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Sundance, part

Sundance, part


Weathering the Queer Brunch crowd with John Waters, moderating a panel with Armistead Maupin, and getting the scoop on Lifetime's upcoming Gwen Araujo movie

The dominant figure in this year's Sundance materials is Icarus, the mythological figure who had wings to fly, but plummeted to his death after he flew too close to the sun. Ol' Ick is seemingly everywhere - in the festival trailers, on the T-shirts, and on the program book and posters. But what, exactly, is he doing there? Is the message: "Look, filmmakers, you may have gotten lucky enough to have gotten into Sundance, but don't get too excited because Hollywood only wants you if you can make the next high-grossing crappy sequel or remake"? For an event that exists, presumably, to reward artistic daring, it seems odd to make a mascot out of a character who died because of hubris. I'm just saying.


11:00am: Time for the second queer brunch--the 10th annual Queer Brunch hosted by OutFest. My roomie Jenni Olson shows me a shortcut via the Marriott at Prospector Square, which is housing the festival headquarters, and we hook up with a knot of queer cinema A-listers: Strand Releasing copresident Marcus Hu, artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien (Looking for Langston, Young Soul Rebels), and critic B. Ruby Rich, who actually coined the term "New Queer Cinema" back in 1992 in Sight and Sound magazine. (Ruby is also one of the critical world's better huggers.) Walking into Queer Brunch with this bunch makes me feel like the dorky debate team guy who somehow managed to get a seat at the cheerleader table.

11:04am: We arrive at the Grub Steak for the Queer Brunch. How to put this...well, as Charlton Heston once observed in Planet of the Apes, "It's a madhouse...A MADHOUSE!!!" Tables full of people, barely enough room to maneuver around the room to the buffet tables or the bars, ear-splitting house music at an hour of the day when the human brain can't really handle it. (Unless that brain has already been awake all night, but that's another story.) I can barely maneuver my way around the room to schmooze, and on top of that, I have no idea who many of these people are. Some of them look suspiciously like college students who lucked into a no-invitation-required party featuring free Absolut Bloody Marys, but I couldn't say for sure. Once again, John Waters is the guest of honor for his upcoming Here show, and I steal a quick moment with him.

"I don't know how you can handle this crowd," I tell him. "I'm about ready to murder someone."

"Oh, it's not that bad," he says. "I find it easier if I just stand still and let them move around me."

I'm not quite patient enough to try that strategy, so I start heading for the door. Once again, I bump into my unofficial Sundance escorts, Small Town Gay Bar director Malcolm Ingram and his boyfriend Chris. The ever-present and ever-connected publicist Jim Dobson is herding them through, so I guide them over to meet Marcus and Ruby. Malcolm and Chris also grow tired of nudging their way through the packed restaurant, so we make plans to meet at the Marriott for lunch. Queer Brunch: It's a madhouse...A MADHOUSE!!!

11:50am: You know that old saying, where if you stand in Grand Central Station long enough, supposedly everyone you've ever known in your life will walk by you? I think the film industry equivalent would be the lobby of the Marriott Prospector Square during Sundance. While I'm waiting for Malcolm and Chris to make their way over, I encounter, separately, two of my favorite movie people, director Jessica Yu and screenwriter Howard A. Rodman, both of whom are generally so busy that I never get to see them at home in L.A.

1:30pm: After lunch, Malcolm and Chris and I all head back to Queer Lounge, where I'm moderating a panel with Night Listener writers Armistead Maupin and Terry Anderson and director Patrick Stettner. As we stand around, Malcolm tries to start psyching me out. "You're getting nervous now, aren't you? You getting nervous?" I respond that I'm not the one that's going to be horking into the toilets before my documentary has its world premiere tomorrow. "Ouch, man, that's mean," he replies.

