Like Crazy at Sundance: Let's Get Social

Categories: Film
It's madness to think how fast the week has gone. Friday, and I'm still pinching myself, expecting to wake up. An informal study I've been conducting via highly advanced methods of verbal interaction (having a conversation, some call it) seems to indicate most filmmakers here, including myself, are averaging two to three hours sleep per night. Adrenalin and duty fill in the blanks. And lots of crack. Just kidding. It's easy to forget this is work. Pleasurable, but work. The parties. The screenings. The opinions. Your opinion (what did you really think of the film?). Having your voice heard and finding others who might harmonize with it. While we were at a party the other night, adorable and hard-working Like Crazy production designer Katie Byron told me, "It's hard being social like this. I just plan on being discovered for my creative genius." She winked, and I was right there with her. We all wish it could be like that. In the meantime, let's get social.

All photos courtesy of Ben York Jones
Ben York Jones catches a Sundance screening of The Woods with makers of the film and fellow Chapman University film school alums. From left: Brian Davila, director Matthew Lessner, Jones, Lincoln Holmes and Justin Phillips.
Monday, I saw The Woods with Like Crazy editor Jonathan Alberts and composer Dustin. We sat in the balcony of the Egyptian, laughing, along with rest of the crowd. The film's cast and crew is comprised mostly of people I know from Chapman University or my music-video-directing days ( The movie is satirical, colorful and funny. Far from your typical narrative, the film plays half-documentary, half-music video. While this film will almost definitely not get picked up (blame its aloof attitude toward anything to quench a mainstream appetite), I foresee a very successful self-release and cultish following in the future of The Woods.

I found myself at a party for U.S. Dramatic Comp film On the Ice. Shot entirely on location in Alaska, it was filled mostly with locals in the leading roles. I asked the director of photography Lol Crawley (who also shot the U.S. Dramatic Comp selection Here) how it was shooting up there. "Fucking miserable," said the Shropshire D.P. He went on to explain this was only because of the extreme cold and the fact they were shooting in a dry state. By all accounts, the film looks beautiful. I ate a bunch of smoked salmon that had been flown in that day. Drank a bunch of Alaskan beer. Talked to some acquaintances from the year before. Then hopped in a cab with Like Crazy sound man Steve Nelson, his girlfriend and Like Crazy actress Katie Wallack, and Steve's brother Craig Nelson. We had a screening of our film to get to . . .

Screening was good. Critic Elvis Mitchell complimented us after: "It's your world, baby. It's your world. . . ."

That night, we hit a house party. I had no idea where we were. The place was like Irvine--everything looked the same. Except, here, snow is the excuse. What's yours, Irvine? Almost as soon as I walked through the door, I locked eyes with a woman I hadn't seen for a year, and even then had spoken to little one-on-one, but have since been captivated by: Diane Bell. Diane wrote/directed last year's U.S. Dramatic Comp selection Obselidia. And this year, she had just returned from the incredibly competitive Sundance Screenwriter's Lab. After a long embrace, the Scottish director and I talked for what seemed like hours. We shared experiences we each had over the past year. It was like seeing a loved one; I thought I had been swallowed by the sea. Or I had been. I was shocked by my reaction. It goes to prove this experience brings us together. It makes family of us.

Co-writer Ben York Jones, director of photography John Gulesarian and producer Jonathan Schwartz take audience questions after the Like Crazy screening.
Tuesday included an 11:30 a.m. Like Crazy screening at the Library. Great Q&A. For the first time, I got a chance to step up to the mic and answer a few questions. Generally, Drake fields the questions unless they are directed at someone else specifically. One woman in the audience was called upon and began to ask a question . . . then stopped. "I'm sorry. I'm trying . . ." She began to cry. My insides shrunk, and my eyes moistened. I looked at Drake; we were both fighting it. It occurred to me how amazing it would be if the entire theater suddenly let go and burst into tears. Even now as I'm writing this, my eyes carry water. She asked her question. I don't even remember what it was. Really doesn't matter. Connection was made. Communication. Emotion. Love. I'll never forget that moment for the rest of my life.

