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Director Makes Films About Film Festivals

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Director Makes Films About Film Festivals

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Director Makes Films About Film Festivals

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ALISON STEWART, host:

All right. So the Sundance Film Festival wraps up at the end of this week on the 27th. You know, it's - we were out there reporting. Full of big names, up-and-coming filmmakers, so much press. The lines between groups are pretty well marked - celebrity, filmmaker, the low-life press. Have you discovered?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: We're on the shuttle buses. We're going between interviews, screenings, Wi-Fi lounges. The filmmakers, well, they're celebrated. The celebrities, mostly kept out of sight in hospitality lounges and photo-ops.

But while we were in Park City, we spent some time with a fellow who blurs the boundaries between these three categories. His name is Jamie Stuart - no relation - and he's a filmmaker whose credentials read Press.

But Stuart has carved out this niche for himself by making films about filmmakers often set at film festivals. They're short narratives, sometimes surreal little videos that explore the culture of filmmaking from the perspective of a filmmaker.

Here's a little clip from Jamie's look at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

(Soundbite of clip, "Sundance Film Festival")

Unidentified Man: Yeah, we're very proud to be the opening on his film.

Mr. JAMIE STUART (Filmmaker): Louie(ph) and I got into Sundance -it's genuinely only surpassed by actually having my first screening here.

STEWART: So intercut with these interviews, there is, they're very beautifully shot, very surreal imagery of people putting up posters, press flags, working the lines, publicity lounges' parties. Now, when we decided to interview Stuart, we said, where shall we meet you?

And he said, hey, meet me in the parking lot of the Albertson's Grocery Store in Park City, Utah.

TOURE: Why not?

STEWART: We wondered why? Why not? See, this is a place where the press and sometimes - well have you stuck up on the bottle - I should say, celebrity assistants.

Stuck up on the bottles of waters and snacks that they need for their condos, but still we're there because of these giant piles of snow that caught his eye earlier in the week. And he thought he could work them into his film this year. He told us he's always want to be in filmmaking, but it wasn't easy and that eye for detail sometimes made it hard to translate his creative side into actually a job.

Mr. STUART: To make it as an illustrator, you have to lock into a very simple style and you have to be able - you know, it's not that you're going to get big jobs that pay a lot. It's a lot of small jobs, and you have to turn it over really quickly. And I couldn't do that. I was the type that, you know, I would do like the most meticulous photo-realistic pencils on that you can imagine.

I would sometimes even use, like, magnifying glasses to get in and see the grain of the Strathmore paper, so - and it'd be stifling with, like, a mechanical pencil just to get every little - so that the blending was actually a flawless. Well, that takes you a month to do. You can't make money doing that.

STEWART: All right. So he stopped being an illustrator basically and just worked on making connections in the film world.

(Soundbite of film)

Mr. STUART: In 2001, I started working for Jamie Bernard, who at the time was the chief film critic for The New York Daily News, and I was her assistant. So that kind of at least got me. You know, he got me at least on the right path. It's movies - it's not making movies, but its press.

STEWART: He got his feet into the world of NYC film junkets and festivals and he said he does not think of himself as a traditional journalist. But in entering the filmmaking world through the press door, he found an unlikely inspiration and some very useful training.

Mr. STUART: What I would do is I would improvise kind of these narrative short films that would also include some aspect of press in them, whether it was at the New York Film Festival or whether sometimes I would get into junkets. But then if you have, like, you know, George Clooney or Wes Anderson or whoever in it as well, you know, great. That's something that people want to see.

And at the same time, instead of training myself to frame, you know, unknown actors at the backstage that I would be doing probably in a no-budget short film, I'm learning how to frame George Clooney or whoever else that I've shot. So it's like I'm learning at a frame by using the top movie stars and, you know, high quality actors and directors that there are.

STEWART: As you can hear, we were dodging traffic during the entire interview with this guy. Which leads us to Sundance '08, where Stuart found a sponsor. He shot promotional footage for Focus Features. And he's producing his own short film for Filmmaker Magazine. He explained how his experience of the festival just works its way into his movies.

Mr. STUART: Well, today is really the first day that I'm starting to shoot footage for this year's filmmaker video. I don't go into them usually with a game plan. But at some point, probably today, you know, I'm shooting an interview with Tom Arnold later on. I don't know whether that'll start sparking me. But at some point, I'll just pull out the camera and just start getting B-roll shots or something.

And at that point, it just starts clicking. Like, last year, I was here for a full day. I was - I only had three shooting days last year and I didn't shoot anything the first day.

And I let the entire day go by, and there were, I don't know, maybe a couple of things that's kind of - you know, I kept passing by and they would kind of catch my eye, like, they were these Christmas lights up on Main Street just off of like Main Street on like one of the, I guess, it's not really an alley, but it's just kind of a courtyard heading over to, like, where the buses are.

And they just kind of look really gorgeous at night, just kind of warm light, and that really started catching my eye. So that kind became the centerpiece for last year's video.

STEWART: A video centered on Jamie's experience at junkets and doing interviews and lead ups to - lead up to this encounter with Sienna Miller that somehow moves Jamie to murder a fellow member of the press. Got an imagination, this guy. Hey, when we talked, you know, he didn't have a plot yet for this year and hadn't shot a lot of footage, but he had an idea.

Mr. STUART: I'm not terribly inspired by the total white out of everything, but these kind of huge mountains of snow that we have in the Albertson's parking lot is something that initially kind of intrigued me at least visually. And I don't know whether I'm going to use this or not that I kind of had this, you know, non-sequitur idea just, you know, me staring at these things and then climbing up to the top. So, I think that's what I'm going to try to do.

STEWART: And he did try and we did film it. And, of course, you can see the video of our conversation and Jamie, attempting to get up that giant mountain of snow in Park City's Albertson's parking lot. That would be at our Web site npr.org/bryantpark.

Now, if you also want to see what Jamie ultimately came up with, his film about the Sundance Film Festival this year, that will be up on his Web site, The Mutiny Company, as well as the Filmmaker Magazine site at - on Monday.

TOURE: Next on the show, another movie, a review of the Romanian film "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days," which takes a very interesting look at abortion completely different than "Waitress" and "Juno."

STEWART: Yes, interesting. We're going to have a sort of family conversation that talked about how there had been - this is the fourth movie in the past year that dealt with an unwanted pregnancy and…

TOURE: What's the fourth one?

STEWART: …"Waitress," "Juno," "Knocked Up" and this movie, and how the Hollywood version of this is very different from this European film and how dark this film is, and the idea of on screen. And we'll dive into that a little bit more.

TOURE: Absolutely.

STEWART: And you have a kind of interesting interview set up.

TOURE: I do. The Jedi Church, the Force will be with us - people who believe and follow the Jedi philosophy as their main religion. We're going to break into this. They take it very seriously. We're going to take it seriously. We're going to see what they're all about, because that's what we do…

STEWART: Yep.

TOURE: …on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

STEWART: Stay with us.

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