Last week, Toronto filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson took their new feature film, Diamond Tongues, to the Slamdance Film Festival — the Park City, Utah, event that acts as an unofficial counterpoint to the glitzier and star-filled Sundance. As the filmmaking team prepared for the journey, they filed daily Slamdance diaries all last week. Seven days and countless screenings later, Diamond Tongues star and July Talk singer Leah Fay (a.k.a. Leah Goldstein) reports on the whirlwind that was Slamdance.
“I am not an actress but I play one in a movie.” This sentence became my catchphrase at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City. I found myself reciting it in countless situations; in interviews alongside the film’s directors Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson, while shaking hands with renowned writers and directors I’ve unfortunately never heard of because of my own lack of knowledge on the subject, and over and over again at the few industry parties we weaselled our way into. Sometimes it was met with a laugh, other times it just caused confused looks.
“I’m in a touring rock and roll band. That’s my real job” was my usual followup to this statement. While true, this is an outlandish thing for the lead actor of a film to say. Initially it was my way of warning people that if they started using film lingo and name-dropping it would be lost on me. Then, during conversations with industry types on my second day at the festival, I started using it to disclaim the assumption that as an “actor” I was after something from them. It became clear to me that they thought I believed that they held the key to a future in film and that I must be too naive to know that people like me (the struggling actor-type) are a dime a dozen.
Because everything I know about the film industry has been learned through my involvement in a movie about the film industry, being in Park City during the Sundance and Slamdance festivals made me feel like we were back on the set of Diamond Tongues. Edith Welland, the struggling actor I play, can barely cope with the dog-eat-dog world in which she and all her acting and filmmaking peers exist. There is nothing human about this phoney and ego-fuelled world as it has nothing to do with the art they are so passionate about creating. The story created by Moondi and Robertson exposes a dark, honest and human account of what it’s like to be involved in the industry of film.
Being at Park City during the coinciding film festivals Sundance and Slamdance is like attending a crowded music festival packed into a rich ski-town the size of a shopping mall. Everyone is either an incognito movie star, wants to be (i.e., dresses like) an incognito movie star, or is a filmmaker, producer, writer or distributor. For two weeks in January every year, the prices of accommodations increase by 400% so only the extremely wealthy and successful can afford to be there. Everyone else sleeps six to a room and eats only what is given to them in the form of free appetizers at industry parties sponsored by major car, beer and banking companies. Sadly, access to these parties is only granted to those who know which name to say at the door. (“Karen at Kaleidoscope” worked for our crew a few times.)
Slamdance, the smaller of the two film festivals, showcases the work of first time independent filmmakers from around the world. The benefit of being present at this indie-meets-Hollywood filmmaker mecca is that it gives new filmmakers the opportunity to meet and potentially pitch ideas to their Sundance heroes, some of whom began their careers at Slamdance. Of course you have to know which parties to attend, which theatres to wait outside of and how to strike up a casual conversation with someone that everybody is dying to talk to.
I had tried not to dwell upon how a dark comedy like Diamond Tongues would be received in Park City. Edith Welland is unlikable and hard to watch as she sabotages and back-stabs those around her in a vain attempt at succeeding. One could argue that watching her compulsively manipulate and lie is like watching a car crash on repeat. As we arrived at the film’s premiere I was terrified. But we premiered to a sold-out crowd and no one even walked out! Jokes that were lost on me during the shooting of the film about typecasting, desperation and inflated egos were met with a knowing laughter. The audience related to Edith trying to pass for 16 to get a part, being offered roles by creepy filmmakers at parties and exaggerating her success to anyone that would listen.
As I sat next to Pavan and Brian surrounded by the audiences’ cathartic laughter, I felt more human than I had all week. The film had found a home. This is where Diamond Tongues was meant to be.
Source: National Post
National Post: Slamdance Diary: Day 5 — An indie film’s fortunes can turn on a tarot card reading, if that’s a scene in the movie
This week, Toronto filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson will take their new feature film, Diamond Tongues, to the Slamdance Film Festival — the Park City, Utah, film fest that acts as an unofficial counterpoint to the more glitzy and star-filled Sundance. As the filmmaking team prepare for the journey, they’ll file one diary entry per day right here. Today, Robertson on the production’s twist of fate.
