'The Flats': A Not-So-Successful Sundance Story

Kelly Requa and his brother were living an aspiring filmmaker's dream: After borrowing money to make a film called The Flats, the movie started getting buzz. Agents told them it was hot, and production deals were discussed. Kelly Requa tells how it all came crashing to a halt when The Flats was rejected by the Sundance Film Festival.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR News it's Day to Day. We're mid-way through this year's Sundance Film Festival set in the mountains of Park City, Utah. Very much like Shangri-La, which is what this is for independent filmmakers. Still, not all of them can get here, though here's the story of one filmmaker who tried.

Mr. KELLY REQUA (Independent filmmaker): Let me start here. I'm unemployed. I have pawned unspeakable things and I live in a shoebox. It wasn't always that way.

CHADWICK: Four years ago Kelly Requa and his brother wrote and directed a film they sold to the Independent Film channel. After that they were hired to adapt a novel into a screenplay and script music videos. And now we catch up with Kelly.

Mr. REQUA: Four years ago my brother and I beat enormous odds. We completed our first feature film. The weather was good and the actors were great. In fact, you're listening to some of the film soundtrack right now. Our movie, The Flats premiered at the country's largest movie fest, the Seattle International Film Festival. The cinematic theater was packed. The viewers from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and an acquisitions rep from Newline Cinema, were all there. The credits rolled to overwhelming applause. Our adrenaline reached new peaks while our egos stretched in the love like cats in a sunbeam. We had snorted the drug that would and will haunt us until death, success as filmmakers.

We couldn't have known it then, but we had just entered film festival purgatory, somewhere between Dances with Wolves and homemade eye movie porn. At the beginning we got all the trophies of success, a good review in Variety, the newspaper of Hollywood. Our cell phones were vibrating through the night, we had suitors. One of Hollywood's top agencies pitched us as to why they should be the ones to sell our film at Sundance. These guys had people and people who had people. We were inside the guts of the industry and we dug it.

They said we were a lock for the edgier, smaller festival Slamdance, but by all indications we'd be taking Sundance by storm. We'd sell the movie. We'd have people. If the Seattle Film Festival was a sunbeam of love, Sundance was the Holy Grail and we were ready to drink. As it turned out in the end the forecast was bit off. We didn't make it into either Sundance or Slamdance. We never got that chance to arm wrestle Robert Redford. Our success was incomplete.

I'm not bitter, I'm not resentful and I don't have regrets. After all, our award winning film played in over thirteen festivals in four countries. My brother and I got to see much of the world. We met great people and drank a lot. But these days I'm aware that my creative attention has shifted. The questions that once consumed me, the questions of life and death have now been replaced. Now all I think about is where that next film's going to come from.

Don't feel too bad for me though. My brother and I have not given up. We're going to Sundance even though we don't have a movie there. We will be in an RV somewhere in the hills of Park City honing our new script called Idea Men, and creeping into the village each night ready to peddle our latest concoction. We are excited about our new project. Someday you might even be watching it at a Cineplex in your neighborhood. After all, film festival purgatory can only go on for so long. I hope.

CHADWICK: Kelly Requa is a writer a filmmaker in Seattle.

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