LILY & JANE2 DO SUNDANCE

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We left Los Angeles Sunday January 25th for Park City and the 15th annual Sundance Film Festival. Hard as it is to believe, Lily had never been and I had never gone not to work but just to see films. It happened like this: Our friend, Pat Mitchell, who among her many titles became Chair of the Board of the Sundance Institute this year, invited Lily and me to be interviewed by her for the Women In Film brunch Monday morning. Lily’s new film, “Grandma,” was premiering on Friday at the close of the festival and I persuaded her to hang with me for the whole week to see films.

Here we are at LAX waiting for our plane.

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We were shocked to see that the cost of a luggage cart has gone up to $5 in Park City.

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Here’s a view of Park City. It has grown a lot since I first saw it in the ’70s en route to Bob Redford’s Sundance ski resort–this was before he created the Institute or the film festival. My son Troy learned to ski there. Still, signs of the old Park City as a mining town are evidence and charming.

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The view from my room at The Marriott Hotel. I wish I could still ski:

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That first evening, Pat invited us to join her and her family and friends at Bob Redford’s restaurant Zoom. Left to right: Pat, John R. Seydel, our joint grandson (his mother is Ted Turner’s daughter and his father is Scott Seydel’s son Rutherford and Scott is Pat’s husband. Got it?); Clark Seydel, Scott’s son with an earlier wife, Michelle LeClair, Lily and music composer/producer Tena Clark.

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Lily and I left dinner early to see our first film. Here’s a video of the ride down main street.

Through all of our goings and comings, I noticed that Lily seems susceptible to losing things or leaving them in her room. I had to pay close attention.

There’s something thrilling about being in a theatre packed with people from all over the country (even the world) who are passionate and knowledgeable about film. You can feel it in the air and in the inevitable conversations that start with strangers about the pros and cons of different films and documentaries you’ve all seen.

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Monday morning we headed to the women’s brunch sponsored by Women In Film

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Here we are with trainees and mentors

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They expected around 300 people but 600 plus showed up and food was scarce. Didn’t matter. Great energy!

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Below on the left is Cathy Schulman, Director of Women in Film and on right is the Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, Keri Puttnam. They discussed, as did Lily and I, the need for more women-directed films.

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Ava DuVernay speaking. She directed “Selma” which has been nominated as Best Picture yet she was not nominated as Best Director!

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Pat is a terrific interviewer. We talked about the reasons there aren’t more women directors (major studios are run by men who feel safer betting on what’s familiar…what looks like them…and with few exceptions, the very few women who have run studios have not been staunch supporters of women directors. So why is this an important issue? Women see things differently. The subjects, the stories that appeal to us are very often different from those appealing to men. Not always but in general, women tend towards relationship-based films rather than violent, special effects-laden movies or what have come to be known as ‘tent pole’ movies with humungous budgets. And it’s not just a question of women not having experience making big budget films. Men who lack that experience have been hired to direct movies with budgets over $100 million. If there were more staunch women heads of studios there’d likely be more films directed by women and more women in the lead roles. When this is missing, the issues, concerns and sensibilities of half the world’s population is missing in action and, since most people don’t even think about it, they view the situation as simply the way things are. Fortunately, women directors have been gaining ground in the independent film and documentary fields and the problem is being discussed more and more so that, eventually, the situation will hopefully change. I hope I’m still around to see it!

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As soon as the brunch was over, I rushed off to see my second film, a powerful, disturbing documentary called “Prophet’s Prey” directed by my talented friend Amy Berg. Lily didn’t come with me because she had interviews to do for her film, “Grandma” which was closing the festival on Friday. In fact, I saw 4 films without her but I hooked up with my friend, Teri Schwartz, Dean of the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television for one of them. She’s taught me a lot about how it is for women directors. She told me that the male film school graduates get managers and agents immediately and the women don’t. It’s a problem that starts right at the get-go!