There’s a scene in Diamond Tongues where our lead character, aspiring actress Edith, goes to a fortune teller seeking validation (while coming down from an acid trip). We decided, because we’re stupid, that instead of hiring an actress to portray the fortune teller we would hire an actual fortune teller and have her give a real reading to Leah Goldstein who, unbeknownst to our clairvoyant guide, would be in character the entire time as Edith.
If you’ve ever walked along College Street in Toronto, you’d notice there isn’t a shortage of psychic readers in the city. I figured this scene would be a piece of cake to put together, and so I took it upon myself to start finding our fortune teller and location.
Now, at some point the fortuneteller industry apparently shifted from the style of readings I had in my mind, to a modern, minimalist experience where psychics read your fortunes in house coats in their living rooms that look straight out of Airbnb photos. The crystal ball was still a thing but from what I was seeing, the theatrics of it all, precisely what we were after, seemed to have vanished.
The production was quickly approaching and we were getting a little nervous, but finally managed to find a traditional woman reading fortunes out of a Southern-gothic style restaurant downtown. She was nervous about the cameras and the crew, but she reluctantly agreed to have us — granted we wouldn’t be making light of her profession (this was initially the plan). I ensured her that it wasn’t what the scene was about at all, and after a long conversation on the phone, locked her in and moved on to the next item in a laundry list of pre-production tasks.
Two days later I got a phone call explaining that by means of sideromancy, the movement of Jupiter’s moon was telling her not to proceed and she was going to have to cancel. We were one day away from shooting and knowing that alternatives were limited, I frantically talked a fortune teller off a ledge despite what her entire belief system was telling her. She reluctantly agreed and when we showed up on the day, we set up our cameras, introduced “Edith”, and got right into it.
What proceeded to happen stunned everyone: The fortune teller zeroed in on Leah the musician/actress — not Edith — with eerie specificity that sent chills down my spine. Her reading was 100% accurate, citing specific aspects of Leah’s musical career and foreshadowing cities Leah would end up visiting. It wasn’t really what we needed for the scene and it only exists in the final cut of the film for about ten seconds, but I became a believer that night.
I’m not really sure what’s going to happen in Park City but hopefully the movement of Jupiter’s moon is kind to us and some kind of success is in the (tarot) cards.
—Brian Robertson is co-director and producer of Diamond Tongues.
Source: National Post
This week, Toronto filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson will take their new feature film, Diamond Tongues, to the Slamdance Film Festival — the Park City, Utah, film fest that acts as an unofficial counterpoint to the more glitzy and star-filled Sundance. As the filmmaking team prepare for the journey, they’ll file one diary entry per day right here. Today, star Nick Flanagan on being persuaded to join the project.
Imagine my joy when Pavan Moondi, one of the directors of Diamond Tongues, told me it had gotten into the Slamdance Film Festival. The expression on my face could only be described as “neutral.” Under specific instructions from Pavan to “keep things light” vis a vis my DT experience, I won’t reveal the mental ardor that burdened me throughout every step of the film’s production. Let’s just say there was nobody on set willing to constantly massage me into a dreamless slumber, which is unacceptable.
I’m excited for Slamdance in part because I’ve never been to Utah before, yet I’ve heard so very much about it. Apparently the state is bordered by a lake made of salt! If said lake tastes anything like famed salty dish matzoh ball soup, I’ll jump off the plane as we fly over the lake and dive right in, killing myself on impact, because I like matzoh ball soup.
It was truly an honor(arium) being asked to play Nick in Diamond Tongues. So many other Nicks could have played Nick. Nick, who works as a janitor at a hostel I frequent, would have been great, but is afraid of being photographed. Nic Cage could have played Nick, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch as he just needed to add a K to his name. But Pavan and (co-director) Brian Robertson asked yours truly. And I said, “No, I don’t have time.” So they tickled me until I peed my pants. “Oh god, now my pants are soaked. But what are pants, really?” I wailed — as the customers at the 2-4-1 Pizza wondered what all the commotion was about. Then I put on my sunglasses, had my mom to drive me to the airport, and purchased the first available ticket to Hollywood.
