Dramatic Debuts in Park City for “Party Monster” and “Cry Funny Happy”
by Eugene Hernandez and Caroline Wells
Friday night at a small condo party hosted by Killer Films, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato hung out in the kitchen as guests sporadically made their way past the duo to pour themselves bowls of chili from the large pot that had been cooked up for the occasion. “I am quietly nervous,” Bailey told indieWIRE. “It’s masked by the wine,” he quipped, referring to his anxiousness for Saturday’s screening of “Party Monster,” the adaptation of James St. James’ book “Disco Bloodbath” that is screening in the dramatic competition here at Sundance. The pair was feeling the pressure of the increasing awareness and attention being paid to their new movie.
Less than 18 hours later, Bailey and Barbato were hanging out behind the Eccles Theater, reflecting on the jammed screening of the film. To say that Saturday’s noontime showing was met with anticipation would be an understatement. High-priced tickets were selling on eBay and holders began lining up hours before the showing.
A sense of relief washed over the filmmakers as they talked with indieWIRE during a few quiet moments after the stars and fans had made their way to the parking lot. “I think that people expect more ‘party’ than ‘monster,'” Barbato reflected, when asked to consider the audience’s reaction to the movie. “But I’m a Virgo,” he added, smiling, “I can find the wrong in anything!”
An ovation greeted the directors when they briefly introduced the film two hours earlier. “This feels like coming home in a way,” Bailey explained on stage, referring to the fact that he and Barbato are Sundance veterans (their “Party Monster” doc debuted here in Park City, as did the popular “Eyes of Tammy Faye”). Continuing, they thanked producer Christine Vachon of Killer Films (calling her “the patron saint of unmakeable movies”), Sheila Nevins their patron saint in documentary at HBO, and James St. James, the club kid turned author whose book they actually encouraged years ago. “This is his big ‘Erin Brockovich’ moment,” they joked, singling out St. James in the crowd.
Smilling and posing with fans after the showing, St. James was hardly shy in the face of the attention. “Oh my God, I’m so fabulous,” he shrieked during a chat with indieWIRE on the way to the car, “I’ve got my own Mini Me: Seth.”
Seth Green, who channels St. James with an energy and flair on screen, was a big hit with attendees and was met with exuberant cheers after the showing. The actor, his hair dyed a shade of purple for the premiere, was asked about his work with Macaulay Culkin (who starred in the role of club kid murderer Michael Alig). “We all learned from the great example of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman,” he joked.
Now, with their big screening finished, the filmmakers will await word on distribution for their film. Cinetic is selling the movie, which was financed by ContentFilm.
HAPPY ABOUT “HAPPY”
Filmmaker Sam Neave and actress Amy Redford spoke with indieWIRE briefly about their American Spectrum film “Cry Funny Happy,” which screened Saturday. The film portrays turning points in the lives of six people who are single and “still (have) no fixed career by age 30,” according to Neave. It is a distinctly modern dilemma. The six actors were given a basic backstory for their characters during the three-month rehearsal period, during which both the director and the performers contributed to the character development.
Remarked Neave, “There’s no way I could have written this script by myself. The actors’ contributions were invaluable to the process.” Amy Redford (daughter of Sundance’s Robert Redford) described the benefits of this extensive rehearsal period as crucial in “building a fundamental platform of trust with the director” that “opened the lines of communication in all directions.”
She further commented that it was a wonderful experience to have “freedom to work within a structure.” Director Neave had a blueprint for the plot but only gave the actors Act I of the script in order to create a real-time feeling to the film. He described using methods such as “giving and keeping secrets” to the actors in order to elicit organic reactions.