I had an amazing opportunity to return to Park City this year with my film WITHOUT SHEPHERDS. I was more than excited as not only was I going public with the first documentary film I had produced, but I was playing Slamdance for the first time in my career.
While this had been my 5th year returning to Park City during the festivals as a film enthusiast, professional and former Sundance alumni, I had a few anxieties about how to approach the assembled film community. I’d always been very impressed by the filmmakers and films emanating from Slamdance but I couldn’t help but be concerned about battling everything that transpires during those 10 days in January. Also, our film is an issue-oriented foreign documentary dealing with a very relevant but at times visually disturbing story of Pakistan.
After receiving notice around Thanksgiving that we had been accepted into Slamdance the reality of how much work was required became very obvious. Web-site redesign and poster development, social media strategy and re-ignition of our various feeds, PR pitches and media placements, color and sound finishing and everything in-between. While I had been pushing for months to get some of these tasks finished before our world-wide premier, the realities of budgets and time and a thousand other variables makes us always feel like we could have done more.
While our film might be somewhat smaller in size compared to other documentaries playing Sundance or even Slamdance, we more than make up for that in terms of our message and the devotion of the team we’ve nurtured over the past 5 years. Our premier at Slamdance was no exception with over 40 members of cast and crew supporting our launch, including our co-director/cinematographer, Imran Babur, who had traveled all the way from Pakistan. Together, with the support of Clare Anne Darragh at Frank PR and the team at Picture Motion, Jonathan Gray and Nicole Compass at Gray Krauss, the collection of graphic designers helmed by Rachel Yoo, interns and production assistants helping on the ground day by day, we worked to make a splash at the top of Main Street for our World Premier.
Over the course of 10 days, we completely sold out both of our screenings and assembled a nice group for our P&I screening after handing out over 500 buttons, posting 100 posters and distributing over 1000 quarter cards throughout Park City. Although we were going up against the major agency parties Sunday Night, we still had over 250 people come out for our after party that generated over an uncountable number of social media posts through the on-site photo booth where guests could do shout-outs in support of our cause. In all, I’m extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish as the smaller David against the larger Goliath, which typifies Park City in January and as we work through negotiations on some foreign and domestic distribution deals I’m excited by the fact that this literally is just the beginning of a long road.
Some of the more memorable moments from the week ran the spectrum from happy to sad, exciting to concerning. Our grand scheme to do a series of street projections along Main Street Friday and Saturday night promoting our Facebook page along with campaign hash-tags ran aground after the power adapters in the vehicles running the projectors all blew fuses despite having enough power to support the equipment we had rented. Rest assured, we still got a few moments of video up until our PA was told by the cops that they were going to be shut down because of a lack of permit. I recall the warm feeling of our crew dinner Saturday night at 305 Main, as members of the team from all over the globe came together for the first time to not only meet in person but to congratulate each other for many years of committed energy and passion. I also will never forget the applause and engagement of the audiences during our Q&A’s where always the question of “did you feel safe” was guaranteed to come up!
I recall an amazing interview with Shanna Yehlen at FilmBuff that evolved into a larger discussion on the role of art to help transform rigid beliefs on important social and political topics. As we gathered that same morning waiting for our live broadcast segment on CNN we were saddened to learn about the shooting in Houston and the need to throw live coverage to that horrific event. We were naturally disappointed that the interview piece we had worked so hard to secure was going to be preempted but we were able to reschedule for next week. I remember almost missing our red-carpet moment when a panel that I was sitting on in Deer Valley for The Collective ran late. I finally made it to the Treasure Mountain Hotel 10 minutes late only to realize that I had to sprint down Main Street as I was at the wrong address!
Leaving Park City, exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that had been accomplished over the past 2 months, I remembered why I had committed to this project a short 3 years ago. Armed with a sense that our director Cary McClelland would be an authoritative and eloquent voice for the challenging political stories that needed to be told I was now more than satisfied with our results. A huge thank you to Asad Rahman, Saad Siddiqui, Rob Collier, Phil Michaelsen, Usman Nabi and Arik Ruchim, among others, for making this happen financially; to Billy Smith for being such a steady and constant force for all; to Jonathan Gray and Nicole Compass from Gray Krauss for their continued legal advisory; Daryl Dunbar and Douglas Burack from Lutz & Carr for their accounting advisory; and, Clare Anne from Frank PR along with the entire Picture Motion team for its continued dedication and immense effort.
My annual pilgrimage to Park City, regardless of how difficult the challenge may be, always reaffirms why I do what I do. In the darkest and most concerning of times, you need to go with your gut, keep your head down and work hard. Seeing long time friends and making new ones year over year gives fuel to all my creative endeavors and has served as the means for many successful collaborations. A heartfelt thanks to Slamdance 2013 for letting us tell our story and being so amazing along the way!