February has been a bit of a shit month. I knew that life immediately following Sundance wouldn’t be easy, but I never imagined it’d be… like this.
At present, I’m as broke as I can recall being, at least since I first moved to NYC. This is due, primarily, to getting profoundly fucked-over by the freelance editing client I was working for in New Jersey, who canceled my contract for legally dubious reasons and now refuses to pay me for even more legally dubious reasons. Yes, I did sign a contract, but as freelancers aren’t protected under employment law in this country, my only recourse is to take them to small claims court, which I’m not even sure I can do because they live in New Jersey. I’m told that this is something that happens to every freelancer at one point or another, but for it to happen to me now is… inconvenient, disappointing, frustrating, and profoundly depressing.
A second reason for my financial straits is that I’ve had to start paying back my CitiBank private student loans, in spite of the fact that I am still underemployed. I was able to defer them for all of last year, during which time there were apparently laws passed which allowed private student loan lenders to eliminate the extended and graduated repayment plans, leaving me with one option –– a $500/month standard payment. While I accept and acknowledge that I “knew what I was getting into” when I took out this loan, the student loan system in this country is completely out of control, and the people at CitiBank are a bunch of assholes. If things continue as they are, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another financial crisis based not on mortgages but on student loan debt.
And while I’m on my soapbox, doesn’t it seem a bit counterintuitive to have the most educated people in our country be burdened by debt because they chose to further their education?
If only I were too big to fail, perhaps the government would bail me out of my debt.
But I digress…
I do have some promising freelance work lined up for March, as well as some meetings and interviews that are promising in other ways, so my current financial lot will (god willing) improve. The present, however, is no fun.
But on Wednesday I’m flying to California, thanks to my sister and Brian, and I can’t think of a better way to get March started right.
After nine days of too little sleep and too much of everything else, my body finally gave in and broke down on my last day in Park City. “That’ll do, pig” it said, and it wasn’t talking about my mad shepherding skills. My body was angry, and I didn’t blame it –– I was, and still am, grateful that it waited until the end of the festival to express its displeasure.
I’ve been back in Brooklyn for a week, and I haven’t moved much. The weather here is pretty horrible, and the streets are lined with giant brown snowdrifts, so it’s a good time to be indoors and make a random bulleted list of what just happened, for your enjoyment and my hopeful eventual comprehension:
- The word that came to mind most often (perhaps too often) at Sundance was “surreal.” Second place was a tie between “overwhelming” and “remarkable.”
- Adjusting to the elevation resulted in an almost absurd amount of flatulence by almost everyone who came to stay with us. The few who didn’t fart got stomach aches, some temporarily debilitating. I was happy to have farted. Mount Everest must be a smelly place.
- Free Shit = a coat, a camera, a flameless candle (battery operated), several beanies, American Apparel clothes, boots, a $100 poker-themed windbreaker, cigars (unsmoked), a sippy cup, weed, a custom-engraved lemon/lime juicer, shoes, CDs, a free night at a boutique hotel in LA, many bags, too much alcohol, breath spray, gum, gloves, food, etc.
- After our third or fourth screening, one of the shorts programmers (Jon) came up to me and told me how much they’d all loved COVERAGE, and how close it had come to getting programmed two years ago. This was probably the most gratifying moment of the festival for me.
- Best (and most haunting) Feature Seen = Hobo With A Shotgun
- Best (and funniest) Short Seen = Love Birds
- Best Random Meeting = Todd Louiso, the director of Love Liza –– one of my favorite films. Nice guy, normal guy –– it was difficult to keep my inner starstruck-ness from bubbling up during our conversation, but I think I did an ok job. Anyone who makes a dark comedy about a gas-huffing Phillip Seymour Hoffman is cool in my book –– I only wish I’d had a copy of COVERAGE to give him.
- Best Story Heard = Talking to a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines at the Cinetic party, she told me a story of a flight in which a man had a service monkey that was “servicing” him under his tray table. With his little paw. Unable to keep this story to myself, I went up to a group of three strangers and repeated the story, and afterwards found out that one of them was Morgan Spurlock –– director of Super Size Me. Nice guy.
- I don’t tend to recognize famous people, and I found this serves me well when approaching groups of strangers at industry parties. At one point I apparently had a conversation with Vera Farmiga and her husband without realizing that she was that person from that big movie with George Clooney that I didn’t much care for but many people did.
- During the ten days I was in Park City, the weather was consistently better than it was in Brooklyn. Go figure.
- I learned that I almost always unconsciously cock my head to the side during photo shoots for some reason, and also that I shouldn’t be clean-shaven for said shoots. Notes to self.
- Strangest Celebrity Encounter = I was trying on coats in a swag lounge and I noticed a crowd of paparazzi gathering near me, frantically snapping photos. At first I thought they were taking pictures of me, which seemed strange, then I looked to my left and saw Danny Glover also trying on coats. Ahh. Later, as I was being shown how to make my own margarita, my “teacher” was pulled away to find a bigger bag for all of Danny Glover’s swag. I made the rest of my margarita on my own –– thanks Danny Glover, you were great in 2012.
- I missed Oprah, but apparently her appearance on Main Street caused a near-riot, with people chanting her name as she quickly made her way to another undisclosed location.
- I didn’t see Michael McDonald, but I did get to hear his band warm-up, and it sounded as cool and mellow as it was in my dreams. What a fool belieeeeves….
- There was almost always twice as much alcohol as there was food at almost every event I attended, which didn’t bode well, particularly at the afternoon events. Two pieces of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and two glasses of red wine is apparently considered a well-rounded meal at Sundance.
- The residents of Park City are, generally, disarmingly friendly. This also goes for the thousands of festival volunteers.
…I wrote most of the above over the past several days, before the (perhaps) inevitable fallout from the festival. My creative relationship with my friend, Michael, has since been severed, for reasons that seem complicated but in the end can be boiled down to the inevitable failure of combining business with friendship, particularly in the creative world. And as upset as I am at the end of our creative relationship, it’s the friendship that I’ll miss. I’d give Sundance back had I known this would be the result.
But life goes on, and tomorrow morning I’m off to New Jersey for four days to edit a documentary about the Algerian War. They’re paying me and putting me up in a hotel room and everything, and at the moment there’s something weirdly appealing about staying alone in a hotel room in New Jersey for a few days. Maybe I’ll figure something out, maybe I’ll watch too much TV.