Even when Lily wasn’t with me, I saw her on the screen at every film. Here’s her face as Grandma in the montage of all this year’s festival films that precedes each screening. Isn’t that a lovely, soulful face!

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Monday night Lily and I joined Pat (Mitchell) and her friends and drove into Salt Lake City for a performance of Sibylle Szaggars Redford’s show “The Way of the Rain.” It was a multi-disciplinary experience –Bylle’s paintings projected onto silk panels, music, dance and the spoken word (performed by Bylle’s husband, Bob Redford). In all, it was a powerful, poetic work about climate change. The photo below doesn’t begin to capture what it was like. The abstract images projected onto the silk panels were constantly changing. Bob told me later that Bylle let the New Mexico rains fall on her paintings which is what created the moving, mystical images.

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When the performance was over, everyone came onto the circular stage. That’s Bob in white.

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Lily and I sitting with Bronwyn Varty from South Africa.

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Here she is as we are going into one of the many theatres

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The Egyptian Theatre was the sole place where films were shown when the festival first began!

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We almost missed the documentary at the Egyptian, “Listen To Me, Marlon,” because we stopped at a main street deli to grab a bite. Here’s Lily yelling at me to slow up. Running up hill at 8,ooo+ feet isn’t easy. It was an interesting but sad documentary. He was so gorgeous, so gifted but his demons clearly caught up to him. His family came from Omaha like my father’s and Marlon’s mother was responsible for getting my father into acting. I knew him fairly well. He had a profound influence on me in the late ’60s, early ’70s when he became an activist for Native Americans rights and the Black Panthers.

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But the truth is, the reason we almost missed the Brando documentary was because we stopped by the building that housed New Frontiers, the displays of all the new, virtual technology that have become an important part of the festival. We got a taste the previous night when we went for sushi and ran into a group that is promoting the virtual glasses

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Looking into these glasses I could turn in all directions and there I was on Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur and then overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

Up on the 3rd floor of New Frontier, there was a mysterious, otherworldly vibe

Lily tried her hand on the flying machine. She didn’t flap her arms nearly as much as other people. Well, neither did the guy in the previous video but some really flapped away:

This is what she was seeing–flying over skyscrapers.

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Going into the Eccles Theatre to see “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” starring Blythe Danner and Sam Elliot. A charming movie that finally gives Blythe a showcase as well as a host of other fine talents and some wonderful scenes with women together, enjoying each other.

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The director, Brett Hal, on stage with the cast. I saw Sam Elliott in 3 films this year at Sundance and it was just wonderful to be reminded what a fine actor he is.

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In the bathroom after one of the screenings we met crystal Moselle, director of the award winning documentary ” The Wolfpack” (next to me) and Izabela Tzenkova, one of the producers. “The Wolfpack” was a fascinating documentary about 7 brothers who were locked away from the world in their lower East Side Manhattan apartment and learned about the outside world by watching films and reenacting them.

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Lily and I went out to the Sundance Resort, 55 minutes from Park City, where we saw a comedy, “A Walk In The Woods,” starring Bob Redford and Nick Nolte. It’s about 2 old guys who decide to walk the Appalachian Trail. It was entertaining and I loved seeing Bob in a comedy. Then we had dinner with Pat and her husband Scott.

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To conclude the adventure, there was Lily’s “Grandma,” which was my favorite film and I say this not because I love Lily but because I found it funny and poignant and, besides Lily’s perfect portrayal, there were a number of other outstanding performances: Sam Elliott, Marcia Gay Hardin and Laverne Cox. It was written and directed by Paul Weitz. Now there’s a director who cares about relationships and depicts them every bit as deeply as a woman director might. His mother is Susan Kohner with whom I attended elementary school. She was the prettiest girl there. We called her Conchita. An actor, she is best known for her role in “Imitation of Life.”

I very much enjoyed being behind the scenes with the press for this one.

Director Paul Weitz

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The wonderful new actor who played Lily’s granddaughter, Julia Garner. Keep an eye out for her rising star!

