A Journey to Sundance
“It’s as easy as following the Yellow Brick Road”
In the “WIZARD OF OZ”, Dorothy was told all she had to do to get home was follow a yellow brick road and
the great and powerful Wizard of Oz would grant all her wishes. Sounds simple right? She even found some comrades along the way who also wanted something from the wizard. So, they were all ready to take a nice long easy stroll down the yellow brick road and have all their wishes come true… or so they thought.
Once upon a time, there was a Los Angeles film graduate named JULIAN. He had an idea fueled with a passion: To find the true meaning of what independent film really is. He knew that the Great Sundance Film Festival was the origin of all that is and was of independent film. It was also a place where the ones they called “industry folk” would pilgrimage every year to pay homage to the independent filmmaker. At this point, Julian was homeless, living in his SUV with little to no money. Sundance was so far away, he figured it was just dream. But, he knew that if he didn’t start the journey to accomplish his dream he would wither away and die.
As he started on his lonely journey, he met up with a strange man. He called himself BILLY. Billy asked Julian where he was going. Julian said that he is on a journey to discover the true meaning of what independent film is. Billy thought this was a really great idea and seemed very excited about what Julian was telling him. Julian asked if he would like to travel with him on his journey. Billy said yes at first, but then thought maybe he shouldn’t because he had a family that depended on him to keep food on the table. Then he said, “But I’m sure it will be alright, so why not. Let’s go.” As quickly as he said yes, then it was no and then yes. He couldn’t seem to make up his mind. Julian thought it was as if Billy had one foot in the boat and one foot out. Finally, Billy said yes and started with Julian on his journey but still wasn’t really sure about it.
Julian and Billy slowly went on their trek. With Billy worrying about family obligations and Julian not sure about where he was going or how to find the true meaning of independent film, they weren’t making much headway. Suddenly, they came upon a woman with beautiful red hair. She was ordering about workers and keeping them on task. She seemed to have great magical skills in keeping people organized. Billy and Julian both looked at each other and knew that they could really use her magical skill of organization to help them. “What is your name?” Billy asked. “My name is JENNIFER,” she said. They explained to her what their quest was and she became enthralled by the excitement of it all. She too was always interested in what an independent filmmaker is and why they are so widely admired. So, she quit her laboring job, gathered her tools of organization and journeyed down the road with the two lads to what they hoped would be a magnificent adventure.
Their journey wasn’t going well. They had a plan but it wasn’t very strong. Their direction was constantly changing and they couldn’t agree on anything. Jennifer, growing very impatient with their uncertainty suggested they stop and rest for a bit and devise a plan on just how they were going to accomplish their mutual desire.
Just then, they came across WILLIAM, an old mythical, tall, lanky man with grey hair. He had a bright smile and invited the three into his cottage. Julian told him of their quest but didn’t really know what to do or how to get their answers. The old man sat patiently and rubbed his coarse grey beard while puffing on his long white pipe. He then, without a word, stood up and stepped outside of his cottage. The three looked at each other and decided they better follow him. They found the old man standing on a cobble stone road called “Interstate 15”. “Where did this come from?” Billy asked. The old man turned to the three and said, “It was here all along, you just didn’t realize it.”
“Where does it lead to?” asked Jennifer. This road will take you to the Great Sundance Film Festival. There you will find all of what you seek. The three turned to look at the road and as they looked back the old man and his cottage had vanished. The only thing left was a MAGICAL RECORDING BOX and a note that read, “Your Journey will be long and tenuous, so take this box and record what you have learned, then share it with the world.”
All three were scared, as none of them ever ventured deep into the cold, glistening white snowcapped mountains of Park City, home of the Great Festival. They knew that this is where all of their questions could be answered, but weren’t sure if they could do it. So after much discussion and mediation, they realized they too must make the pilgrimage to find their answers. There was a problem. They weren’t one of the “industry folk”. How would they blend in? They thought about it and decided the only way to be accepted was to become independent filmmakers themselves.
How would they do that? They had heard that the independent filmmaker could create a gift for the Great Wizard. If he was pleased with it, he would display it at the Festival for all to see and applaud. All three sat in silence for what seemed like forever, thinking of the best gift they could offer up to the Wizard of Sundance. Billy exclaimed, “Why not make our gift the story of the Great Festival itself, and how it has transformed independent film.” They all sat staring at one another wondering if the idea could really work. Just then- Julian said, “If we were to create this gift, we would surely discover the true meaning of independent film and be accepted by the great and powerful Wizard of Sundance!” They gathered their tools to prepare, made long lists for preparation and set out on what was to be a 13-year, unimaginable journey to Sundance.
As the 13 year long, life-changing journey came to an end; the question arose between our three adventurers. What did they learn? Each shared their own experiences with each other to come to some very similar points of view.
They came to realize that many people have a different interpretation of what independent film really is. The journey to create art with little to no tools or manpower is extremely difficult. You must have a passion and belief in your project stronger than any criticism that can be bestowed upon it by outsiders (in some cases insiders). The journey never truly ends, as new experiences will always replace old ones. When your journey is at its darkest point, don’t run away from it but embrace it tighter.
They also learned that the Great Sundance Film Festival was a place filled with filmmakers’ hopes and dreams of inspiring thought and comment. The hope to entertain an audience to the point of exuberance through the work they had done.
They discovered the festival is also mixed with the great commerce of the industry. A place where deals are made by the “industry folk” and money exchanged for filmmakers’ blood, sweat and tears. They also learned the Great Wizard of Sundance isn’t a great wizard at all, but just a man. A man who had a truly inspiring idea, once upon a time, to help small voices tell stories of great things. A man who now hides behind the curtain from the unimaginable monster that sprouted from his dream.