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Sundance blog 3: the big premiere...with Lena Dunham

In Park City: producer Kate Ogborn, directors Pia Borg and Edward Lawrenson, and producer Lisa Marie Russo

January 2015

Edward Lawrenson and Pia Borg are at the Sundance Film Festival this week to present their short film Abandoned Goods. Ed is also sharing his Sundance diary, and this third instalment is about the exciting and nervewracking experience of the film's Sundance premiere.

Ed writes: Our film, Abandoned Goods, had its Sundance premiere on Saturday, at 11.30 in the Egyptian Theatre (one of the festival’s landmark venues). We were nervous, but I had an early-morning screening to keep my mind busy. That film was called Meru, an absorbing mountaineering documentary. Watching the three climbers who were its lead characters scale a notoriously dangerous Himalayan peak had the added advantage of putting my nerves into perspective.

Once we got to the venue the Sundance organisers kept us busy too. We met our producers Kate and Lisa Marie (whom we hadn’t seen since our London screening in October); and Mike Plante, the formidable and unfailingly friendly shorts programmer, was there to introduce the film. We were gently led to the press lineup to pose for the festival photographers (who rightly reminded us to smile).

It was a sold-out screening. Our film was scheduled to play with director Matt Wolf’s It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise. Lena Dunham, of Girls fame, was one the producers and was there to support the screening, and I’m pretty sure we have her name to thanks for the capacity crowd.

Our film screened first. It's been more than three years that we've been working on Abandoned Goods. The film is about a collection of artworks by residents of a psychiatric hospital, and when Pia first became aware of these paintings and sculptures - via the tireless advocacy of the psychiatrist Dr David O' Flynn (who would become our consultant on the project) - the items were stored away in obscure and unhappy circumstances: in a filing cabinet and a disused shower room in an NHS hospital in South London.

When we began filming, with modest means and few expectations, we had no inkling we'd end up here, at this huge festival in Utah, sharing what we'd discovered about these extraordinary artworks with a theatre full of curious strangers. It was a surreal and moving experience. And also a little melancholic: the art that Abandoned Goods showcased found, I think, an appreciative audience among the Sundance crowd, but the recognition has come too late for the individuals who created the work.

Pia, Kate, Lisa Marie and I followed the screening for the Q&A, and were gratified by the smart questions.

Oh, and Lena Dunham approached us to say she liked the film, which was very nice of her. The film she made with Matt was terrific, by the way. Like ours it was a long short, about the artist Hilary Knight, who drew the illustrations for the Eloise books. Although different in tone (it's really funny), the film was a good companion piece with ours, an astute piece of programming by Sundance: it was about the creative process, and also provoked questions about the ownership of artistic works. We were really pleased to screen with it.

By the time we shuffled out of the Egyptian, the combination of anxiety, adrenaline and high altitude (a characteristic Sundance cocktail) left us drained and exhilarated. And looking forward to our next screening on Tuesday, outside of the festival bubble in Park City, in Salt Lake City -- about an hour away.

You can also read part one and part two, part fourpart five and part six of Ed's Sundance diary.

Follow @British_Film on Twitter to keep up with each new instalment.

Ed and Pia are attending Sundance thanks in part to a Short Film Travel Grant from British Council and BFI. More information about the grants can be found here.

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