The night before I headed off to Sundance, my friends/suitemates made it very clear that I had to meet James Franco and take a photo with him at all costs… or I wouldn’t be let back into our suite (a joke, I hope). They even took the liberty to put his name all over sticky notes on my door [see left] to remind me that I was destined to meet him and absolutely had to find a way to be in his presence. In all fairness, I was the one to tell them that meeting James Franco was my ultimate goal at Sundance, and I just had this feeling that he would spot me in a crowd and would want to buy me dinner. Looking back, I laugh at my naiveté. First off, James Franco is 36 and I am 19 (a 17 year age difference… try bringing him home to meet mom & dad). Second, those lights on stage are blinding… how would he even see me all the way in the 27th row?! And third, when and why did James Franco suddenly become my goal for achieving ultimate Sundance happiness?
If you ever make someone or something the determining factor for a trip such as Sundance, it is inevitable that you are going to overlook all the other amazing encounters and only focus on the one that didn’t happen. I have been lucky to come across several actors, directors, and screenwriters that I have been inspired by during my time at Sundance. Jacqueline Kim (Advantageous), Avan Jogia (Ten Thousand Saints), Tobey Maguire, Ken Jeung (Advantageous), David Arquette, Emory Cohen (Brooklyn), and RJ Mitte had been some of the actors I came across while walking up Main Street or after having watched their film. I agree, one should not be celebrity-hungry and only go to places to find celebrities in order to take a photo with them. It is a human reaction to want to do this, to want to make other people jealous on social media that you were the one lucky enough to be in the presence of a well-known celebrity. However, I view meeting celebrities as a special occurrence where you can see someone that has been put up on a pedestal by society and relate to them as normal human beings. It is even more special when they are people that you appreciate and look up to, such as when I met Kris Swanberg, director of the Sundance film Unexpected.
Kris received many compliments during the Q&A about her film and you could tell she was truly a genuine person that was humbled by such praise. After the Q&A, I told Kris off-stage that I had really enjoyed her film and was wondering if she, as a young female director, had any words of advice for me as I am an aspiring filmmaker. “You are nineteen? Wow. Well, I guess I would say to just start now. Make something that is true and honest to yourself.” Her words of advice resembled what my professor, Virginia had told me when we sat and talked on a bench on Main Street as well as what Patrick Gilfillan (screenwriter of Lila & Eve) told me as we both walked to the bus stop after Mass on Sunday. If 3 different people tell me the same thing, then I should treasure that piece of advice and follow through with it. Thank you Kris, Virginia, and Patrick.
Now, back to Franco. I had received word that he was still at Sundance during the second week while many people had left to go back home to warm, sunny Hollywood. I was thrilled to hear this, because I just so happened to have a ticket to I Am Michael, a film James Franco starred in. I was also convinced he was going to arrive at the screening for the Q&A, like most of the actors had done for their newly-premiered films. The film was at 9:30AM, so you know I was at the bus stop by 7:45. I am kind of embarrassed at how early I got up, too… but let’s not talk about it. So I got second row seats, perfect to jump up after the Q&A and wave Franco down for a picture. Even the random strangers in front of me knew I wanted to meet him, so they suggested that they would help me get his attention and would take the photo for me. Let’s also not talk about that. Anyway, I couldn’t truly enjoy the last 5 minutes of his film because I was nervous and anxious at the following events that would occur once Franco would walk on stage. This was it, this was why I got up at (insert ridiculously early time) to get ready. Today was the day I was going to meet James Franco!
*Insert turntable scratching noise*
Yeah, he didn’t show up.
Okay, so to say I was bummed would be an understatement. I could have slept in, I could have just sat in the 27th row, and most importantly, I could have gotten a picture with James Franco. I felt defeated, as if my efforts to meet one of my favorite actors were not good enough and therefore led me to be sitting in the second row by myself, listening to only the director at the Q&A, with the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing in my head. It took me a couple of days to shake off the disappointment and to focus on the people that I did meet while at Sundance, many who may have been more inspiring and exciting to talk to than simply saying “Hi” and “Bye” to James Franco. Sure, meeting James Franco would have been such a memorable moment for me, and getting a picture with him would have been awesome… but that’s life. At the end of the day, even though James Franco didn’t show up to his movie, I did. I stood in line, I watched his film, I stayed for the Q&A, and that’s what matters more. My time at Sundance cannot be measured by how many celebrities I saw or how many films I watched, but rather how I grew as a person and how my passion for film matured. In just 10 days, I went from wanting to see every movie and meet every celebrity to embracing the random moments of spontaneity that came from simply crossing paths with some amazing filmmakers and writers.
My experience of Sundance transcends any meeting of celebrities or viewing of films; it has truly been a whirlwind of emotion mixed with exciting encounters and profound memories that I will take with me wherever I may go. The people I met both on the street and in the classroom have also impacted my time at Sundance, and for that I am grateful. Maybe one day I will randomly meet James Franco in the true-Sundance fashion, with no planning or preparation but instead by circumstance. And that is when I will tell James Franco that although I appreciate his work and look forward to his future projects, I may not be able to ever forgive him for making me go through all that trouble to wake up at 5:50AM on that cold, Thursday morning at Sundance 2015 🙂
Note to Self- James Franco is NOT the Goal.