting ready to announce the last award, the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking. He says it was clear early on which film would win, that this filmmaker (which he refers to as "he," not that that really narrows it down) is clearly enormously gifted, etc. I think, "He's going to say Short Term 12." He does. Despite my confident intuition from two seconds earlier, I shriek and drop my vodka soda. (Sorry, Sundance janitorial crew.)
9:12 1/2 p.m. I turn around and hug Destin, who's standing behind me, perfectly still. He hugs me back, hugs Joy, and wanders in a daze to the stage. He wrote about the experience in a blog for a San Diego news station:
They called our name and I thought I was hallucinating. Joy, Michelle, Jared, Brad, and Brett all started screaming but their voices sounded like little chickens to me, and their lips were moving in extra slow motion. I only had about two hours of sleep the night before, so I was feeling pretty weird already, and then the extra stimuli just sent my head spinning. But I managed to stumble through some kind of thank you speech and get off the stage without fainting.You can see part of Destin's speech in this video from the Sundance website. I wish I could embed it, because it's great, but I can't, so I just really encourage you to watch it. Again, here is the link. Watch it. Seriously.
9:18 p.m. Destin takes pictures with other winners, then with us. I ask Destin if now he wishes he had showered that morning. He does.
9:20 p.m. I text the cast and crew that I have in my cell phone and say "WE WON" with about twelve exclamation points. Several of them text back to ask if I'm being serious. A couple of them want me to tell them the exact name of the exact award so they understand how excited to get.
That was really fun. I kind of want to not delete the texts, ever.
Here's this period of time from Joel Stein's perspective:
Standing near the stage, rehearsing my speech, I was relieved not to get any of the eight "honorable mentions," which is some kind of Sundancespeak for "loser." But when the actual award was given, they called up a young hipster named Destin Cretton, who not only did not have a speech prepared but also was holding a half-eaten lollipop. Trying to be a gracious runner-up, I walked over to congratulate Cretton.
"I assume yours is about either the Holocaust or a mentally disabled guy," I said.
"You're right," Cretton replied. "I worked for two years at a residential facility for at-risk teenagers." I felt an interesting mix of discomfort and validation. Then Cretton put his arm around me and said, "It's not about winning and losing. We're all at Sundance together." When he offered me his half-eaten lollipop, the discomfort quickly melted away.