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With Laverne Cox

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All in all, the six days were a blast. Next year I want to go for the entire festival. I didn’t see the film that won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” There were a lot of films we didn’t get to see. But both Lily and I noticed and enjoyed the fact that the days (and nights) seemed to move much slower…like summer used to when we were young. i guess that’s what happens when every 3 hours or so you disappear into someone else’s reality. One can get hooked.

So, hats off to Bob Redford for creating this showcase for the best of independent filmmaking and for creating workshops that mentor new filmmakers and to John Cooper who runs the festival and to Keri Puttnam for caring about women in films and nurturing the Sundance Institute and, last but far from least, thanks to the volunteers who made every moment at the festival a joy. Every one of them were friendly and helpful—and some even came from California. Oh, and thanks to Lily for being willing to hang with me.

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20 Comments
  1. Great to see the recignition for Lily Tomlin! She really deserves it! Have fun, take care!

  2. I love the luggage cart picture! You and Lilly should do a reality comedy show taking a road trip across the United States! I also love all of your other pictures! Sundance is on my bucket list, so this was a fun blog to read. Sigh. I love the movies. These past few months I have been in heaven with all the great movies to go see. Oscar season is always wonderful. I would be truly in heaven at a film festival. And yes, let’s get more women directors out there.

    • Oscar Season is not “wonderful,” SusanK. Oscar Season is when all the terrific films women have made thru-out the year are systematically eliminated from consideration for any of the major awards with the sole exception of Best Actress & Best Supporting Actress! Recently someone said to me: “If you’re a Feminist & Feminists believe in equality, then don’t you think the Oscars should be gender neutral? ‘Best Performance’ & ‘Best Supporting Performance’ in the acting categories?” Fabulous idea, I replied. There NO WOMEN will received any Oscars in major categories at all!!! #StopBlueOscar

      • I appreciate, Jan Lisa Huttner, your comment. After googling your name, I see that you have done a great deal for women and I respect that greatly. I do have to say, though, that I love the Oscar season. You have to understand that I live in an area where the majority of the year, violent action films and cartoons are the main showings in the local theater. I am not saying all action films and cartoons are bad, but that seems to be the main focus. Luckily, I can drive 45 minutes to an Art Theater that tends to show more of the independent films that don’t find their way to the local theater, but I can guarantee that a huge number of films shown in New York and LA never find their way even there. So, during the season where many of the Oscar contenders come out, they tend to have a better chance of making it to the show right by me, because the word Oscar is attached to it. Chances are films like Still Alice and Two Days One Night would not have made it to my area without the help of the Oscars. And the performances were excellent in those films. (By the way, Still Alice was jam packed with viewers today when I saw it. It seems that more and more people are finding their way back to view movies in the theater.) That being said, I understand that there are many, many, many movies directed and produced by women that will never have a chance of making it to the Oscar rounds. Actually, I would imagine the percentage is less than 1%? I have no idea, but I believe only one female director ever won an Oscar, correct? I know that Ava DuVernay certainly should have been up for an Oscar this year. I also know that the Oscars are quite political and I would imagine there is quite a Boys’ Club feel. The problem is, if I don’t watch the Oscars, and many others don’t watch the Oscars, the Oscars will not draw so many well done movies to my area. I have friends who would never see many of the movies I love, but because they know they are up for an Oscar they go see it and enjoy it. The question is, how do we get all of those terrific movies made by women shown in my local area? And how do we get those same movies recognized in this male dominated movie industry? Believe me, I would be the first to promote and see the fantastic movies made by women. Just show me the way.

  3. Great days, pictures, fun !! the festival is amazing ! Here in Rio is pouring rain today after a long time of drought. Great to hear from you! Trying to make the Guanabara Bay documentary real, its a challenge! all the best! Cheers ..