Later that night, on the flight back from Hollywood, I decided to take the part in Diamond Tongues. I haven’t looked back since. Because of an on-set neck injury. Let’s just say that massaging yourself is not for amateurs, and if I’m anything, it’s an amateur. See you in Park City!
Nick Flanagan is an actor, stand-up comedian and musician.
Source: National Post
This week, Toronto filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson will take their new feature film, Diamond Tongues, to the Slamdance Film Festival — the Park City, Utah, film fest that acts as an unofficial counterpoint to the more glitzy and star-filled Sundance. As the filmmaking team prepare for the journey, they’ll file one diary entry per day right here. Today, star Leah Goldstein on lessons from the film industry.
Everything I’ve learned about the film industry has been through my involvement in a film about trying to be in the film industry. I’m not an actor. Thus, I’ve been contemplating how it was, exactly, that I ended up playing the lead in an independent film about to premiere at a festival in Park City, Utah.
My mind has brought me back to a memory. I am turning four and having a costume party in honour of my birthday. I’m wearing a lace dress and a long veil made out of a window curtain that I secretly like to pretend is my hair. Everyone else in attendance has come as Batman or a Ninja Turtle and has brought with them a Barbie doll-shaped box, expertly gift-wrapped in pink and purple by their mothers. I have no friends of my own because I haven’t started school yet so my mom has invited all my older brother’s friends as stand-ins. Everyone around me thinks it’s weird that I’m younger and much smaller than they are. They probably also think it’s weird that I’m not dressed as a Batman or a Ninja Turtle.
Because it is a hot summer and because my parents have just returned home from a two-week trip to England (during which they’d left my brother and I in our grandparents’ care for the first time ever), I have developed two questionable habits. One is throwing temper tantrums, and the other is taking off all my clothes. Sometimes I do both at the same time. As I look around at the room of Batmans and Ninja Turtles I can’t tell who here has seen me enacting said personal catastrophes through the living room window.
Most of them don’t know me and if they do it’s likely from hearing and witnessing one of my epic meltdowns. There is no reason for me to be comfortable in this situation. Quite frankly I should be embarrassed, especially by a four-year-old’s logic, but I’m happy as a little lace-clad clam. I’m grinning and proudly sporting a pin the size of my head that reads “I’M 4.”
In Diamond Tongues, I play an aspiring actor named Edith Welland who has no idea how to become successful. While you or I would just work hard, make and cross off to-do lists, and try to learn more about our craft, Edith always finds a way to do the opposite. She wants to be the hero so badly that she can do nothing but be an anti-hero.
She’s highly unlikable, unabashedly narcissistic and someone you would never want to befriend, date or be like. But she’s also undoubtedly human, which is why I wanted to attempt acting for the first time. Like I said, I know nothing about acting and very little about film. I am going to a city where two film festivals co-exist side by side and completely overtake the tiny ski town of Park City, Utah. They attract thousands of people who all have one thing in common; they’ve been busting their asses to work in film through many hard years and countless sleepless nights.
So how did I get there? A plane and a rental car. But really it was because two directors approached me after seeing my band play to an ultra cool (and ultra bored) crowd at Mongrel Media’s TIFF party back in the fall of 2013. There will be no reason for me to feel comfortable at Slamdance, but I’m hoping if I bring a pin the size of my face that reads “I’M 4” or maybe “I DON’T KNOW HOW I GOT HERE” or “I THINK THIS IS GOING TO BE SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL,” everything will work out fine. And if not I can always take off all my clothes and throw a temper tantrum. I’ll let you know.
Leah Goldstein (a.k.a. Leah Fay) is a member of the Juno-nominated indie rock band July Talk. She makes her acting debut in Diamond Tongues.
