Sundance Report: The Ten Commandments

People often ask me, “How do I get to Sundance?” I give them the same answer as the New Yorker who was asked how to get to Carnegie Hall: What am I, the tourist board?

But seriously. Many filmmakers try to get their films into the Sundance Film Festival, but it requires skill, such as remembering not to say “film” four times in one sentence. You have to have a keen eye as a director, and as a writer, you’ll need a profanity dictionary.

Films are selected by a committee. These people are very committed to the Sundance Film Festival; why, they wear black leather jackets all year long, not just for 11 days in January. The selection process is arduous. The committee members watch films, have extensive debates, and apparently smoke a great deal of crack to determine which films are truly in the Sundance spirit.

Sometimes, the decision is easy to make. For example, this year’s festival includes a movie called “Love in the Time of Money.” It is not a very good movie. If someone gave you a video of it, you would tape over it. “West Wing,” maybe, or “Friends.” But this plucky little film had something working to its advantage: Its executive producer is Robert Redford, the leathery midget who founded Sundance and who I’m sure exerted no pressure whatsoever on the selection committee. (With each passing year, it becomes less likely Mr. Redford will ever submit to an interview with me.)

Short of having the founder executive-produce your film, what can you, the aspiring filmmaker, do to ensure your movie is deemed worthy to play at Sundance? Here are the Ten Commandments of independent filmmaking, as handed down to Robert Redford on Mt. Sundance.

* Thou shalt be “edgy” and push envelopes. Specifically, thou shalt have at least one gay person per movie.

* Thou shalt not allow traditional two-parent families in thy movies, unless a) the parents hateth each other, b) one of the parents beeth a pedophile, or c) the mother decideth half-way through that behold, she is a lesbian.

* If a film existeth that hath too many lesbians, the Sundance committee hath not seen it.

* Thou shalt include in thy cast people like Parker Posey or Christina Ricci; behold, if thou casteth Adam Sandler or Cheech Marin, thou might as well throw thy movie in the Dumpster — yea, verily, in the damn Dumpster.

* Any film which is in the Iranian tongue shall be brilliant.

* In thy pursuits of “edginess,” be thou aware of political correctness. If, for example, thy movie containeth a murderer and a homosexual, be thou sure they art not the same character. And any character who maketh a joke about homosexuals must be a villainous character, or turneth out to be gay himself.

* Behold, where is that intern with my latte?

* Remember thy film editor, and keep him nourished with crystal meth, so that he may edit thy film to look like a music video.

* Religion hath no place in a Sundance film, except as it shall be mocked.

* Thou may know thy movie is good when thy audience understandeth it not but pretendeth to like it anyway, so they may appear smart.

[ Originally, I just started listing “rules” for Sundance movies. I changed to the Ten Commandments format because a) I do so enjoy writing in Bible-style language, and b) it helped me come up with a movie title for the column.
We got this angry letter sent via the Herald Web site. (There’s a feedback form you can fill out, apparently.) It is fairly typical, as angry letters go, but a lot more level-headed than most:
I occasionally read Eric Snider’s various columns and articles.
Here are some conclusions I have come to:
Eric’s approach would be just fine for the BYU Daily Universe or the UofU Chronicle. He speaks fluent college and excellent high school, but the Daily Herald is a newspaper that serves a cross-section of various age groups.
I was surprised to see Mr. Snider resort to name-calling, an act that would guarantee him a C grade for any article or column in any high school or college journalism class. [Obviously, this person did not go to high school or college where I did.] To wit, calling Robert Redford a “leathery midget.” [Writing an incomplete sentence like that would also guarantee a C grade.] I am not an acquaintance nor am I particularly a fan of Mr. Redford’s, but I do know that, as a move personality, he is held in high regard in this area.
Calling him names can only reduce Mr. Snider in the opinion of his readers. [It can ONLY do that? Seem like in most scenarios, the universe allows for more than just one possible outcome.] I do agree with many of Mr. Snider’s observations concerning the Sundance Film offerings, but I wish he would remember those of us readers who have long since graduated from high school and college, yet make up a considerable representation of your newspaper’s readers.
I never heard from the leathery midget himself, but I did hear from several people who cited that as their favorite comment of the week.
In 2011, I recycled some of these jokes for a similar column for ]