I first met Scott Kraus shortly after I published my first novel. He was working as a journalist for a newspaper in Jamestown, North Dakota near where I grew up and came to the bookstore to interview me. For years after that, he would show up when I signed there, allowing me to feel important for whole minutes at a time while we laughed about the book industry, people, and the world at large. Currently, he works for the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, Idaho where he makes me green with envy when he talks about doing cool assignments like visiting the Sundance Film Festival. Please welcome Scott Kraus.
Two Days At Sundance
And that’s just in two days at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The indie films showcase, which ran from Jan.19-29, collects a huge array of film industry folks, musicians, celebrity watchers and movie buffs. It’s a prime location for anyone who seeks an eclectic experience. (Or seeks a good reason to use the word “eclectic.”)
My first day started with Stan Lee, the groundbreaking comic books writer who co-created Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men and other characters. The still vigorous 89-year-old cracked jokes nearly non-stop for the crowd during a session to highlight the documentary – “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” – done on his life and career. (This film, however, was officially part of Slamdance, a smaller festival held at the same time as Sundance.)
In between quips, Lee offered bon mots on plot and characters. He said he has trouble naming a favorite character. But possibly the Silver Surfer has a bit of an edge because he offered Lee a chance to speak to humankind’s sometimes self-destructive nature. (Which may explain my attraction to large bags of potato chips).
Then I went across the street, plunked onto a couch in the Sundance Channel lounge and started talking to the other person on the couch, who just happened to have the ability to get me into the “Women in Film in Park City” luncheon, just down the street. It’s a function of the Women in Film group of Los Angeles, which works to further opportunities for women in the industry. That’s according to a woman I met after I got in, Christina Kotlar of the Women in Film and Television International group, which is an umbrella organization for chapters in L.A. and other cities.
A new report had provided mixed news for women who work behind the scenes in movies. Females comprised 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors for the top 250 grossing U.S. films in 2011. That’s 2 percentage points more than in 2010 and 1 percentage point more than in 1998, said “The Celluloid Ceiling,” a report by professor Martha Lauzen at San Diego State University.
On the other hand, (and isn’t there always the other hand?) that’s still just 1 percentage point more than in 1998, which is 13 years ago.
An attendee also spoke about the first female film director, Alice Guy-Blache. Guy-Blache created her first film in 1896, was the first to use narrative storylines in film, experimented with split-screens and special effects, was the first to put African-American actors in films and made hundreds of movies, Kotlar said.
But have you ever heard of Guy-Blache? Neither had I. (I’ll leave this space open for your own guess as to why ——).
At any rate, after the meeting ended I walked out and promptly got offered a couple “swag bags” full of free designer stuff. (If you’ve never had a VIP pass before, you should really try one. They’re great). But I politely declined. (How much designer cologne can one guy wear anyway?)
The next day, while standing in line to see a movie with a bunch of film critics, I talked to one who’d reviewed “Saw V.” (I forget what he said was the first line of his review, I just remember it wasn’t gushingly favorable). At any rate, I mentioned that I saw some slasher flicks in high school and they didn’t really bother me. But now they’re a bit much. “You’ve experienced loss,” he said. Hmm, interesting perspective. Still, I’d rather he’d said that he couldn’t believe that I was already out of high school.
And that night, I got to interview a “busker,” or street singer, named Natalie Gelman, whose background is eclectic. (I told you it’s a good place for those who like “eclectic”).
The 26-year-old musician has a degree in opera singing, but decided she preferred to play guitar and write and sing her own ballads. In fact, she once Roller-bladed more than 1,300 miles from her former home in New York to Miami, stopping periodically to perform. (She was also stopped periodically by the police, who wondered why she was Rollerblading down the highway.)
At any rate, she met her current beau last year while street singing at the Sundance festival, and, as musicians do, wrote a song about it. (“Sundance in Your Eyes.” It’s on YouTube).
She now lives with him in California and is working on a new album. I look forward to it. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Alex Tsimonidis, of Phoenix, who was listening to her sing, said: “We were driving and we heard her – stopped us dead in our tracks.”
That’s Sundance for you.
Scott has graciously agreed to field questions regarding everything you ever wanted to know about the Sundance Film Festival and the most intimate details of his life (I added that last part :) ) so please feel free to chime in. As you can see, he’s got a wickedly delightful sense of humor, looks like he couldn’t possibly have graduated from high school yet :), and has written an ebook on humorous columns, Humorish athttp://www.amazon.com/Humorish-ebook/dp/B0076RB92I/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328949916&sr=1-1