Source: National Post
National Post: Slamdance Diary: Day 2 – The weight of film release limbo and the levity of letting go
This week, Toronto filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson will take their second feature film, Diamond Tongues, to the Slamdance Film Festival — the Park City, Utah, film fest that acts as an unofficial counterpoint to the more glitzy and star-filled Sundance. As the filmmaking team prepare for the journey, they’ll file one diary entry per day right here. Today, Moondi on the terrifying road to opening night.
In less than a week in Park City, Utah, we’ll premiere Diamond Tongues, the film a small group of us started filming 10 months ago in Toronto. It’s been a wild ride putting this film together for the past year and a half and it’s been all consuming to the point where I barely even remember what my life was like before it.
When we received the invitation from the Slamdance Film Festival, I was thrilled to be premiering the film within weeks of its completion. That period of limbo where a filmmaker has to sit on a finished film waiting to get it out into the world is not an enjoyable one. The work you’ve done doesn’t feel real until an audience of strangers has seen the film. As festival rejections start to pile up, your dramatic side starts to wonder if things will ever be made real.
I wouldn’t change a single thing about the film we made, and I’m happy to be going to Slamdance to present our film. It’s a festival with a rich history that reflects our approach to filmmaking and it’s played a large part in discovering some great filmmakers (Christopher Nolan, Greg Mottola, Lena Dunham).
But, given what has been, frankly, a pretty draining year, I’m not sure that I’m happy just to be going to Slamdance to present our film. I hope the film does well and that people like it. I hope it catches the eye of someone who can find us a meaningful audience in the long run. I hope it can help us get the next project made to pull ourselves out of the pretty dire financial reality we now find ourselves in.
The thing about Diamond Tongues is that I have never worked harder on anything else in my entire life. There’s a satisfaction in that, absolutely, but the terrifying truth is that if the film fails — whether it’s by being outright rejected by festival audiences and critics, or by receiving a lukewarm, polite reception and simply being forgotten the next day — I’ll be forced to confront the reality that if you’ve worked as hard as you can on something and you still don’t succeed in any significant way — well then what?
Being in limbo puts an enormous weight on your shoulders, but it’s accompanied by this small shred of possibility that the film will succeed in ways you only allow yourself to dream of. Every independent filmmaker has this insane, beautiful, tiny, unrelenting bit of optimism in them. It’s the only reason why anyone would pursue such an implausible career choice to begin with. Next week, that remaining shred of possibility will be supplanted by reality — whatever that may be — but at the very least the weight of the limbo will be off my shoulders and I will get to go skiing on a beautiful mountain. Things could be worse.
Pavan Moondi is the co-director, writer, producer and editor of Diamond Tongues.
Source: National Post
Update (12/4/2014): Watch the trailer, exclusively at IndieWire’s Playlist blog.
Thrilled to announce that DIAMOND TONGUES will be making its World Premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah! The festival takes place between January 23rd and 29th, 2015. Here’s a story from Variety with the full line up.
We’ve made a number of updates to the site, including adding stills and interviews conducted with the cast and crew in our info/press section.
More news is coming very soon, so stay tuned! Following us on Twitter or Facebook is probably a good idea.
In addition to the Juno nod, Fay’s been cast as the lead in a new Canadian film Diamond Tongues (by the same team that did the 2013 Canadian feature Everyday Is Like Sunday) playing an unpleasant wannabe actress after Fay was “discovered” at a TIFF party last year.
“It’s going to be nuts,” said Fay. “We kind of go to the Junos and then start (filming) the following Monday. I don’t know how it’s going to be. I’ve never really acted before. I’ve been performing since I was four. I don’t have a traditional education. I’m overwhelmed. It’s so different from working at coffee shops and being able to make my weird performance art and just stay home all the time and hang out with all the people I love.”
Full article: HERE
So it looks like this is happening. Unofficially started yesterday, but the full, 14-day shoot starts on April 7th. Keep an eye on this site, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for photos, videos, and blogs from the shoot. Maybe not blogs, that sounds really time consuming.
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