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Sundance 2013: How Producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger Found Their "Sweet Spot"

By Indiewire | Indiewire January 20, 2013 at 2:00PM

Here is the keynote address delivered by Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger at the annual Sundance Film Festival Producers Brunch Sunday, Jan. 20.
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Ron Yerxa: Thank you, Albert. That journey was so vivid I almost feel like I was there.

Now to add some more gravitas. I'd like to describe an epiphany based on an actual recent incident while we were driving from the Omaha airport to our location in rural Nebraska in the middle of the night. We turned off the highway to get a beer and when we got back on the road, the built-in GPS system in our rented Ford Escape scolded us by saying we'd gone off the route and must turn around and go back. But the after-market Tom Tom GPS supplied as a backup immediately started recalculating and said, "Proceed, Old Man. There's another way to get there." That was both a life lesson and a teachable moment for our talk today: 1) "There's never a need to turn back," 2) "There's always another way to get there as long as you know where you're going," and 3) "Every wrong turn presents a new opportunity."

So let's celebrate our spontaneity and resilience and ability to recalculate quickly and learn from even the most mundane experiences. We are free spirits liberated from corporate restraints, with their overbearing bosses and soul-crushing expense accounts. Why fly First Class when you can bring your own mixed nuts?

"Election"
"Election"

With each film we make and the way we make it, we answer to our own conscience. Our films can open the door to a fresh, liberating vision or kick it shut with some tired social pornography. We are the new "entrepreneurial existential warriors” -- at least until the people atop Deer Valley awaken and descend down the mountain to enter our dreams and demand a "produced by" credit.

Albert Berger: We want to give special acknowledgement to our colleagues from “The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman," many who are here today. You showed up in Bucharest with a love for the project, a strong point of view and a desire to make a movie that matters. You certainly understand the importance of hanging together through all the unpredictable twists and turns a film can take and that in the end something better comes out of it. It was an exhilarating experience that Ron and I will never forget. Onwards to our premiere!

As the film business shifts and changes around us, Ron and I keep plugging away, trying our best to adhere to our principles, some that we stumbled upon that first "Bona Fide Sundance." We believe that the audience is important. Movies are an expensive proposition, and we very much value the collective response to our stories. But we don’t want to fixate on a foreign sales paradigm, which limits your choices to the same narrow group of actors and promotes a homogenized cookie-cutter film culture. Our goal is to make personal films for an audience. We don’t want to waste your time. It’s an honor to produce movies, and we take the job very seriously.

Ron Yerxa: We can't thank the generous people of Sundance enough for being fellow travelers on our journey. More than most people in the room, we look forward to the year 2033, when we hope to be asked to speak here again -- at the groundbreaking of the Sundance Assisted Living Facility. Until then, let's remember the words of Jean Paul Sartre and embrace the optimistic spontaneity of the Tom Tom GPS system -- and fight on as proud comrades and competitors!

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Ron Yerxa, Albert Berger, Charlie Countryman