Hot New Director Splits Buzz from Noise Alex Rivera is showing off his movie, The Sleep Dealer, at the Sundance Film Festival. Rivera arrived in Park City, Utah, just as Vanity Fair was naming him one of its Top 10 Directors to Watch. Alison Stewart reports live from KCPW in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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Hot New Director Splits Buzz from Noise

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Hot New Director Splits Buzz from Noise

Hot New Director Splits Buzz from Noise

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So the first week of Sundance Film Festival was this clash between art and commerce, between the traffic and pedestrians and between filmmakers just wanting to make it through their screenings, but also hoping to get distribution.

You know, we caught up with Alex Rivera, that filmmaker we've been following over the past month. And he'd just arrived at Sundance to find himself named by Variety as one of the top 10 directors to watch. So he found himself in demand the day before and the day of his film's debut, but he was just trying to separate the buzz from the noise.

Mr. ALEX RIVERA (Director, "The Sleep Dealer"): I do think there's a lot of noise around the film right now. People haven't seen it, don't know what it is. I know I've got the element of surprise on my, you know, on my side. We've got something that I think people haven't seen before, so there is a lot of - I think there's a lot of chatter and people want to see it.

That's - what a gift, you know? But I'm trying - it doesn't mean anything. What can you say? It doesn't mean anything. And so I'm excited to see what they write after they see the film, because that's what matters. And we'll see.

STEWART: The name of it is "Sleep Dealer." It's getting good reviews. Now first-time filmmaker Amy Redford - yeah, you know whose daughter - got a remarkable amount of attention for her Sundance directorial debut over the weekend for a film called "The Guitar." It's about a woman who loses her job, her boyfriend, find out she's dying, so she decides to live her life as she wants, including ordering all of this…

(Soundbite of movie, "The Guitar")

Ms. SAFFRON BURROWS (Actress): (As Melody Wilder) I just bought a guitar.

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character) That's great.

Ms. BURROWS: (As Melody Wilder) And then I had to get, you know, amps and stuff for the guitar. What?

Unidentified Man: (As character) You're spending money like there's no tomorrow.

Ms. BURROWS: (As Melody Wilder) There is no tomorrow. All my tomorrows are yesterday.

STEWART: The guy was just delivering amps to her house. There were also these events billed as off-screen events, where filmmakers talked about the process and how they go about making movies. It was standing room only for an event with Doug Liman. He directed gems like "Swingers," but also giants like "The Bourne Identity." Now the moderator asked him about his move from indie to big-budget pics.

Unidentified Man: Doug, looking at the progression of the films you've done, starting with "Swingers" to "Go" to "Bourne" and to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and now "Jumper," it seems they're just keep getting bigger and bigger. Does the type of storytelling that you want to do changed? Would you - next along could be a simple dialogue-driven project?

Mr. DOUG LIMAN (Film Director): I think at the heart of all these movies is a simple dialogue-driven project. I mean, the bells and whistles may be getting a little louder, but it's - I mean, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" is, you know, the heart of that is the intimate story between two actors. I mean, it's, in fact, more than most films, I mean, that's - I had two actors on screen for 99 percent of the time in that film. There was only one cutaway in the entire movie.

In fact, when I released it on DVD, I cut the cutaway out just so I can say it's that, literally, 100 percent, it's either Brad or Angie on screen or both of them, and not one scene without either of them in it - which is, you know, that's not very Hollywood. That's actually is a very intimate form of filmmaking.

STEWART: Now, of course, the biggest off-screen event, frankly, was the swag, the free stop for celebrities. You know, we stopped by a sponsorship suite or a hospitality suite where the right people could get makeovers. They could pick up free JetBlue vouchers, get free movie passes.


Because they're so poor, they need…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Yeah. It's, you know, it's just so they can relax. They're having a tough week. We talked to the man in charge. He gave us a couple of examples on some of their sponsors.

Unidentified Man: Cadillac, Zephora, Hennessy, Solstice, I couldn't mention them all. Who else? Michele Watches, Marc - Andrew Marc.

STEWART: He was a lovely man - big NPR fan, by the way. And he was - he put up a strong defense of these sponsorship suites at the film festival.

Unidentified Man: The festival is just as raw as it was when it started, you know. There's so much - young filmmakers, first-time filmmakers, documentaries. It's just the same as it was when it first started. But you got this other stuff going on. And it's funny, because I read Robert Redford this morning in something online somewhere, where he said the same thing. It's actually makes it - you know, they say this: Without profit, there's no art. Because at the end, you got to make money. In other words, you can't exist.

STEWART: Only thing we scored: a hat, a chapstick and some mints…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: …at a Zone bar. I just want to point that out. That's only swag we got. But if you were kind of…

MARTIN: Kicking it public radio style.

STEWART: Exactly. If you were sort of done with the whole film thing, if you just wanted to listen to some music, they had indie artists performing at the top of Main Street in what was called the Star Bar at the ASCAP Music Cafe. Ingrid Michaelson performed a fantastic 30-minute set. Let's just listen to a little bit of that.

(Soundbite of song, "The Way I Am")

Ms. INGRID MICHAELSON (Singer): (Singing) If you were falling, then I would catch you. If you need a light, I'd find a match. 'Cause I love the way you say good morning.

STEWART: Yeah, she's big into the audience participation. And we have a video of these performances up on the Web site, as well as a video diary, too, Rachel. So a busy weekend in Park City.

MARTIN: Awesome. Cool. We'll look forward to that. Also, stay with us. More from Sundance. A conversation with director Mark Pellington, who shot a 3D concert film with U2. And you know it. You love it. The Ramble. This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

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