By Heidi Van Lier | September 30, 2004

Every year around this time I find myself sitting outside Starbucks on Ventura Blvd. and listening to the same pathetic story. Some depressive filmmaker worrying about finishing their film, raising finishing funds, whether they’re going to get into Sundance or not, and what the hell are they going to do if they don’t. They believe there is strategy to this, for some reason, and find the need to talk about things that have become rather obvious. And the reason this is pathetic is not because they’re stressed and confused, but rather, because as they talk I realize they are saying exactly what I said while sitting in the same chair 2 days earlier!

Oh my God I am an indie film cliche.

Someone please pick me up and remove me from Starbucks if I ever say the following again:

“We’ll get the cut ready on video and won’t cut negative til we get into a festival.”
“We’ll do our sound in the 8 weeks before we go to the festival.”
“We’ll raise money after we get in. Or we’ll put it all on a credit card and pray.”
“If we get into Sundance we’re set.”
“If we don’t we’ll try for Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and the other big ones.”
“Do we know anyone at Sundance? Let’s think…”

As I listen to these people next to me I want to finish their sentences, they see me staring at them, they think I’m some sad soccer mom who’s bored and eaves-dropping. The fact is, they are NOT going to get into Sundance, most likely won’t get into Slamdance either, and then they’ve just wasted a year on nothing.

The line of successful screenwriters in the good chairs along the windows look up when the indie filmmakers leave. “Ah, there but for the good graces of ICM go I…”

As my husband, Joe, and I wrestle with our baby at the table, and try to put our boredom with our own circumstances out of our minds, we look up and see something that makes us stop – and I’m not making this up, either – A homeless man is nearing wearing a Sundance hat. He’s digging in the garbage, eating old bagels and drinking from empty coffee canisters. He looks to be noveau-homeless too, the hat is fairly fresh, from Sundance-Napoleon Dynamite possibly, and his clothes are still pretty clean. But his face is quite dirty and the sun has not been good to him this month. He’s not asking anyone for money, or bothering anyone or anything, although I’m sure he could pick off the line of screenwriters for a couple grand.

He smiles at us as he passes, and I think “Did William Morris dump him too? Was he a past winner but didn’t have a second script ready to go when people were interested? Did he shoot on DV? What could possibly have gone so wrong here?” And then – “Is this some new way to raise finishing funds that I’m not hip to?” “Why didn’t we think of that?” “I really did not take advantage of my opportunities when I was homeless in high school.” Joe groans at me as usual.

But I can’t stop staring at this guy and as he walks off into the 110 degree heat of Ventura Blvd. I think for a moment he looks like he’s actually happy for some reason. He’s smiling. Like he’s feeling so much better now that his cliche indie film years are over. And I hate myself…

“If we get into Sundance we’re set.”

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