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Filmmaker Ira Sachs's Sundance Stories

DEFINING MOMENTS

Filmmaker Ira Sachs’s Sundance Stories CULTURE BY IRA SACHS   JANUARY 17, 2014 6:20 PM

The filmmaker Ira Sachs debuts his sixth Sundance film, "Love Is Strange," on Saturday. James Estrin/The New York Times

The director Ira Sachs has shown five of his films at the Sundance Film Festival since 1994. This week, he returns with his sixth, the much-anticipated “Love Is Strange,” with a cast including John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei. Sachs, whose childhood was partly spent in Park City, Utah, has been attending the festival since its earliest days – even before it was called Sundance — and was present at many of its most famous premieres. Here, he recounts his pivotal festival memories and the lessons he’s learned about the industry along the way. Beginnings My father moved out to Park City in in the mid-’70s and lived in a Winnebago behind a hippie joint called Utah Coal & Lumber that was one of only two or three restaurants at that time. Park City was a sleepy little mining town, with not a condo in sight. I would come out from Memphis and visit him when the festival was still called the U.S. Film Festival, before Robert Redford’s involvement. It was the best time to visit my dad because I didn’t like to ski. I liked to go to the movies. And I went every year, pretty much, for the next 10 years. My sister Lynne was doing the same thing, and we both became filmmakers. I think that’s the crux of Sundance. It presents these kind of movies and this kind of art-making and this kind of life as a possibility. Some early films I saw were David Burton Morris’s “Patti Rocks” (1988), Rob Nilsson’s “Heat and Sunlight” (1987) and Nancy Savoca’s “True Love” (1989). I saw all of Cassavetes one year; I was there at the first screening of “sex, lies, and videotape” in 1989 and at “Safe” in 1995. I remember being a teenager and seeing http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/defining-moments-filmmaker-ira-sachss-sundance-stories/?_r=0

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs's Sundance Stories

Seymour Cassel across a crowded room and being incredibly starstruck, and not having the courage to say hello.

Dominique Dibbell in "Lady."

1995 | ‘Lady’ I conveniently was not accepted to film school, which I applied to in 1987, and so I decided I would become a filmmaker instead of a student. The film and the art worlds, particularly in New York, were so interconnected at that point; it all seemed like it was equally possible as a career. My second short, “Lady,” played Sundance in a double feature with a new print of Andy Warhol’s “Poor Little Rich Girl” at midnight at the Egyptian. Sundance from very early on embraced the movement of queer cinema. I was at the first screening of Rose Trochė’s “Go Fish” at the Holiday Village Cinema at Sundance, and I was at the first screening of Todd Haynes’s “Poison.” I wrote the festival round-up for the Village Voice that year, and I remember it was blown up and put in the lobby of the Angelika when the film opened. I wanted to be Rose and I wanted to be Todd. I think that’s how movements happen. You aspire.

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/defining-moments-filmmaker-ira-sachss-sundance-stories/?_r=0

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs's Sundance Stories

Shayne Gray in "The Delta."

1997 | ‘The Delta’ In 1995, I moved back to my hometown of Memphis and made “The Delta,” my first feature. It premiered at Toronto, where it was roundly rejected. By the time it got to Sundance four months later, it had slowly garnered a reputation as being an interesting film. Sundance was more welcoming than Toronto, and the film actually found distribution at the festival, with Strand and the great Marcus Hu and Jon Gerrans. Sundance is a market, in the most extreme and competitive way. The actual economics of the film business is at full steam and coming at you in the very moments where you’re sharing the film for the very first time.

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/defining-moments-filmmaker-ira-sachss-sundance-stories/?_r=0

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs's Sundance Stories

Dina Korzun in "Forty Shades of Blue."

