Insiders reflect on 25 years of festival moments


"I remember being at the first screening of 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) and going up to Quentin (Tarantino) and telling him how great I thought the movie was. He asked how I liked the guy who got my part, because I had auditioned for the film. I told him it would have been a better movie with me in it. And he looked at me and said, 'You're gonna be in my next movie, don't worry.' "
-- Samuel L. Jackson, "Pulp Fiction"

"My favorite moments are negotiating with Harvey Weinstein. It's fantastic, exhilarating, frustrating and sometimes scary, but I always come away feeling like I learned something. Last year, I watched the Giants vs. the Packers with him and a few of his friends, and I realized why he's so good: Nobody hates losing or loves winning more than him. It's the same when he's competing for films."
-- Cassian Elwes, William Morris Independent

"I remember introducing the first film I ever made, 'Shallow Grave' (1995). I was nervous because it was the first time I had a film playing in America. But the audience was really up for it because its sense of humor was very black. There was a bit of a riot afterward."
-- Danny Boyle, director

"My team had just gotten out of a screening of this quirky comedy with an unknown cast, and they wouldn't stop talking about it. They literally dragged me out of bed and I begrudgingly trekked out of my condo in the freezing cold to the midnight screening at the Library. When I got there, I found this large gaggle of other studio executives, equally bleary-eyed and half asleep. It turned out to be 'Napoleon Dynamite.'"
-- Danny Rosett, Overture Films

"So we're trying to put together (1997's) 'Chasing Amy.' I'm summoned up to the Stein Eriksen Lodge to sit down with Harvey Weinstein. Miramax doesn't want to give us the $3 million budget for Ben Affleck, Joey (Lauren) Adams and Jason Lee. Over some breakfast, I suggest to Harvey that he give us $200,000. If he likes (the film), he would have first shot at it; if he doesn't, we'd be allowed to sell it elsewhere. Harvey mulls this over for a long beat, then says, 'I'll give you $250,000. That way, you can pay the cast.' I get back to my room and anxiously call Scott Mosier, my producer, to tell him I've got the budget ... well, a budget. 'All $3 million of it?' Scott asks. 'Even with that cast?' This is when it first occurs to me that, perhaps, I undersold our flick. I quietly spit out the exact dollar figure, and Mos waits a long beat before responding: '$250,000 is less than $3 million -- you know that, right?'"
-- Kevin Smith, director

"In 1998, I came to Sundance having filmed the opening 10 minutes of a feature, and I needed money to film the rest. I was broke, so an investor put up money for me and a friend to rent an RV and a VCR. We parked at the Bad Ass Coffee Co. and called ourselves Vandance, a mobile movie theater and cocktail lounge. I served gin and tonics and showed the 10 minutes to anyone who would watch. Thanks to a lot of gin, we raised the rest of the money, made the film and sold it to Screen Gems."
-- Graham Taylor,
Endeavor Independent

"Every year when the program is announced, that gives us the sense that we've finished one phase of the work. Then my other favorite (moment) is when it begins. I'm always anxious to stop talking about the program and let the films take over."
-- Geoffrey Gilmore, programming director

"Years ago, I was doing a press junket in New York. I was in a rush to leave a photo session, and on my way out a guy cornered me in the hall who looked like a panhandler. He's got this long, shaggy hair and he says, 'Hey, Mr. Redford, I've got this tape.' And I'm thinking, 'Oh geez.' He says, 'I made this for $35,000. I put my lifeblood into this. Could you just look at it for me.' And I thought, 'You know, that's why we're here.' So I said, 'Sure, give it to me." He was a van driver for 'Entertainment Tonight.' I took the thing home and looked at it and said, 'You know, he's talented.' It was 20-40 minutes too long, (but) I sent it to the selection committee and said, 'Take a look at this. I think we should help this kid.' It was Ed Burns, and the film was 'The Brothers McMullen.' "
-- Robert Redford

"At the first screening of 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006), it was playing huge and I knew everyone would want it. Just before the lights came up I said, 'I've got to get out of here. It's going to get ugly. (Distributors) are not going to leave me alone until they get it.' So my assistant and I drove out to a Ruby Tuesday for a few hours. They have the bottomless salad bar. You just don't get that in New York."
-- John Sloss, Cinetic Media
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