Our Sundance Rite of Passage At Last!

Posted in Diary of a Directrix, News
August 17th, 2010 by Devi Snively (The Directrix)

sundance-egyptianI have attended Sundance 4 times now.  The first time I had a winning screenplay at Slamdance.  The second and third time I had films screening at Tromadance, and the last time I was there simply for the love of the festival-going experience. Acceptance from Sundance itself, however, had as of yet, eluded me.  Many told me there was no point to even bother submitting, that the competition was too fierce and one had to have some connection in order to even be considered.

Interestingly, I had been told the same thing about AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women.  Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t listen.oh_my_godBesides, I knew in the case of Sundance this just wasn’t true. I’ve met several directors whose wonderful films screened there and were chosen based on their merits alone.  Now maybe I was fencing with windmills again as I know I’m apt to do, but rather than get all bitter about it, I decided to toss my hat into this highly coveted ring, this time with a project for their screenwriters lab.

That was back in May and, quite frankly, I had long since forgotten about it in the flurry of activity this summer – moving, post-prod, pre-prod, fests, teaching, writing and non-stop meetings  (hence, the lag in blogging of late. There simply hasn’t been time.)

a-list-graphicHowever, about 2 weeks ago, I ran into a friend who informed me she had made it to the second round of the Sundance lab.  I myself had heard nothing back and assumed that I had my answer.  She also told me that she’d had a very influential contact make sure her application got into the “right pile,” whatever that means.

Admittedly, I felt a bit down, but certainly not out.  I knew our project was on the right track.  I knew it because I just knew it, but also, in part, because just a few weeks prior I got one of the best rejections ever.

talentdevelopmentslide See, last year I had submitted a much rougher draft of Circus’ and my screenplay to the Film Independent’s Writer’s Lab.  We were rejected and the coverage was harsh, but filled with truly helpful comments.  It lit the necessary fire under our asses to rewrite it until it truly worked. And I believe we’ve succeeded.

lifflogo2008A later draft went on to win the grand jury award at the London Independent Film Festival where a staged reading and consultations with producers in London assisted us with further rewrites.  I couldn’t even tell you what rewrite draft we’re on by now.  It’s been quite the journey.  But in spring we finally reached a place where Circus and I both agreed, our baby was ready to go out into the world.  Within weeks we had a producer attached and things have been moving forward at a promising pace.  That’s not to say there’s no work left to be done on the script.  But this is the draft that convinced us that THIS is the movie we want to make.  Hell, we NEED to make it.  And so we shall.

MOST IMPROVED STUDENTWe re-entered a much tighter draft to the Film Independent’s writer’s lab this year and got positively glowing coverage.  In fact, the feedback was a bit too glowing, alas.  They ultimately concluded, “Though the script is terrific on many levels, it definitely feels more mainstream than it does indie, and frankly doesn’t seem to need the sort of heavy development work that the Screenwriters Lab provides.”

h4skag1D’oh!  But not really.  I couldn’t have been a prouder parent.  That is, until last Friday.  In my e-mail inbox I saw what I presumed was my rejection form letter from the Sundance Lab.

Slide1Only, it wasn’t a rejection at all.  We did it!  We made it to round 2!

I know the odds are still against us, but this is a victory unto itself. It’s a rite of passage.  Sundance wrote US an e-mail offering congratulations and it literally gave me goose bumps.  THE Sundance.  Wow!  It might just be one small toenail in the door, but it’s a triumph nonetheless.  We’ve beaten astounding odds already.

prom imageCongrats and thanks to my partner Circus-Szalewski (with whom I’ve formed the DEVIANT CIRCUS) and to the many of you who have generously participated in our many screenplay readings and offered your feedback to get us to this point.   I can only hope we get to screen Paige & Hadley’s Prom From Hell at Sundance one day, but for now, it feels like the beginning of a lifelong dream.

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