01/06/2012 11:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Sundance Diaries: 10 Whole Days

Every year the Sundance Film Festival committee selects a group of filmmakers who usually have day jobs. These are the short filmmakers -- often first-time directors who had no reason at the start of their process to believe they'd reach the public at all, much less at the best-known film festival in the country. The HuffPost Culture series "The Sundance Diaries" will investigate the "short" path to Sundance with regular diary-style entries from many of the 32 storytellers, animators, and documentarians whose shorts were selected this year out of a pool of 4,038.

With my girlfriend in tow, my blue Jetta sputtered to the side of the road chug, chug, chug, as the famously constant Seattle rain slammed my windshield. I maneuvered the malfunctioning vehicle to a gated driveway and popped the hood. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I just took a general inventory of the machinery and called my dad. He told me that it was the most inopportune time I could have called as he was just getting ready to cut the turkey for 25 salivating guests. But being the kind-hearted person that he is, he handed off the turkey cutting duties (the most admired and coveted job of the holiday) and drove out to help us. At about this point, my cellphone was beeping at me, telling me that it was just about to die when I saw I had just missed a call; some strange out of state phone number. Who the heckabop calls me on Thanksgiving? And then my cellphone died. The car still wouldn't start, so we put a note on the windshield and piled into my dad's car. This was the beginning of my Thanksgiving 2011.


When we finally arrived at my parents house, we were treated to an exceptional Thanksgiving feast. As per tradition, after dinner, we play our annual game of Bingo in which I am the official caller. But this year, my dad and I had to drive back to my abandoned car and try and resuscitate it. While this was happening my aunts and uncles were busily arranging chairs to have the most advantageous area to view the prizes lined up on the table. Babies were throwing things at one another, men were watching football, smooth jazz was playing out of a kitchen radio and everyone was anxiously anticipating the chance to win a candle or mug. Luckily, we got the car going and somehow, got it back to my parents house. When we finally returned, the bingo junkies made us feel like we had been gone for hours, inconveniencing their life in new and horrible ways; everyone was already seated at the bingo table, cards in hand, ready to screech out the magic five letter word.


"Two swans in a pond. I 22, two swans in a pond". My signature bingo calling line. I say it very, very slowly, to emulate the great bingo callers of my youth. My aunt, always seated directly to my left, chastises me for talking too slowly, "Oh get on with it already!" she continued half jokingly "We don't have all day!" Some family members motion for me to go faster, others nod their heads approvingly at my deliberate speed. Everyone fights over the prizes (since prize sniping was sanctioned back in 2004) and my mom usually becomes an ersatz mediator/referee/grief counselor for the various factions of aggrieved bingo players who do not get the prize of their dreams.

The next morning, we woke up at my parent's house and I decided to check my email on my sister's laptop. Seated in my parents kitchen, I opened my email to find one that said: Song of the Spindle & Sundance Film Festival. It said that this person was a programmer at the festival and had tried calling me over the past couple days and could not get a hold of me. Aha! The weird phone number from when my car broke down. I called the number in the email and was informed by the programmer that my film was accepted. I walked back down to my parents kitchen and told them all. Everyone was ecstatic. Especially my mom who wanted to tell all of her friends and family right away. But there was a hitch: they couldn't tell anyone for 10 days.