  4. This is one of my favorite blogs of yours! How much fun you two must have had last week. Thanks for sharing all of the pictures and videos. By the way…did Lily ever find her black scarf???
    Rock on,
    Mel

  5. 3 \\(O) // <3 #Mahalo

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your experience there and all the photos. I’ve heard of it, know someone who lives in Park City and loves to see all the films, but have more a feel of its energy now. I wrote down a couple of titles to be sure and see them– especially Grandma. I love Lily Tomlin 🙂

  7. Great reply post SusanK. I llive in a major German city, where there are many arthouse cinemas and to be honest your post highlighted how blessed I am. Jason

  8. Jane Fonda: Bright, talented, beautiful, brave and honest. You are THE inspiration for so many women (and others.) Thank you.

  9. hello there, nice blog about Sundance Film Festival, it was great that you two were able to come. I am a volunteer at the Library Theater and we encountered each other in the hall while Lily was using the ladies room. I had a change prior to that to tell Lily how wonderful she looks, but while we were there leaning against the wall it didn’t occur to me to say how wonderful you look. You two are amazing, you did a great blog about your experience, thanks for sharing, it encapsulates a visit to Sundance in a true light. We hope you will come again next year and please stay for the whole festival it has so much to offer. Also thank you for your spotlight on WIF such an important point of view. thanks again Teresa

  10. that should have said chance not change

  11. Ms. Fonda,

    This evening (or rather, morning) I read your interview in DuJour. What can I say? The wisdom you imparted arrived for me at a synchronous time. Considerations regarding one’s life, one’s legacy, one’s doubts, one’s striving, and (perhaps most important of all) the possibility of kindness and compassion.

    Such are the things I myself have been contemplating lately. On one hand, I am pretty fixed in my pattern of life. I take care of my family; I go to work; I come home; I go back to work (i.e., writing); I eat; I study films; I read; I sleep; I wake up. And repeat.

    Now, however, it appears something is on the horizon that has never been of interest to me. To explain, I’m writing a screenplay, and I have learned that four producers are already interested in it. I’m writing it for a friend of mine. Growing up in Maysville, Kentucky, he is a friend of Nick Clooney’s. When younger, my friend thought he’d like to act; so Mr. Clooney got him out to Sundance. He acted in some films, found it wasn’t for him (he felt he had no real control as an actor), and so got into production. As he’s told me time and again, he hasn’t the patience to be a writer, and knowing that I do, and that he and I have similar tastes when it comes to stories and films, he’ll tell me of this or that idea… and would I be interested in collaborating on it? If it’s something I find intriguing, I’ll often say “yes”; other times, I’ll speak to him about what he might do to make the story better and more full.

    Anyway, the current screenplay I’m writing (the germ of which came from my friend, who asked me to run with it and “do what you do, John”) is by far the most commercial thing I’ve undertaken. It’s a satire (rather a scathing one, I should add), and apparently I’m quite adept at writing comedy. Who would have known? Certainly not I. I’ve never attempted to write a comedy before, though I admire them very much. I just never thought I was all that funny (others disagree, but what can you do, right?) — or at least, not funny enough to write and shape dialogue and conflict in said genre.

    But I’ll admit I’m having a hell of a great time with the story. The central character is something else — a person who exists without a filter. Whatever he thinks adroitly flies out of his mouth, and consequences be damned. (Of course, such a character allows for ripe and hilarious situations.)

    But even for this, it’s the substance of a piece that truly speaks to me. In order to write anything, there has to be some point; some element explored that will not only entertain, but also inform. Much like, now that I think of it, “Nine to Five,” the wonderful film you made with Ms. Tomlin, Ms. Parton, Mr. Coleman, and the exceptionally talented Mr. Higgins. When I was ten, I saw the film five times in the theater. Having been raised mostly by my mother after my father died, I was pleased that a film had been made that celebrated female strength. I also recall when, during a family date to the cinema, I wanted to go see the film yet again, my mother and sister said, “No. We’re going to see something else instead,” and I proceeded to pitch a fit (ha ha).

