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Sundance Blog 4: live TV, a Brit brunch and a loud party

  • British Film Brunch

The British film brunch in Sundance

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 in this fourth instalment he writes about the experience of an early-morning live TV interview, a packed screening in Salt Lake City, a welcoming British brunch, and the shorts awards party.

Ed writes: One of the most satisfying things so far about being in Sundance is the attention the event pays its short filmmakers. I’ve heard that shorts can get a little lost at other festivals, but not so here. Not only are the screenings well attended – we had our second Park City showing yesterday, to another near-capacity crowd – but there’s the constant opportunity for other forms of support.

Yesterday, for instance, one of the publicists arranged an interview with Pia and myself on the local breakfast TV show. We had to be at the TV studio for 7am – which gave us the privilege of seeing the sun break over the mountains. Still, getting up was hard work. Ordinarily I’d be daunted about the prospect of live television, but this morning I was too tired to feel fazed, and too blurry to know if I was making any sense.

The festival also programmes a slot in Salt Lake City, Utah's state capital, for each of the short films here. It’s a 40-minute or so drive – the passing scenery is breathtaking – and it's an opportunity to see how your film plays with audiences outside of the Park City festival bubble.

Sundance clearly works hard to build audience loyalty in SLC, because our mid-afternoon screening, almost all members of the paying public rather than industry delegates, was nearly full. They were warmly welcoming to us when we introduced Abandoned Goods, and the questions afterwards were sharp and insightful.

Like most other festivals, Sundance also hosts plenty of receptions as well as screenings. For UK-based filmmakers, the big one this week was the brunch (pictured) organised by the British Film Institute and British Film Commission. It was a popular event. In her welcoming address the BFI Film Fund’s Lizzie Francke required us all to come up to the mic and introduce ourselves.

William Bishop-Stephens and Christopher Eales were there with their animation Two Films about Loneliness; Mike Foshaw said a few words about his short Saturday, a fictional account of the Hillsborough disaster; and Ben Aston told us about making Russian Roulette for £50 and now finding himself in Sundance. Apart from It’s Me Hilary (which we’re programmed with) I haven’t seen any of the shorts in competition (for now, I’ve been focussing on features, for my other job as a programme consultant for the BFI London Film Festival). But these receptions are a great opportunity to meet other filmmakers – and I plan to catch up with the other films later in the week.

The short film awards were held Wednesday night too. The event took place in a bowling alley, a little away from the town centre, in an atmosphere of relaxed friendliness that’s marked the rest of my festival experience. Short programmers Mike Plante and Kim Yutani gave a very generous speech about the importance of shorts to the rest of the festival and made a good running joke about their malfunctioning mic. You can see a list of the winners here. It’s a cliché but it happens to be true in this instance: we were happy enough to be selected and are really pleased for the filmmakers who won.

We carried on with the party atmosphere at a reception in a private condo near our hotel. The organiser of this event is a very respectable film funder. I should spare their blushes by not naming them because the police arrived just after midnight following complaints from the neighbours. A crowd remained outside the house, determined to move on elsewhere – but after our early start for the interview it felt like a good moment to call it a night and we caught a cab back to the hotel.

You can also read part one and part two, part threepart 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.