Right, then. Salt Lake City. Sundance 2000. The story of selling “Two Family House”. Anybody still care? Anybody reading this?
The guys from USA films were very enthused about the movie and naturally this alerted the other distributors, who showed en masse to our second screening the following night, this time in Park City. We’d planned a little post screening party at the dreadfully Park City-ish house we were renting, figuring on twenty or so people dropping by. The film played very well but it was hard to judge if we were going to get any more offers.
Until we got back to our house. To our astonishment the party had already started, prior to us even getting there. People were pouring into the place, I imagine having been told that the new ‘hot’ film at the festival was throwing the evening’s ‘hot’ party. Sundance is one lousy party after another–crowded, loud, filled with bloodsuckers and wannabes–and there we were, purveyors of one of the festivals biggest lousy parties! Only the truth is, ours was quite pleasant. For one thing I only allow jazz to be played at any gathering–and despite what the ignorant and uninformed think of jazz (“too weird”, “for smart people”, “no beat” etc.) the best jazz–served at a reasonably pleasant place with plenty of booze–makes everyone feel just a little more…civil. Cool. Appropriately charming. (Re: people who don’t get jazz: do you know who is scandalously uninformed about jazz and doesn’t hide his outright distaste for it? Cameron Crowe. Every one of his movies has some “bad jazz” joke in it. I don’t really care if you don’t like jazz, but if you’re a self-proclaimed music ‘expert’–and have taken over the franchise on Billy Wilder as well–you ought to stop bragging about your loathing of America’s greatest indiginous art form. Does he brag about not liking to read books?)
Anyway, present at the party was Mark Urman from Lions Gate films, whose very presence seemed to indicate that we had another buyer interested. The next day the producers met with each company and considered the two offers–I absented myself from this process, the better to do press and not be faced with the stress of having people who desire something from you come on strong…always an embarrassing thing to witness, in my opinion. And by the end of the next day, we’d sold the movie–to Lions Gate. The festival was only a few days old but it was, for all intents and purposes, over for me. We’d accomplished what everybody hopes to in the independent film game. Made movie, shown movie at Sundance, sold movie. I disliked the altitude in Park City, didn’t want to go to any more parties or screenings, and went home shortly thereafter.
Thus missing out on being there to accept the first award I’ve ever actually won. Since “Two Family House” wasn’t allowed in competition, we were only eligible for the Audience Award. And the movie that seemed to be attracting the heavy buzz that year was the by now all but forgotten “Girlfight” (probably best known now as the movie we have to blame for bringing us the problematic Michelle Rodriguez). It was in competition and seemed a certain bet to sell and win the Jury prize. Since the film was apparently a big crowd pleaser, I figured it would also pick up the Audience Award…and that it would be best for me to take the good news I had and beat a hasty retreat back to New York.
A week later, on the day of the closing night of the festival, my manager Gary Unger called me from Park City. “They’re asking if there’s any chance you can get on a plane and make it back here before the awards ceremony”. The answer was no–I was in New York and the timing would have been perilous if not impossible. But at least I knew that we’d won the Audience Award. Gary and my producer Al Klingenstein accepted on my behalf. The awards show was televised, so me and my wife and two of our friends watched it on TV in the upstairs living room of our apartment on West 4th Street. I never regretted not being there–indeed there was a certain shadowy glamour to my conspicuous absence. A couple of days later, one of the New York dailies ran a piece on the Sundance winners and noted that that year’s winning filmmakers all came from New York. Referring to me, the writer commented “De Felitta, who has always marched to his own drummer, skipped the ceremony…” thereby placing me in the august company of the New Yorker who actually PLANS to miss all of his own award ceremony’s–Woody Allen.