The struggles of a new paparazzi
February 29, 2008
Now that the fog of no sleep and tons of work has lifted; I am able to coherently report on my experience at the Sundance Film Festival 2008. What work, you may ask, is covering the film festival for the Summit Daily? Is it not simply going to movies and talking with filmmakers? Yes, but this year in order to make more money I took on an additional task, the job of being a paparazzi. I thought, Why not make some extra money by taking photos? How much work can that possibly be? It must be easier than transcribing interviews, and those photos can make me be tons of money.So off to the festival I drove packing two cameras, four lenses, two huge side mounted flashes and no camera straps. When I arrived, I was torn, all that my heart wanted to do was watch movies and meet fun and interesting people (but not necessarily famous), but those dollars called so I took to the streets to shoot the atmosphere of the festival and hopefully some very famous people. Problem number one is that I do not own a TV. How would I even know what most famous people look like? To make matters worse, I am terrible at remembering faces! I was determined not to let that stop me, I would do as my friends had advised, look for the people being shot by other photographers and shoot.As soon as I picked up my huge camera set up, it was as if I had joined the paparazzi fraternity. Other photographers would come up to me and tell me the inside info, such as, Paris Hilton is getting a massage down by Fred Segals and she should be done in about an hour.So it was off to Fred Segals I went. I nonchalantly followed some other photographers inside and walked through the halls of Fred Segals as if I had permission to be there, only to find myself following them back outside but now at the front door. And so I waited … for about three minutes. I felt like a stalker waiting for my prey and I dont even know what Paris Hilton looks like other than having blond hair. This did not feel good. I looked around and saw the huge crowd of onlookers that had gathered beyond the fences that had been set up to keep the onlookers back. These people were, of course, waiting to see their favorite stars or any stars at all. I had asked some of these people why in the world they drove all of the way up to Park City, Utah just to see stars. One person explained, Paris Hilton, shes my favorite. This I did not understand. They asked me if I have seen anyone important and I replied, Everyone is important. I knew what they meant, but maybe I have been spending too much time in Boulder lately. Standing around waiting to pounce on the stars felt bad to me and so I decided to head up the street.Another photographer approached and gave me inside tip number two, that Robert Redford was eating at the Turning Leaf Vineyards wine lounge.I took off down the street to find Robert but after walking a ways I was told that I had passed it by about four blocks. By the time I arrived Robert had been gone for about 20 minutes. Movies, I came to see movies!, my heart cried. So finally I obeyed the persistent cry of my heart and went to see the premiere for the film The Merry Gentlemen starring Michael Keaton and Mary MacDonald. It is a film about a suicidal assassin and the girl who recently moved to New York to escape domestic violence. I really enjoyed the movie, partially because I was so starved to see a film. It had sweetness to it by showing the human side of a person committing such atrocities. Best of all, Michael Keaton, who earlier in the day had refused a request for me to take his picture, was introducing the film and doing a Q&A. I got tons of pictures of both. This was great; I felt the dollars flowing into my pocket!The next day I spoke to the company that I was shooting for, only to find out that Michael Keaton was no longer an A list star and no one wanted to see pictures of non A list stars behind a microphone.The next day I decided that instead of trying to chase the stars, I would attract them to me. It was that Boulder energy again. I walked down Main Street and in front of me I saw a person who was being interviewed with a crowd around him, so I took out my camera and shot him. After I got my pictures, I discovered that I had shot Ian Ziering, from Beverly Hills 90210. I had heard of that show, score!That night I was to shoot a red carpet event. A red carpet at the Sundance Film Festival is an area at every movie venue and some parties set aside with some type of backdrop but no actual red carpet. Here the stars walked a not so glamorous concrete floor. I needed to use both cameras so I cleverly borrowed two shoelace-like badge holders and hooked them up to the heavy cameras around my neck.I had been warned about the mob scene with pushing and shoving that red carpets are famous for at Sundance, but every photographer stood in a specific taped off location with their name on it. It was very polite; the only thing strangling me was the badge holders around my neck.In walked 50 Cent (I looked up pictures online of what all of the stars who were suppose to attend looked like) and I got shots of him looking at me. Money. I finished around 11 p.m. and though tempted to see a movie, I knew that it would take about two hours to process my photos and so I did that instead. The money will be worth it.The next day, I had a press ticket to see the premiere of a documentary called Made in America. It is a film about how and why parts of Los Angeles became so gang ridden. My heart screamed, Yippee!!! I get to see a film. I get to go on the journey that the editor spliced together for me. This is why I came to Sundance.
