R2PC: Road to Park City

on January 26, 2000 by Jon A. Walz
   It is astonishing that over 2,000 completed films were submitted to Sundance, Slamdance and their various offspring for a scant 150 openings during the most unusual 10-day film fest in the most unlikely of American towns--Park City, Utah. The "Sundance Phenomenon" has driven otherwise sane people to madness, with dreams of million-dollar deals and brand-spanking-new lives of fame, glamour and breakfasts with Heather Graham. With almost six independent films completed per day, all by filmmakers with fantasies of Park City dancing in their heads, it's marvelous that cynic Bret Stern has explored the humor of this madness in the delightful "The Road to Park City."

   An insightful comedy with roots in the great mockumentary movement of the 1980s, the film follows an impassioned and misguided wannabe filmmaker, John Viener (a comedian playing himself), who throws everything away to make "a film that's gonna win Sundance." Seeking advise from friends, industry veterans and technicians, his quest becomes a guided tour of what to do, and, more pointedly, what not to do.

   The depth of John's incompetence is maddening but real and, as an introduction to the desperate domain of no-budget filmmaking, it is quite accurate. Stern, who based this film on his book, knows this world well, and his intentions seem to be to help rather than bash the independent filmmaking community. Unfortunately, the best comic bits will be lost on virtually everyone outside of the very insular film production community. However, there are thousands of filmmakers, veteran and nascent alike, who could only benefit from a viewing of the film.    Starring John Viener. Written and Directed by Bret Stern. Produced by Carolyn Grassl, Bret Stern and Karl Kempter. A Phaedra release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 90 min.

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