Everybody’s Johnny Drama at Sundance

January 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This is about the time I thought Kevin Dillon was being an ass. Until I realized he was just being Johnny Drama. And that’s ok because everybody’s Johnny Drama at Sundance.

The 30th Sundance Film Festival got underway last night and runs through January 26. Many of my friends will be there and a few of them have films screening at Sundance or Slamdance – the scrappy, counter-programming upstart that’s evolved into it’s own force. This year’s line up looks promising.

For ten days every January Park City brims with chutzpah and hustle – it’s like West Hollywood in a parka. The Festival pulsates with creativity of both the inaccessible and transcendent varieties.  A-listers and wannabes press together in crowded theaters, restaurants and clubs. Love it or despise it, it’s hard to resist being drawn into the meta-narrative of “making it” at Sundance.

I made my first pilgrimage to the Festival in January 2005. About a year prior to that a friend and I founded a movie development/production company called Category One Entertainment. We were in it for the long haul so we took a year to establish a network, get up to speed on the Industry and look for material to produce. I was in Park City in ’05 to meet a few people, catch some films and see what all the fuss is about.

My first full day on the jam-packed sidewalks of Main Street, I got stuck behind four guys walking shoulder to shoulder. One of them, the guy I was directly behind, was gesturing wildly and talking loudly in an unmistakable New York accent.  The accent and overly affected suede cowboy hat and wool lined, lambskin duster made for a comical ensemble. After a moment I realized it was Kevin Dillon. I’d seen and appreciated his work early in his career. At this point I was only vaguely aware of the HBO series ENTOURAGE but completely out of the loop on the nature of his character. So, we’re walking along and I’m thinking, “Who does this guy think he is?” Because in my snap judgement, here was a former teen actor trying to be seen while making the scene at Sundance. I smirked with self-righteous dismissal.

A half hour later I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a producer, a director and an editor. We’re swapping Festival stories and poking around a project or two we might want to do together. In walks Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara with a couple of people instantly recognizable as members of a production crew. Dillon takes off his hat and gloves, and for the next fifteen minutes is as pleasant, charming and normal as can be to everyone he encounters. The front door opens, someone sticks her head in and says, “We’re ready for you guys.” And then it dawns on me. He wasn’t making the scene. He was shooting a scene. Because there are always cameras shooting in every direction on Main Street and because I was so fixated on just wanting to get around those guys, I didn’t even notice they were acting their guts out. Who did he think he was? Better question: who did I think I was?! Schmuck, that’s who.

My respect and affection for actors has grown and multiplied many times over after having worked with so many good ones in the last ten years. We make them wait and then demand they perform when the camera is ready. They have to do their very public jobs while not letting what we think about their performance get in their head. Whether they are working from the inside out or the outside in, they are creating and giving something of themselves to us. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it but I’m grateful they do.

A tip of the hat and my very best to all of you who are Sundancing and Slamdancing in 2014!

(Pictured: the cast of HBO’s ENTOURAGE, on the set of “The Sundance Kids” Season 2, Episode 7)
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