I now have day 1 of my 2014 Sundance Film Festival experience in the books and it was a good one. Park City is a lovely town, bustling with excited filmmakers and film-goers. Me and my fellow "Beyond The White Board" Producer Audrey Makris have decided to try and attend two major world premiere screenings without tickets. Yes, you heard me right. But we are using the power of technology here; this new online "e-waitlist" system used by the festival is a glorious thing. 2 hours before any screening, you can register (via their online app) to be put on a waitlist, meaning if there are any empty seats in the theatre appx 20 minutes before showtime, they will start selling those seats to the people in the waitlist line in the order they signed up. Our first world premiere is a hot ticket - "The Case Against 8". This is a doc (premiering on HBO this June) covering the entire 5- year saga of California's divisive Proposition 8 initiative which took away the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the state.
Audrey and I, fingers poised, literally count the seconds to precisely 2 hours before showtime when the waitlist opens online for the public. 3....2....1....WAITLIST OPEN! We punch in and get numbers 53 and 54. Is this good? We have no clue. But, we head to Park City to catch a shuttle to the Temple Theatre and decide to take our chances. At the theatre, the waitlist line is kept in a side room away from the rest of the patrons. Manned by two sky-blue parka-ed Sundance volunteers, they check you in and take your place in line. It is run like a Southwest Air boardiing pass - lineup in the order of your waitlist number. Audrey and I take our place about in the middle of the line. Not to kill the suspense too much, but we got in. Barely. We couldn't even sit together. But once the movie started, I was totally engrossed. This is a very strong, very emotional documentary giving you unprecedented access to all the behind the scenes machinations of how lawyers Ted Olsen, David Boies and the two same-sex couples bringing the case against state worked tirelessly to defeat Prop 8 at every level of our justice system. At the end of the movie, there wasn't a dry eye in the place and much audible sniffling. The lights come up, and EVERYone from the doc heads to the front of the theatre - Olsen, Boies, Rob Reiner, both of the same-sex couples.....it was magnificient. One of the best times I've ever had in a movie theatre. I was honored to have witnessed it. We did the same thing again for the CNN-produced doc, "Ivory Tower" - this time we received waitlist numbers 61 and 62. We got in a bit easier to this one, actually getting to sit together, but it still seemed totally packed by showtime. "Ivory Tower" is a solid doc, detailing the potentially disasterous rising costs of college in this country. It moves swiftly and can start plenty of conversations afterwards, but it casts too wide a net and never gets the real chance to dig into the details of the problems much less any solutions to it. However, with "Blackfish" and now "Ivory Tower", CNN is certainly moving strongly into producing quality documentaries.