    Anyway, those who have read excerpts of my screenplay are telling me, “This is it, John. This is the ONE. You’re going to be famous.” Etc. Please understand, I say this not from a place of conceit. For most of my life, I’ve had other people telling me that, someday, I would finally get where I needed (as well as, according to them, deserved) to be.

    And here’s the thing: I find the thought rather unwelcoming. Disquieting. Because I don’t want to be “famous”; I just want to do my work to the best of my ability, in a positive collaborative atmosphere, and to give back to motion pictures some of the joy they have given me. To entertain people, certainly; but also to allow them to consider the world from perspectives dissimilar to their own.

    According to them, I’m on the brink of accomplishing what others have been telling me for years I would. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. And again forgoing conceit, I have this feeling that, with this particular story, it is going, indeed, to happen. I will finally admit that it scares me. Because all I want to do is put good work out there. I couldn’t stop writing if I tried. Not to do it would drive me crazy. But the rest of it? The fame and all of that? My feeling is, “No, thank you. Just allow me to do my work without the attendant bells and whistles, and I’ll be happy.” I mean, it’s part of the reason I directed my passion toward the page and not the stage (though the same others think I should act, as well, as I did when I was younger).

    So, having been there yourself, have you any advice for me? I hate like hell to ask you; I know you’re a busy person. But I also know you’ll be straight-shooting and honest, just as you were in the DuJour interview. Just as you are and have been when sharing with others your life — Acts I, II, and III.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you, all my best to you and yours, and…

    Warm regards,

    John

    • Sounds like you have a passion, John so just go for it with everything you have. x JF

      • Thank you, Ms. Fonda. “Go for it with everything you have”–that’s what I’m doing.

        On a synchronous note, I found out just tonight that one of the producers who is going to be reading my screenplay is a man who helped to get made–among other films–Coming Home. How about that? Ain’t I lucky?

        When my writing partner informed me of it, I almost fell out of my chair. Then, of course, I experienced a case of the shakes and flop sweat. To think a producer whose work I’ve admired for decades is going to be reading something I wrote? It is surreal. And kind of wonderful. Very.

        But as Camus said, we do what we do “en desespoir de cause.” “…because there is no other way.” It’s fitting, I think, for artists as well as others. It’s not a choice; rather, it is a need. A passion.

        I’m still nervous as hell, sure. But also… exhilarated.

        Again, thank you for your advice. All my best to you and yours, and, as always…

        Warmest regards,

        JZ

        P. S. — I’m looking forward to seeing you and Lily together again! It’s like a little slice of heaven right here on earth.

        J

  12. as I write this…I’m drinking beer at the “down n’ out” bar on 5th and spring in downtown los angeles. above me are five 6ft x 5ft blown up mug shots of celebrities. Your Cincinnati mug shot features prominantly, the power fist is cropped out…your lovely bemused face fills the space, your natural beauty approaches celestial like proportions, such arresting. thought provoking beauty.
    my favorite thing about this blog is all the amazing cosmic connections between you and all the people. this one is that one’s son etc….that and we can not talk about the equality deficits enough these days, in all its contexts.

  13. Xoxo

  14. I met the Wolfpack boys at a party a couple years ago; I am so glad they’ve made it to Sundance! Thank you for the most entertaining report of Sundance this year.

    Your films and writings and public persona have been a lifelong inspiration to me-daily, intellectually, stylistically. That you are now taking time and effort to write personal blog posts is all the more inspiring and both warms and energizes my heart. Thank you Jane.

  15. I hope you keep what I send you.

  16. Ms. Fonda,

    Thank you for sharing your visit at Park City. The video of Lily Tomlin saying she lost her scraf and you said O made me laugh and think of you of both riding in the car in the movie 9 to 5. I love that movie . I will have to be sure and watch for Grandma when it comes around. Perhaps you, Lily and Dolly she create something for Sundance 9 to 5 sequel , Retired. 🙂

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