After the screening, Alberts, Dustin and I hit the Filmmakers Lounge. We talked to some pretty ladies. I got a coffee and chilled out. Newport Beach Film Festival programmer Leslie Schram Feibleman (another pretty lady) said hello and congratulated me on the sale of Like Crazy. At that moment, Tim Coyne of the Hollywood Podcast approached and asked for an interview. "Sure, when?" I asked. "How about now?" he answered. Technology! You can check out the interview at

We headed back to the Library and met up with Andrea for a screening of U.S. Dramatic Comp film Take Shelter. I had been looking forward to this one for a while. Michael Shannon stars as a paranoid/losing-his-mind Ohio construction worker. You kidding me? I'm in! Shea Whigham co-stars. Man, Shea's good. The film is abstract and fascinating, especially in the first 45 minutes. But at times I felt like I was watching taffy stretch, and I wish it hadn't taken itself so seriously. Expectations were at the very top. Great performances. But a little disappointed.  

Jones hangs out in the Sundance Filmmakers Lounge with Siobhan Mahoney.
Later at the Filmmaker's Lounge, I met up with my friend Deenah. We met at Sundance last year, and I had seen the 25-year-old New Yorker (who also writes for The New Yorker) several times throughout the past year. It's mind-bending to be in the same room in which we met exactly one year previous. Soon, The Woods crew showed up. Team Crazy was also in attendance, but I found myself looking for a change of scenery and atmosphere. After a few drinks, "Woodsman" and Chapman buddy Brian Davila and I played pied pipers and led the group to a house party we had heard was happening. I left Team Crazy behind, not realizing at the time I would not see Dustin again for a while, as he lives in Berlin. Got to go visit. Adios, new great friend!

The house party was packed. But the company was great. We found Max Knies there. Charlie Reff, assistant programmer at Sundance, and his girlfriend, Jacki Sextro of the Director's Bureau, were also there. I was talking with Matthew, and some guy approached, asking if we're here with a film. "Yes, yes, we are." Matthew said. Asked what it is about, Matthew answered without hesitation, "Boots. Like, pointy, snakeskin boots, you know, like with pointy metal tips." It was on. We fed this guy shit as long as he ate it. Not sure why, but it was late, and we were exhausted. "Do you know how many snakes it takes to make one pair of snakeskin boots?" "How many?" "300," I declared. "That's terrible," said the guy. "Are you kidding, that's fucking awesome! Fuck snakes!" I disgustedly spat into the snow. This character I had going was developing nicely. Matthew was barely keeping a straight face. The guy said, "There's another movie about boots. Have you seen Kinky Boots?" "Our movie is nothing like that movie! Please don't mention that movie," an outraged Matthew declared. I was then the one trying to keep a straight face. We went on for another minute or two. I complained that I never got a pair of boots from the set. Matthew apologized and promised to get me a pair. I doubted him. We gave this guy a great show, and he had no clue. No harm. Before leaving, the guy congratulated us on making a movie about what we wanted to make a movie about. "That was fun."

I hopped in a cab with The Woods crew. Back at their place, Lauren, an attractive, sharp-tongued redhead who appears in The Woods, had me transfixed. The whole gang was a breath of fresh air. We stayed up and talked old Nickelodeon shows. It turned out nobody really cared for Hey, Dude! We talked about mayonnaise. We got silly. Finally, my head hit a pillow, and I was out. Later that morning, as the house slept, I was up. So was Max. We ate. He then caught a plane. See you in September.

It's actually not that hard being social with the right crowd. Especially when you know you're forming families of support and friendship that may carry over into the years to come. I'm sure it would be a lot harder to be a creative genius. 

Next up: seeing some movies and getting some rest. At least one more post to follow before the festival comes to a close!

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