We're one sleep away from the start of Sundance Twenty Ten!

If you're the kind of movie reader who likes to casually peruse casting and attachment news on the more mainstream front, you probably think of Sundance as the unavoidable time of the year when Hollywood news takes a backseat to non-stop coverage of movies you've never heard of. But just because you have yet to hear about them does not mean that the films that play the Indie fest are unworthy of being talked about. So please, dear reader, in the coming weeks don't fear all the posts tagged Sundance10 as our coverage kicks off tomorrow. We'll still have plenty of non-fest writing to go around ... but if the below Sundance Primers are any indication, there will be plenty of gold mined in Park City Utah this year.

Cinematical Editor-in-Chief Erik Davis has been putting together these excellent primers for weeks now. I don't know how much pre-fest time he has already devoted to covering Sundance, but I've taken advantage of all of his hard work reaching out to filmmakers and studios to assemble these primers and culled them together into a quick, all-in-one-place guide. Thanks for doing the hard work and letting me piggyback off the best bits, Erik!



Twelve // Directed by Joel Schumacher // Starring Emma Roberts, Chase Crawford, 50 Cent, Zoe Kravitz, Rory Culkin, and Kiefer Sutherland.

Cinematical: As someone who's worked on a lot of big films throughout their career, is it nice to get in there and grind it out at a film festival? What do you enjoy most about this particular process versus the big Hollywood premieres?

Joel Schumacher: I think people don't realize that D.C. Cab, St. Elmo's Fire, Lost Boys, Phone Booth, Tigerland, Veronica Guerin, etc, etc were made on meager and low budgets. I think if you make a string of Blockbusters, which I was lucky to enough to do, you're considered a "big Hollywood director." But success at the box office does not always mean they were big Hollywood movies.



Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work // Directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg // Starring Joan Rivers

Cinematical: A lot of people love Joan, and a lot of people don't find her to be their preference in comedy, so what did you see in her that was ripe for the documentary treatment?

Ricki Stern/Anne Sundberg: Joan Rivers is funny, edgy and relevant. She's a captivating and bold female performer, writer, icon, and businesswoman. She has the bravery to tackle issues in her comedy that has left her excluded from the boys' clubs and removed from lists of more "appropriate" lady comediennes. Her comedy dissects the truth, and she embraces humor to ease the pain of tragedy. She has personally confronted suicide, business failure and biting criticism, and in the face of it all she perseveres.

Ultimately Joan engenders strong feelings in people ... they love her, they hate her ... and because many people have some prior exposure to Joan, the film works to strip away those surface associations to reveal a private and surprising portrait of this very public persona.



The Freebies // Directed by Katie Aselton // Starring Katie Aselton, Dax Shepard, Joshua Leonard

Cinematical: Everyone always talks about "the freebie," but what made you want to make it the central focus of a film?

Katie Aselton: The fact that no one had done it yet was a major factor. And I liked the idea of examining this couple that is trying to fix something that's not all that broken. They come to the decision to do it out of love and wanting to keep their marriage strong...



Lovers of Hate // Directed by Bryan Poyser // Starring Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green

Cinematical: Give us the "dude on the street" description of your film.

Bryan Poyser: Lovers of Hate is a twisted love triangle about two estranged brothers in love with the same woman. It culminates in this giant 4-story 6-bedroom house on the side of a mountain in Park City, Utah, where the much-more-successful of the two brothers has invited the woman for a romantic weekend. But, the other brother actually makes it to the house first and he attempts to sabotage their sexy weekend from the shadows, playing little tricks to try to tear them apart. It's kinda suspenseful, sometimes creepy and there are poop jokes.



The Imperialists Are Still Alive // Directed by Zeina Durra // Starring Elodie Bouchez, Jose Maria de Tavira, Karim Saleh, Karolina Muller

Cinematical: In terms of your own post-9/11 experiences in NY, what did you set out to give this film that we haven't already seen before?

Zeina Durra:I find it hard to separate the political from daily life as they are so intertwined in my experience and people who normally deal with this topic like to compartmentalize which I see as simplistic and untruthful. I wanted to focus on how surreal it was for people like me after 9/11. On the one hand we were making sandwiches for fireman on the West Side Highway and on the other we were trying to "act normal" going for dinner, all the while wondering in between bites of sushi whether someone was watching because who knew who was monitoring us or not.



The Company Men // Directed by John Wells // Starring Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello

Cinematical: You've established such a successful career on the small screen, what was it about this project that made you want to try your hand at directing for the big screen?

John Wells: I've been writing and producing small films for years. This one is based in part on what happened to a member of my family and as I researched and wrote it, it became increasingly personal to me. Hard to say when it happened, but there was finally a moment when I realized this was a story I wanted to tell myself.



