Monday, February 02, 2015

Slamdance/Sundance 2015 Day 1: Batkid Begins World Premiere!

Well, THAT sure was amazing.

Michal and I went to Slamdance and Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah last weekend for both our first Slamdance/Sundance experience AND our first time as part of "World Premiere-ing" a film!

We were there to join the lovely Dana Nachman, Liza Meak, Kurt Kuenne, Ian Reinhard, and other excellent cast and crew of Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World for the World Premiere at the 21st annual Slamdance Film Festival. What an experience!

I had seen about 5 min of the rough cut of the film's opening and it had me in tears. I know Kurt Kuenne's prior work (see Dear Zachary, incredibly powerful film and truly one of the most heart-wrenching film experiences ever), and was so psyched to see how he and Dana had woven a story around the little Batkid wish that we did in 2013 which magically spiraled into the good-news story of 2013. I had a link to the final cut a few weeks before, but had exercised extreme restraint in only watching a couple of clips. I am so glad I saved watching the whole movie until the big day.

Glorious Park City!
Gotta put on our Bat-faces
We got up on Saturday (Jan 24th), had some brekkie together and headed towards Main St in Park City, a truly wondrous little town with a ski chair lift running right over the main walk into town. It's a really excellent spot and I'd love to go back another time and ski when we aren't so busy and overwhelmed with excitement for a film release :)

Walking towards Slamdance
Slamdance HQ!
At Slamdance HQ with Rob, Jen, and Kurt
We got to Slamdance and lined up and man was it ever exciting. Lots of people were there, keen to see the film about the Batkid wish - myself included.

In line for the Batkid Begins World Premiere!
Lots of people here!
An excited crowd
OMG this is gonna rock
Epic people
After a short wait, BOOM in we went to the screening room at the Treasure Mountain Inn, home of Slamdance. I thought it was hilarious that outside the venue, there were signs referring to the location by its short-form: "TMI". ;)

A hush fell over the crowd...

Let the show begin!
The movie was an absolute slam DUNK. I am *so* glad I actually waited to see the whole thing for the premiere itself -- it was really worth it to have all of the emotions run me over and I had a very much "feel ALL the EMOTIONS!" kind of experience. There was sadness, excitement, joy, pride, overwhelming happiness, hope... "feel ALL of the emotions"!

The most important part, to me -- from someone who took part in the day itself -- is that I feel the film really does represent the spirit of the Batkid wish. Without writing any spoilers... it has a great setup and backstory and staging for the truly heroic (I might say, angelic) work that Make-A-Wish does hundreds upon hundreds of times per year to pull off wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. You really do get to see the hard work and care and thought that goes into this organization of world-changingly amazing people. You also get to see the wheels starting to fly into motion for this Batkid wish, how it got bigger and more visible than anyone had imagined, and how the staff, volunteers, helpers, city workers, and citizens of San Francisco stepped up and all did their part to make this boy's wish come true on a scale we will likely never see again. Truly astonishing to see footage from our rehearsals, planning, and the day-of, all beautifully cut with interviews from the organizers, us "cast", and the many, many people touched by this act of pure, unadultered, unfiltered, beautiful humanity. I was blown away. There is so much footage online and available on news sites, but Dana and Kurt managed to pull together a really touching story which is much more than the sum of hundreds of news articles and individual clips. It's just plain perfect. They hit every single note, and to me, they represent why I said "Yes" and I why I was so proud of us, and so damn happy to be a part of such a unique moment in time.

After the screening the room roared in applause and the Slamdance staff ran a short Q&A with the crew.

Batkid Begins Q&A from the crew
I'm in awe of these people
Baby's first Q&A
The crowd listens in amazement
After the short Q&A, we all went up to take a few cast & crew photos and, obv, hug it out.

Batkid fist pump!
Another cast & crew angle
Processing the emotions
Always hug your exec producer :)
Whew! And after a successful World Premiere (!!!!) we headed to a Bistro for some celebration food and drinks and to all mentally process what we just accomplished. Another great Bat-team win :)

Very important aside: for those of you who are not aware, the proceeds of Batkid Begins will be donated to The Batkid Fund -- so this film is not only a freakin' beautiful time capsule of the spirit of the Batkid wish, but it's ALSO a charity project. Oh man, I couldn't be happier with this entire setup.

Better sync up those watches
World Premiere: Success!
And with that, we headed off. Some folks went back to their lodges to warm up by the fire, some went out to party, and some did both (us!).

Time for pizza
Good times :)
A glorious evening
An amazing first day at Sundance/Slamdance, an amazing first experience, and a truly incredible "world premiere event" to have been a part of!

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