Matt Porterfield's picture
January 27th, 2013

Leaving Park City

Leaving Park City

Somehow, I managed to find myself one step behind all week (if this blog post is any indication). Sundance is over. I’m back in NY, preparing to take a train back to Baltimore tonight to begin teaching the semester at Johns Hopkins tomorrow. What can I remember about the past 10 days in Park City? I’ll stick to the highlights.

1) The premiere of I USED TO BE DARKER and the party that followed. Big-ups to Tony Foreman for throwing a party that will go down in Sundance history and sending us away with a case of vintage Bordeaux that we savored all week.

2) Kim Taylor and Ned Oldham performing live. Check out their heartbreaking rendition of “Love Hurts”!

3) Hanging out with my fellow filmmakers in the NEXT section. According to Eric Kohn in IndieWire, this was the best program of the festival. I won’t take a position on that, but I’ll attest to the fact that the filmmakers of NEXT are all super-thoughtful, humble, hardworking folks who will continue to make great movies. Look for them on the festival circuit!

4) Our Salt Lake City screening. Of all the venues we played the Salt Lake City multiplex was my favorite, because it gave us a chance to engage a general audience. Sure, there are regular moviegoers on Main Street, but the industry presence is huge. The Salt Lake audience felt different. And the Q&A afterwards was our best. There were lots of enthusiastic questions for the cast, which I’m always happy for, and the theatre manager let the conversation run longer than they do in Park City.

5) Sarah Polley’s STORIES WE TELL. As a filmmaker interested in the ethics of representation and the border between documentary and fiction, I found Polley’s film essential and inspiring. It's also very moving. I’m looking forward to seeing it again and going back to discover more of Polley’s work. STORIES WE TELL was my favorite film of the festival, hands-down.

6) The Sundance Shorts party. Held at a bowling alley designed like an 80’s vision of an intergalactic space station -- with foosball, air hockey, and an open bar -- this party could have continued all week. The only thing missing was Duckpin.

7) Seeing Ravens gear in Park City last Friday. Seriously, everywhere.

8) Standing next to Nicole Kidman in the Entertainment Weekly photo lounge. Right?

9) Sharing the film and the festival with students at JHU. The director of the Film & Media Studies Program, Linda DeLibero, and our colleague, Karen Yasinsky, brought a number of undergrads out to Park City for an intersession class. On Friday, they came to the final screening of I USED TO BE DARKER and we all got together afterwards back at their lodge. Actors Hannah Gross, Deragh Campbell, and Maryland Film Festival director, Jed Dietz, joined the students in conversation. It was a perfect end to the week. And a return to real life.

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Matt Porterfield's picture
January 21st, 2013

I Shook Robert Redford's Hand

I’m finally coming down off the buzz of opening weekend in Park City. After a day spent settling in and getting the lay of the land, I awoke Saturday with tremendous anxiety about our premiere, but reassured to have so many people around to share the experience with me.

The Sundance Institute hosted a brunch at their resort that morning for all the directors. It was a beautiful ride through the mountains, past frozen lakes and ice fisherman, and the event freed my mind of worry (if temporarily) and provided an opportunity to meet the other filmmakers, programmers, and the man who started it all, Robert Redford.

Afterwards, we hightailed it back to our lodge to dress quickly for our 3 p.m. premiere at the Yarrow Theatre. There was a red carpet setup for the cast and crew in the greenroom on the second floor with a photographer from Getty Images. The photo of me in the press line (see below) is a better articulation of my mental state than any words I could conjure here. Not sure I like it, but it’s a document of stress, that’s for sure.

Getty Images / Chad Hurst

In the end, I’m so glad I sat through the film with an audience. They were responsive and engaged and the film looked and sounded great. It was an incredible screening! During the Q&A that followed, I shared the stage with the cast and my co-writer, Amy Belk. Within an hour, our first review was up in Variety, which you can read here.

