National Post: Acting the part: July Talk’s Leah Fay on her Park City experience
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