HappyThankYouMorePlease // Directed by Josh Radnor // Starring Josh Radnor, Zoe Kazan, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Tony Hale, Richard Jenkins

Cinematical: You have one of the more unique titles we've ever seen at Sundance. Is there a story behind it? Does it play into the film somehow?

Josh Radnor: The final song that Kate Mara sings in the movie is called "Sing Happy." It's a song from an early Kander and Ebb musical called "Flora The Red Menace." When I was writing the movie I knew I wanted to end the movie with this song, but I didn't have a title yet so I just called the file on my computer "Happy." Then I wrote this speech for Annie, the character Malin Akerman plays, which is about living with gratitude and releasing our ideas that there's a limit to the amount of happiness we can experience. So this notion of "Thank You, More Please" became a really important part of the story thematically. One night, for whatever reason, I saw the word "Happy" kind of mash together with "Thank You More Please" and become one long strange word. For a long time I just considered it a working title -- I assumed I'd change it as it was just so deeply odd. But the title seemed to have a curious effect on people -- they'd hear it and kind of tilt their head to the side and smile. Everyone said stick with it. And I'm glad I did.



Skateland // Directed by Anthony Burns // Starring Ashley Greene, Brett Cullen, Taylor Handley, James LeGros, A.J. Buckley

Cinematical: Give us the "dude on the street" description of your film.

Anthony Burns:
Early 1980s. Small-town Texas. Dramatic events force a 19 year-old roller skating rink manager to look at his life in a very new way.



Winter's Bone // Directed by Debra Granik // Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey

Cinematical: You don't see many movies shot in the Missouri mountain region. What were some of the unique challenges you came across, and what is it about this story that makes it accessible to people who aren't familiar with the region?

Debra Granik: Ree has got some of the daunting challenges that many young people have in remote areas, places where ways of making a living are scarce and marginal. She is a kid with a lot of responsibilities who witnesses the adults around her making dangerous and dead-end choices. Without many buffers, Ree has to navigate her survival in a place that is hardscrabble to its core. She has no map to follow except for loyalty to her family. The particulars of the region that are "foreign" are found in some of the language, eating wild game, learning to hunt and ride ATVs at a young age. These things were all unfamiliar in my existence. Yards may have an accumulation of objects and debris, and this may feel strange or reinforce certain assumptions, so perhaps the only thing a film can do is to try to show the life, the specific life attached to that yard. The author of the novel from which this film is based did not try to speak in broad strokes. He zoomed in and tried to focus on one girl, depicting in detail her moxie to survive.



Bass Ackwards // Directed by Linas Phillips // Starring Linas Phillips, Davie-Blue, Jim Fletcher, Alex Karpovsky

Cinematical: Give us the "dude on the street" description of your film.

LP: The film is about a guy, a sorta lost soul type who's a wedding videographer having an affair with a married woman. That falls apart and he gets kicked out of his friend's place who he was staying with. But when someone gives him a van, he decides to drive back to the east coast to live with his parents. And on the road he meets some people that help him fall back in love with life again.



Lucky // Directed by Jeffrey Blitz // Starring ...actual lottery winners

Cinematical: What's the craziest thing you learned about the lottery and its winners while making this film?

Jeffrey Blitz: As someone in the movie says, "Winning the lottery is like throwing Miracle-Gro on your character defects; everything is magnified." We discovered that it's not just defects but many inherent traits that suddenly get writ large. Sometimes, that's wonderful. Sometimes it's much more than people bargained for.



Successful Alcoholics // Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts // Starring Lizzy Caplan, Tony Hale

Cinematical: Give us the "dude on the street" description of your film.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts: Successful Alcoholics is a dark comedy of substance. It's a 25 minute short, so it falls into the strange category of being a 'long-short,' or a 'medium.' It's about Drake (T.J. Miller) and Lindsay (Lizzy Caplan) as a couple that is young, successful, in love and constantly shitfaced. They are not 'functioning alcoholics,' they're 'successful alcoholics.' A business trip to Denver proves that alcoholism, success, and a healthy relationship may not be able to coexist.



Douchebag // Directed by Drake Doremus // Starring Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau

Cinematical: Give us the "dude on the street" description of your film.

Drake Doremus: Two brothers who hate each other's guts go on a road trip to find the younger brother's fifth grade girlfriend.





Cyrus // Directed by the Duplass Brothers // Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener

Cinematical: What was the biggest difference between working with your friends and now working with bigger Hollywood actors? Did they have to adjust to you or did you have to adjust to them?

Mark Duplass: Luckily, our "Hollywood" actors were really into our indie process. We trashed the script, improvised, found new things on the day... it was grueling and fun and totally rewarding in the end. The only major difference was that we actually had someone serving us food this time and when we went home we had real beds to sleep in instead of huddling up on the floor of some shitty apartment in our sleeping bags.