Three of our Executive Producers from Baltimore – Jack Dwyer, Nancy Dwyer, and restaurateur Tony Foreman – threw a party for us at the High West Distillery that evening featuring an open bar, a special menu, champagne and oysters, and live sets throughout the evening by Kim Taylor, Ned Oldham, and Jack Carneal. People in Park City are still buzzing about it today. Honestly, I’ve never been happier after a premiere. It was an unbelievable night. 

Ned Oldham & Jack Carneal play High West

Sunday was all interviews (which I like) and photo sessions (which I hate). I think it’s hard for directors to release control and feel any comfort in front of the camera. But it’s a good problem to have. Our second screening at the Temple Theatre, a beautiful modern synagogue, was fantastic and the Q&A to follow even better than the night before. Admittedly, it was all elevated by the Raven’s win.

This morning, we were included in a very enthusiastic mid-fest roundup in Time Out: Chicago. I promised my team I wouldn’t read the reviews but I can’t help it, especially when they’re good.

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Matt Porterfield's picture
January 17th, 2013

Welcome to Park City

mock-up postcards by Drexler design

I got the call from Sundance on the bus back to Baltimore the week of Thanksgiving and momentarily lost my voice. When I regained it, from that point forward, there was no time to rest. I’m on the plane to Park City now and it’s finally starting to sink in. Seems like a good time to reflect on the last four weeks.

I’ve made two features, HAMILTON (2006) and PUTTY HILL (2011), but I USED TO BE DARKER is the first to be invited to play the Sundance Film Festival. It’s incredibly exciting, but also very scary, because the stakes are higher and the competition greater. We’re in the NEXT section, which highlights films “that stretch limited resources to create impactful art,” an apt description of DARKER, but one that does nothing to belie the fact we’re a low budget film with modest means opening on the biggest stage in the US.

Though we shot in the summer of 2011, the film was still unfinished when we got the news. There were a few things left outstanding: the titles, color correct, and the sound mix. I set about supervising these final steps while my producers got to work assembling a sales and marketing strategy. We hired a sales agent and a publicist, and the Baltimore-based design group Drexler began developing our publicity materials, which you can see below.

Then there were the festival logistics. How would we get our principle cast and crew to Park City? How do we house them? How will we get around? There are almost 30 in our team, so we opted for two lodges. We couldn’t fly everybody out, but figured putting folks up would atone for the long hours and embarrassingly low pay of the shoot. It also means we’ll have a built-in street team helping to generate buzz for our film on the ground.

Other than the certainty of five screenings and a roof over my head, I have no idea what to expect. My hope is that Sundance audiences respond positively to the film. Among them are the press and buyers, as well as many industry tastemakers. These groups will dictate how widely the film will play after Park City. Sundance is a place for discovery, certainly, so I hope this exposure leads to great things for all the talent involved, but particularly the remarkable cast, all of whom are new to the screen.

I’ll be posting exclusive updates right here over the course of the next week. In the meantime, visit our website to learn more about the film, follow I USED TO BE DARKER on Facebook and Twitter, and check out our schedule of screenings and supplementary events in Park City below. Most importantly, cross your fingers.

Go Ravens!

poster, designed by Drexler, photo by Josh Sisk


Sundance Screenings of I Used To Be Darker

January 19, 3:00 P.M. Yarrow Hotel Theatre // Park City, UT

January 20, 6:00 P.M. Temple Theatre // Park City, UT

January 21, 9:00 P.M. Broadway Centre Cinema 6 // Salt Lake City, UT

January 22, 3:00 P.M. Holiday Village Cinema 2 (// Park City, UT

January 25, 9:00 P.M. Temple Theatre // Park City, UT


Additional Events

Saturday, January 19, 7-11pm // Premiere Party (private)

Monday, January 21, 4-6:00pm // HP Live Lounge

live performance by Ned Oldham, Jack Carneal & Kim Taylor

Tuesday, January 22, 2-2:30pm // ASCAP Music Café

live performance by Kim Taylor

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