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Brad Balfour

Denver FF Report: Getting Downtown

Now that Wes is here from the fest to get me downtown from where I am staying in Aurora, I have to ask him to explain where they came up with the term LoDo. That's the name for Denver's "lower downtown." He explains, "It used to be the seedier part of town and was the warehouse district and such. Since then, they put nightclubs, restaurants, built Coors Field — the baseball stadium and home of the Rockies — and have turned it into a popular place for the late-night, affluent crowd."

 LoDo certainly is one of my favorite places to be when I come to Denver. I like going the Market, a cafe breakfast spot and source for great organic food. And the Festival-created Late Night Lounge on Delganey Street is the home away from home for nocturnal filmmakers, and the kind of hangout for which LoDo is known.

On the way there, Wes tells me that he's met the two brothers who wrote and directed one of the most talked-about films at the fest. They created a story around their father's shambling life and got Ed Harris to play their dad. The tale behind the film's creation is worthy of a film itself — and a story that will be told here later on....

He also talks about the shorts program which sounds like a great place to discover new talent and some clever story lines. That's what a regional festival like the SDFF really offers -- support to young filmmakers who get a chance to run their new work before audiences but not yet put themselves on the firing line of the blockbuster fests.

Denver Film Festival Report: On the Ground

In fairly short order, I went from indecisive to getting on the plane to make my way to Denver for the second week of that city's 32nd Starz Denver Film Festival. Long a mainstay of the festival circuit, the Mile High City event offers the community a sustained range of the kind of films that play throughout the year at the Starz Film Center, located on the campus of the Univeristy of Colorado, Denver.

Across the walkway from the Tivoli Union theater on the university's Auraria Campus (the theater's located in the historic former Tivoli Brewery, which serves as the student union), you could eat, drink, make merry, watch cinema and see the scene makers of Denver throughout the 11 days of the fest, all without going off-campus. But since things don't really start til about 3 or 4 p.m. each day, I had some time to take in Denver, a city I've visited numerous time and one with a distinct — meaning non-coastal — personality that always makes my time here both enjoyable and adventurous. 

LoDo — the area just below where the festival takes place — is the vibrant downtown of this mountain-ringed city, a neighborhood that has been fully revitalized and turned into something more than just a suburban mall transplanted into town. Yes, Denver has its share of chains and strip malls, but it also has got a lot of homegrown merchants and eating establishments that seem unique to this ever-evolving burg.

And thus, I am going to report both on the films and the city that embraces them. since that is part of the charm of this festival — one that has gone through as many upheavals, it seems, as this whole country has been experiencing in the past year.

Dateline: Sundance 2008

Dateline: Sundance 2008 [An old draft of a blog I started]

Getting out the door to the second week of this year's Sundance Film Festival was too much of an exercise in deja vu: in a sleepless night; in finishing things that have to be done while my apartment sits dormant; and in racing to pack everything so if i need to work I can while not forgetting all the necessary computer support elements.

The Super Shuttle arrives; I'm in and I relax. Then of course, now comes that long flight with delays and a rest between planes. Luckily that rest allowed me to visit my daughter Luna who lives in Denver, so the trip had an extra family-friendly aspect. 

All is well and good. I managed to reach a fellow I knew from the Utah Tourism Board. Surprisingly, he offers to trot me to Park City! So I got a good tour of their offices (which they share with the Utah Film Commission) and a lot of ideas for future travel stories to include with my on-going Sundance coverage.

Then I'm about hit the ground running once I get to Park City, and the condo one street off Main that I am sharing with various Film Festival Today contributors. While trying to reach them, I had gone to the press office to get my badge but I didn't have time (since my ride was waiting outside) to rummage around for postcards, newspapers and mags that would alert me to what as going on. So I raced through the process and was driven to the condo.

Then... shock and surprise! As I am unloading bags, I realize something is missing -- my computer bag (it's quite a set-up on wheels -- more like a suitcase than a small shoulder bag).

Obviously, I was in a panic. Parties and play aside, I had to race back to the Salt Lake Airport and look for the bag. No way was I going to lose it or give up hope of finding it. I made a call to the airport, spoke to security and asked them to keep an eye out since it hadn't been turned in yet.

Thankfully, my Tourism friend had stayed and gave me a ride back.

There I was, in the airport lost-and-found where the bag still hadn't turned up, about to give up... my life, my future, my database (of course so much wasn't backed up!). Dismayed, daunted, I asked to check once more with whomever they could check with... Lo and behold--it was found. As they brought the bag to me, I hugged it like a long lost pet and made plans to get back to Sundance. That was my first day.

Fortunately, that was the darkest moment -- though there were others to come -- to my adventures in Park City. Though I have covered other festivals with the idea that I would arrange a slew of interviews and assiduously try to catch every buzz film, I decided that after the kick-off adventure, I would take things as they came--if I didn't get tix for a film I wanted to see I would jump on what ever became available.

I wasn't in a rush to meet anyone in particular and wouldn't be offended if I didn't get into every must-attend party there was. The great thing about Sundance is that because there is just so much to absorb with all the films, events and various bailiwicks to follow, that something was to be gained by just every encounter.

First jaunt early that am--after a quick breakfast around the corner-- was to the press office to finish my collecting tasks and get up to speed on what I had missed and what was up. One thing I made sure to grab was the official daily, a good catalog of what had happened from Sundance's own point of view. Next was to get a handle on the ticketing process for both press and public screenings. To this day I am not sure I figured out the best was to hustle into the best films or the right films but with so many tracks going on simultaneously there was no way to be really comprehensive.

One thing I realized was how to strategize screenings. Better to schedule them by proximity to one another than by must-see. Though Park City is a small place, there is just no easy way to navigate between screenings when they stretch from Main Street to the screening centers by the press office or industry hotel.

So I ended up deciding that screenings would be secondary to events I could get no where but Sundance. The films could be reviewed throughout the year--of course while crediting Sundance as their source. And any interviews that commenced would also end up being posted throughout the year, tied to Sundance as much for its showcasing the film  as to their successful release.

That's not to say I didn't go to films -- I just crammed a lot in near the end of the fest than at the beginning. Of course, public screenings turned out to be the better choice more often that not both because there is the advantage of an audience other than critics and the Q&As afterwards.

But I wanted to jump into events whether they be panels, parties or press meets. On my first fully engaged night I made it to the new media lounge—the Microcinema in the New Frontier on Main—and a cool dance party party deejayed by DJ Spooky (a New York regular and global culture spokesman) and others. I had a chance to meet lots of new international filmmakers and appreciate this 21st century environment.

Being out too late didn't daunt me the next morning -- I was off to the press center to arrange any tix and then headed off to the filmmaker's lounge to meet some folks and check out the panels there.

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