Phew!

Phew!

I was pretty anxious about the premiere, but the (sold-out) audience was very warm and generous about the film. I only wish the cast and crew could have been there. Slamdance rocks!

(Treasure Mountain Inn, Park City, UT)

Getting Busy on Main Street

Getting Busy on Main Street

Today was a mix of panels, films, and free food. Main Street is getting busier as more folks arrive for the opening weekend festivities.

Update: about two hours after this photo was taken, this part of Main Street lost power for about twenty minutes. Ouch, filmmakers! Glad I wasn’t screening then.

(Egyptian Theatre, Park City, UT)

Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air

I’m in Park City, UT to premiere my new short Beijing Haze at the Slamdance Film Festival. It’s my first time in Park City and I’m really excited. As you probably know, Sundance Festival week is legendary for the industry hype, celebrity buzz, and heavy deal-making. Oh, and they also show a few movies as well. Slamdance, now in its fourteenth year, started as an indie answer to Sundance but now has its own formidable reputation as well.

My goals for the week are to have good screenings (like I have any control over that), meet lots of people, and watch a lot of movies. And eat free as often as possible.

Now, New York isn’t exactly a backwater when it comes to industry folk, but sharing a shuttle ride from SLC airport with Stacy Peralta, a Focus Features staffer, and an entertainment lawyer from LA was kind of intimidating. I mean, these people are way higher on the food chain than me. I tried to keep the self-doubt demons in check, but as the van barreled down Route 80, my mind was racing. I’m just a guy from Brooklyn who happens to own a camera. I was lucky enough to get a short into that scruffy festival at the end of Main Street. I’m the smallest of the small-time and everyone knows it. What the heck am I doing here?

But in the van, the vibe is low-key and we talk like we’re all equals (though Stacy has the best stories). For a fleeting moment, I almost feel like I belong here.

It’s not until I get to the Slamdance check-in at the Treasure Mountain Inn that I really start to feel that maybe I do belong here. Sarah greets us with a friendly hug, and she and Paul shower us with swag that’s actually useful, including a great Crumpler laptop bag and much-needed Doc Martens boots. Kodak sponsors a champagne toast for all the Slamdancers, and the week kicks off in the friendliest way.

I feel lightheaded, but that’s only partly due to the thin air.

(Treasure Mountain Inn, Park City, UT)

LA: Heading Home

LA: Heading Home

Nutter butters and coffee for breakfast? Why not? I got two hours of sleep because I had to be up at five for a flight at eight, so I need every gram of caffeine and sugar I can get.I’m bummed I’m missing the chance to see Colma again. If you’re in LA, go see it Wednesday, May 10 at the DGA. I guarantee you’ll get hooked on Rich Wong and H.P. Mendoza’s masterpiece the way I did.

It’s good to be heading home, but I miss LA already. Big thanks to everyone at VC for screening my films and for putting on a great festival.

(AA #114, LAX-EWR)

LA: Painting With Light

LA: Painting With Light

Among the many excellent programs at the VC Filmfest was the free cinematography workshop with veteran DPs Bob Primes and Stephen Burum. They spent an entire day at Mole Richardson teaching us poor and hungry filmmakers the basics of film lighting and, equally important, how to do it on the cheap.

This kind of “master class” could cost you a small bundle elsewhere, but VC gave it to us for nothing – and even served us a tasty lunch from Buddha’s Belly. Kudos, you guys all ROCK.

(Mole Richardson, Hollywood, CA)

LA: Star Power (Part 2)

LA: Star Power (Part 2)

Take It Or Leave It? and Dry Clean Only screened yesterday and I think people liked them. TIOLI is a crowd pleaser and it’s always fun to hear the audience laugh. The post-screening Q&As were fun. I like answering questions and talking about my stuff; I can only hope that people enjoy listening.

The best part of the DCO screening was getting to see my wonderful actors Aaron and Kavi again. I miss working with them in New York, but I’m glad they’re rising fast out here in LA. It was also great seeing the other friends that came by for the screenings. Their presence meant a lot to me.

This screening was my first time seeing DCO on a big screen and, perhaps inevitably, I came away with a list of things I wanted to tweak. It’s funny, every time I think I’ve finished this film, I always find more stuff I wanna change. After this next edit, I think I have to stop watching; otherwise, I’ll probably just want to work on it some more.

One film I’ll never stop watching, however, is Julia Kwan’s exquisite Eve and the Fire Horse. I know I gushed about Eve after seeing it at SFIAAFF in March, but after watching it again last night, I just gotta gush some more. I can only hope that one day I’ll make a movie as beautiful and as elegant as this one. Rush out and see it as soon as it comes to your city.

The Eve screening also marked my favorite single moment of the festival: the widespread snickering after a really loud trailer for Fast & Furious 3: Tokyo Drift that preceded the film. READY…SET-O…GO!!!!

(Julia and her fans at the Director’s Guild of America, Los Angeles, CA)

LA: Star Power (Part 1)

LA: Star Power (Part 1)

Today’s screenings included Tanuj Chopra’s Punching at the Sun and Mike Kang’s The Motel. I really dug the surreal touches in Punching, a Queens story about a Pakistani teen dealing with loss. As for The Motel, I’ve now seen it three times and it just gets better with each viewing.

Afterwards, it was another crazy night hanging out with my new LA posse. To protect the guilty, I won’t name names, but they’re a fun bunch of amazingly talented and cool filmmakers, actors, and festival programmers. (Sorry, Mel Torme wasn’t one of them.)

(Sunset & Vine, Hollywood, CA)

LA: Many Movies, Many Parties

LA: Many Movies, Many Parties

For me, writing is very difficult and not enjoyable, shooting is pretty difficult and mostly enjoyable, and attending film festivals (as a filmmaker) is not difficult and extremely enjoyable. Problem is, you gotta go through the first two to get to the third. But it’s worth it. As Oscar winning actor/director winner Chris Tashima pointed out at our directors luncheon today, the hard part is done, and now it’s just a series of parties.

(Chris is also really good in Eric Byler’s Americanese, and I suggest you all check it out when it’s released. I can only hope my Asian-American mid-life crisis involves a dalliance like the one he has with Joan Chen in that movie.)

Last night I watched Ham Tran’s Journey From the Fall, a surprisingly epic first feature from this LA-based filmmaker. It’s a sprawling story about a Vietnamese family in the wake of the Vietnam War, with lovely cinematography and great performances from the mostly first-time actors. If he ever makes a sequel to this movie, I can see Journey broken into two smaller films to make a trilogy because the two halves of the film are so different. Worth checking out.

Most of the festival films are screening at the Directors Guild of America, which is a great place to watch a film because of the excellent projection and sound systems. It’s also a bit intimidating and inspiring to be in the same place that is a home to so many legendary filmmakers.

(Director’s Guild of America, Los Angeles, CA)

LA: Off to VC

LA: Off to VC

I’m heading to LA for a few days to attend the 2006 VC Filmfest where my shorts Take It Or Leave It? and Dry Clean Only will be playing. So far, it’s the only festival to screen both films, which means it is also quite possibly the best film festival ever in the history of celluloid.

So if you’re in LA this week and next, come check out my stuff and the other terrific films of the fest. Though I’ll only be here through the weekend, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of movies and hanging out with many of the cool people I’ve met at previous festivals – and meeting new ones.

(AA flight #1, JFK-LAX Somewhere over central New Jersey)