As I approached the theater, a short British sounding fellow asked me if he could have my ticket because they were short on tickets for perspective distributors. I said, No. This is my first film to in two days. He persisted and offered me a private shoot with Stacy Peralta, the director.I told him that the only way that I would give up my ticket was if I could get a private shoot with Forest Whitaker, the narrator of the film, and Jessica Alba, supporting the film by being there for its red carpet premiere. He said that would be no problem and that it would be no problem setting up a shoot because Forest Whitaker would be there all week.I exchanged my ticket for his phone number and sadly walked over to the red carpet. I told the PR person for the film, standing at the red carpet, that I was a bit disappointed but I would be crazy to pass up a private shoot with Jessica and Forest. She told me that Forest was not even in Sundance. After a bit of arguing with the British fellow, I got my ticket back.I went back to the red carpet and got the best spot to shoot. All of the photographers standing around were very cordial, until the stars approached. Suddenly all of the other photographers wanted my spot and smashed into me to get it. Im being smooshed!, I proclaimed, but I was ignored.The next day I attended a panel on interactive media and saw a very inspirational person named Sussanna Ruiz. She created the Internet game called Darfur is Dying. This is an internet game where the player gets to experience what it is like to be in a refugee camp in Darfur and the chances are very good that you will die just trying to get water. This game was played 2.4 million times in its first year and has players writing real e-mails to President Bush to get more points.I was inspired. I thought, what if we had a game called Steal this Election which educates Americans about all of the election machine fraud that is switching votes electronically and gets players to e-mail our representatives and demand 100 percent paper ballots and hand counts. This game could even could educate people about the emergency HOLT Bill which is funding county clerks to help get away from touch screen voting (electronic voting machines) to machines that count paper ballots.I mentioned my idea at the Q&A hoping that one of these brilliant computer people on the panel would pick it up and run with it. I was jazzed, but no one there decided to run with my idea.
As I left the venue, I saw another photographer shooting two men. During a pause, I asked if I could shoot a few pictures with them and they agreed. They asked if I knew who they were and I said that I didnt but I assumed they were important and got their names. No, they were not famous but they produced a film with Alan Alda and Mathew Broderick and asked if I would come to their opening night party and shoot some pictures for them with the stars, I happily agreed.In preparation for their party, I attended their film Diminished Capacity.
It is a film about a man, played by Mathew Broderick, who has been in an accident and has memory problems because of it, and his uncle, played by Alan Alda, who has memory problems because of his age, and the highly valuable baseball card that the uncle owns. It was a very poetic film.The party shoot went smoothly, other than not being allowed in at first because only another company was supposed to be the sole company shooting the party, but the producer took care of that. I shot Mathew Broderick and the other stars standing with the producers. I did not bother to remind Mathew that I had read with him for a Broadway audition years ago. (I was sure that he would not remember.)Other than that the most emotionally powerful film that I saw was called Captain Abu Raed. Even when I think of the film now, I am deeply moved. It is the first full-length feature out of Jordan in years. It is about an airport janitor who finds a pilots cap and the kids in the neighborhood insist that he is an actual airplane captain. After much reluctance, he goes along with their fantasy and makes up stories about his adventures. It won the Audience Favorite Feature Award at the Sundance Film Festival.The final Saturday night of the festival, I attended the awards ceremony where I photographed William H. Macy and Quentin Tarantino.The last event I attended, as the animation shorts where a majority of my time, was spent looking away from the screen due to the morbidity of most of its content. One film inferred cannibalism with a woman cooking up the husband she had just killed. Another short people were gassed and their organs were stolen. In another film, they smoked people like meat and pretended they were their friends after they were dead and sat the dead people around the dinner table. I wondered if the animation shorts programmer was sick and twisted or if I was out of touch with my society or both?That night I spent 14 hours processing all of the pictures from the awards.As for the gobs of money that I expected to make, at this moment the total amount of money that I have made is zero, except for being paid by the producers to shoot their party. Possible some pictures that I shot will be sold overseas, but I will have to wait until April to find that out. As for next year, unless I get another great money-making scheme, I will probably simply attend the festival and report back to the people of Summit County.And by the way, after the festival I got to ski some really sick powder. Amy Marschak is a freelance writer for the Summit Daily and works part-time as a ski instructor at Beaver Creek.