Freida Lee Mock
Park City, Utah
For various reasons I've never blogged but I know that the Huffington Post is a good place to start, so here goes. We¹re just past the mid point, five days, in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival where my film Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner had its World Premiere.
A couple of weeks before the start of the Festival Geoff Gilmore, the festival director, called to say they were changing the venue of the premiere to the Eccles Theater. I kind of blanched. I said "isn¹t that a Huge place?" So at noon last Friday when Caroline Libresco, the programmer, introduced the premier of the film and the director, I had a slight panic when I looked out at the crowd; the place was packed, close to 1300 seats. It looked like a football stadium only I wasn¹t sure they were fans. Then I thought "what if the 5 reels were spliced together out of order and upside down?" This was a brand new 35 mm print that had just been shipped and I hadn¹t seen it or the film with an audience. Well, it was a relief when I heard the audience laugh and cry at the parts I always reacted to during postproduction. Sundance is a fantastic place to be and the audiences are amazing.
My posse of friends at the festival could be counted on to be true believers, but it was great to hear that a stranger like Sally Field was passing out flyers of the film after seeing it. Then someone told me that the photographer Sally Mann, the subject of a film here, and her daughter snatched a couple of tickets from the director of her film and loved Wrestling. Then I got a call at the office that Kim Basinger was inquiring about the film. This is an embarrassing amount of name-dropping, but it¹s all part of the swirl of coming out after working in obscurity on this project for 4 years.
Wrestllng, by the way, started right after 9/11 and covers three years in the work and life of Tony Kushner as an artist and activist; the story ends with the 2004 Presidential election. At its core I try to explore the mystery of creativity, its sources and inspiration. In the process I hope the movie audiences will find Kushner as funny, serious, open hearted, political and engaging - intellectually, emotionally and psychologically - as I did when I first read his work and heard him speak. The film has been shown five times so far and it¹s fun to see the different audience reactions. In Salt Lake City the audience had a big, warm laugh at the parts about Mormons. In the film Tony talks about the inspiration for his 7 hour epic play Angels in America - a dream about an angel crashing through the ceiling and a terrible poem with the same title in which cute Mormons in white shirts and ties are standing on a subway station. In the play a Mormon family, Harper, Joe and mother Hannah Pitt, played by Meryl Steep in the HBO movie, are major characters in the drama.
At the festival, Wrestling with Angels has been adopted by the Queer Lodge, a wonderful space on Main Street and nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting LGBT-themed movies and bringing them to the mainstream. Ellen Huang, the executive director, has been fantastic in honoring the film at Glamdance. It was their kick-off festival party Friday which featured the fabulous East Village Opera Company singing rock arias dedicated to the film. They were an amazing ensemble of musicians and singers, perfect if you¹re an opera queen.
When I look back on the weekend kick-off of the film, it seemed like a Tony K moment. Tthe local Park Record paper ran a very large color photo of me and Tony with a headline in bold that looked like font size 20 (I¹m told this is good for the film.); the NY Times that same Sat. ran two photos of Tony in a story about an evening dialogue with E. L. Doctorow on the use of historical moments in art; and on Sunday the LA times ran an op-ed piece by Tony on Munich, the screenplay he wrote for Spielberg. A critic who came to a screening wrote, "catch Wrestling..If you want to know about the writer of Munich." If this all seems like a shill, I apologize since I¹ve never blogged and I¹m not sure what to really expect in cyberspace. Thanks.