Tuesday, February 2, 2010

IFP Alum Jasmine Dellal on the Premiere of UTOPIA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS at Sundance

BLOG – utopia: (January 25, 2010)

I’m in this snowy winter wonderland as a producer on Utopia in Four Movements a ‘live film’ by Sam Green and Dave Cerf.

This ‘live film’ thing is unusual, but it sounds pretty simple – images on screen, a director narrating with a mic, someone DJ’ing the soundtrack from his laptop, and a few musicians playing along. However, it turns out that there’s some technical stuff that has to happen for this to work out. And most festivals are more used to projecting a film (or tape) without live accompaniment so this is a bit of a challenge – but that’s why we’re in the “New Frontiers” section, and they’re really accommodating about our requests.

And today, we had our first show at the Yarrow....

But first I’ll tell you a bit about the past couple of days in Utah.

Like most indie filmmakers, our posse arrived here quite tired, yet I was ready to hit the streets (and slopes) with a giant bundle of postcards and schmooze to bring in the buyers and the press. So, Carrie Lozano (my fellow producer) and I have been doing the ‘hard work’ of attending parties, watching movies, and talking about our film....

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our condo is ebbing with 9am-9pm rehearsals. One of the advantages (and nightmares) about doing a live performance film is that you can practice up until the last minute. There’s a bit of video tweaking to tinker with... but mostly, this is the first chance for Sam and Dave to practice with the Brooklyn-based musicians – T. Griffin, Catherine MacCrae and Dennis Cronin (aka the Quavers). It’s truly thrilling to see everyone buckling down to really focused work all day and night with a simple common goal of making the best art they possibly can. But it’s terrifying too! They must have enough sleep to function, but they must also have enough hours to practice...

Anyway, by the time of today’s show, we were all quite nervous. This is live! Sam is going to stand there in front of the audience, without a script, and with a little remote control to click through still images and Quicktime movies. And we don’t want the audience to be distracted by the technicalities. This is a philosophical personal essay on utopia – many people have pitched in to make it happen, and quite a few of them are here (including Sam’s proud parents).... Sam said afterwards that he’d feared he might get hit by lightning or Tourette’s in the middle of the show. Luckily, he looked so calm that I never would have known.

I’m happy to report, that all went brilliantly. The audience laughed and stopped to have long discussions afterwards – maybe this is a jumping off point for each of us to ask ourselves what we are doing (or not) to improve the world we live in. If audiences leave having this kind of discussion, then I think the work is doing it’s job.

And as for the producer’s job – a live film can’t be pitched to the normal places. For now, we’re straddling the film and art worlds – booking shows in festivals and museum performance spaces. We filmed this show (Adrian Belic and Bennett Cerf showed up to shoot for us), so maybe we’ll have something we can show to people soon. I suspect that eventually there will be a full DVD of the work.

For now, it’s interesting to think about alternative means of distribution... Nobody knows how all our films will be distributed in the near future, but everyone agrees it’s changing. There are panels at Sundance and Slamdance about new distribution methods – and I’ve bumped into various panelists who are fascinated by a project like ours. Anything that breaks the mold is food for thought these days — fingers crossed for all of us!

1 comment:

  1. I was really angry to see the claim by Sam Green in his "Utopia in Four Movements" that Esperanto had failed, as this is untrue.

    In order to understand the cause of my ire see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    Also see http://eurotalk.com/en/store/learn/esperanto