2:00pm: Also hanging out at Queer Lounge is Small Town Gay Bar producer Andre Canaparo and his mother. As I approach, the mom gets this big smile, like she's so happy to see me again. Since I'm one of those people who's really terrible about remembering names and faces, I immediately go into "Uh, I know I'm a jerk, but remind me where we've met" mode. "She's never met you before," Chris reassures me. "She's like that with everyone she meets the first time." Whew. She introduces me to Trevor Walton, senior v.p. of original movies at Lifetime. I immediately hit him up for a copy of She's Too Young, the network's recently-aired teen VD melodrama starring Miriam McDonald, one of the stars of my favorite teen soap, Degrassi: The Next Generation. He smiles and promises to send me a copy, and then shares with me some of the most interesting dish I've heard at Sundance: Lifetime is making a movie about the brutal murder of transgender teen Gwen Araujo, with Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa, The Secret Garden) directing and Mercedes Ruehl starring as Araujo's mom.

2:35pm: After a split second, I realize that the Queer Lounge volunteer standing in front of me is Guy, someone I've known since we were both members of an organization called Gay & Lesbian Young Adults in Dallas. (For both our sakes, I won't mention how many years it's been since we could be considered young adults.) He's been living in Utah for several years now. Apparently, he also wants out, so I tell him to give me a shout next time he's in L.A.

3:00pm: The panel. While the topic is ostensibly "Now Playing: Crossing Over - Gay Characters in Mainstream Film," since all the panelists are from Night Listener, it makes sense that we're going to talk about Night Listener. But all three panelists are chatty and articulate and opinionated - and the audience asks lots of great questions - so the topics zing all over the place, covering everything from casting straight actors for gay roles to the dangers of preaching to the choir. Having been a film festival director for five years, I've done my share of on-stage interviews, and I know what a horror they can be: I still get the shivers when I think of an audience member asking Christopher Walken, "What was it like working with DeNiro on Deer Hunter?" to which he replied, "Fine." But Maupin, Anderson, and Stettner are all a treat, and they make my job very easy. Anderson makes my day by telling me that he's bought my book. Speaking of which...

5:00pm: Now it's over to Dolly's, the bookstore on Main Street - it shares space with a chocolate factory, how perfect is that? I'm there to do a reading of my new book 101 Movies for Gay Men, and I've been passing out postcards for it all week. I suspected that people had pretty busy schedules at Sundance, but that fact hits home when I look out at a very small group of friends who make up my audience. But the folks in the store couldn't have been more enthusiastic - some of them even have already read the thing - and the manager asks me to sign their stock, because they plan to sell it year-round. So if you ever need an autographed quippy film guide and you're in Park City, Utah, check out Dolly's at 510 Main Street. They'll do you right.

5:50pm: Somewhat dejected at my inability to compete with eight screenings, a music lounge, and who knows how many sponsored parties, I head out with my filmmaker-editor pal Dave Kittredge to drown my sorrows. In beef. I have the fattest damn prime rib you ever saw at the steakhouse at The Caledonian, and all is well with the world.

9:00pm: After I write and post my first Sundance Diary for, Dave and I head out to find a reception; somehow, Sunday is the one night that I have no invites for. We trawl up and down Main Street (and the breathing doesn't get any easier when you have a gut-full of prime rib), only to find that what are public spaces during the day turn into invitation-only events at night. I make a few calls and get voice-mails, so we decide to bail and go back to my condo to watch some DVD screeners.

10:05pm: John Polly from Genre calls to tell me he's headed to a party at Queer Lounge. One that I had no idea was happening. D'oh!

Midnight: Dave's gone, Jenni's not home yet (I'm sure she got an invite to the Queer Lounge event), and I'm going to bed. And literally the second my eyes close, my cell phone rings. It's Malcolm, returning my call. I tell him I'm done for the day, and send him best wishes for his screening in the morning. After I hang up, I worry about what might happen if I see his movie and don't like it. It's a special brand of awkward that I'm sure film fest-goers everywhere have had to face.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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