2005 | ‘Forty Shades of Blue’ This film was loosely inspired by my relationship with my father, Ira Sr., who was then — and still is — living in Park City. Premiering this film that I had spent eight years trying to make, in what was sort of a second hometown, was exciting. I remember when I called my father from the ceremony, and I told him that I won the Grand Jury Prize. He said, “You’re kidding.” That awards ceremony — and winning the prize — is a scene that I later depicted in “Keep the Lights On,” a semi-autobiographical story that became my fourth feature. When you win, it’s very exciting, but the high does not last very long. I remember being with my producers after the ceremony – awards trophy in hand — and trying to find a slice of pizza at 1 a.m. on Main Street, and then later, I’m walking home alone in the snow and all I can hear is the voice of Peggy Lee in my head: “Is that all there is?” But still, that kind of affirmation is key to keeping you going.

A scene from "Last Address."

2010 | ‘Last Address’ After my next film, “Married Life,” which premiered at Toronto in 2007, I spent three years trying to make a film called “The Goodbye People,” with a cast that at various points included Ben Foster, Michael Shannon, Melanie Griffith, Kirsten Dunst, Anton Yelchin, Damien Lewis, Patricia Clarkson, Liv Tyler — and I still couldn’t raise a dollar. That was frightening. In the end, being a filmmaker is defined by whether you can raise money or not. By that time, I had started teaching in the M.F.A. film program at N.Y.U., and I was encouraging my students to make films that meant a lot to them. So I decided to take that challenge on myself, and I made this short film, a nine-minute elegy about a group of New York artists who died of AIDS. “Last Address” was a very important shift for me. Not coincidentally, it was the first film I made since “The Delta” that was queer in text and not just subtext, so it was the perfect film to bring back to Sundance, where queer cinema had its roots.

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/defining-moments-filmmaker-ira-sachss-sundance-stories/?_r=0

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs's Sundance Stories

Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth in "Keep the Lights On." Jean­Christophe Husson

2012 | ‘Keep The Lights On’ January 2012 was a very big month for me: My husband, Boris Torres, and I got married on Jan. 6; we had twins, Viva and Felix, on Jan. 13, and then I premiered at Sundance on Jan. 20. A lot of things that I’d been looking forward to for a long time came to fruition. I think one of the things about Sundance, though, is that as a director you’re used to having control, and at the festival, it’s not really up to you whether you have the best Q&A or whether your actor shows up or doesn’t show up. You keep thinking, What can I do? In truth, not much.

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/defining-moments-filmmaker-ira-sachss-sundance-stories/?_r=0

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Filmmaker Ira Sachs's Sundance Stories

Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in "Love Is Strange." Jeong Park

2014 | ‘Love Is Strange’ We finished a first cut of “Love Is Strange” just early enough to apply for this year’s festival. This has been the easiest film by far for me to find in the editing room, to find the story. The characters played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina know themselves from the start – they just have to deal with the obstacles life throws them. That’s a more traditional drama, more traditional conflict. My other films were more psychoanalytic, films of self-discovery. And in the editing room, just like in therapy, that takes a lot longer to find. How does one know one’s self? From the very first rough cut screening of “Love Is Strange,” we got the sense that it was working, and we were in motion with the hopes of getting into Sundance. Three weeks after that screening, we heard we were in. We did color correction in December with the great John Dowdell at Goldcrest, and just after New Year’s, thanks to the San Francisco Film Society, we went to Skywalker Ranch to work with Kent Sparling on the sound. This past Monday night, we FedExed the finished film to Park City just in time for its premiere at the Eccles on Saturday night. With each film, including “Love Is Strange,” I can remember the exact moment when I got the call that I was accepted to Sundance, and it means no less to me at nearly 50 years old than it did at 28, 29. This is a big year for me, coming back to the festival for the sixth time with a film. I’m ready to create more memories.

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/defining-moments-filmmaker-ira-sachss-sundance-stories/?_r=0

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Profile for Ira Sachs

New York Times Blog // Filmmaker Ira Sachs’s Sundance Stories (January 17, 2014)  

New York Times Blog // Filmmaker Ira Sachs’s Sundance Stories (January 17, 2014)  

Profile for irasachs
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