Dymalski goes to Berlin for new film fest experience
March 11, 2006
Every few years, a filmmaker with a local connection will find a place and some success in the Sundance Film Festival. And while that didn’t happen this year, one Park City filmmaker managed to find her way into an even bigger event.
A few weeks ago, Stacy Dymalski made a trip to Germany to support two movies in the Berlin Film Festival.
"Hold Please," a short which Dymalski wrote and produced, appeared in the short film competition, and "Jupiter Landing," which she wrote and directed, screened in the European Film Market category for films without distribution deals.
"Apparently, Germans like my sense of humor," Dymalski joked.
Both of the films, she noted, seemed to find favor with the European audience.
"I think the humor is a little more off-beat, generally," said Dymalski. "They like dark humor over there, a lot."
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"Jupiter Landing" follows the story of a group of Salt Lake City misfits trying to save their quirky Victorian-era apartment building, while "Hold Please," is an eight-minute comedy about suicide.
"I write it and I produced it and an Australian director directed it," said Dymalski.
Shot this past July in Sydney and directed by Chris Cudlipp, the piece tells the story of a woman dumped by her boyfriend, who, after almost killing herself, calls a suicide prevention hotline. But instead of finding help, she gets a comically serpentine electronic phone system that leaves her in a maze of button pushing.
Dymalski said the film ends with a twist. The original, four-page script was inspired by a real experience, she noted, when she ended up on hold as she tried to cancel a credit card. She wondered what would happen if her situation was an emergency something more serious than an unwanted Mastercard account.
"Some people found it offensive, but most people liked it," said Dymalski. "I can honestly say, if there had been an audience award, I think we would have won."
"Jupiter Landing," she noted, also received a positive reception. In its two screenings, the film earned enough attention that a few studio representatives asked for screeners.
The interest lasted after the festival, too. Dymalski said she received her first offer from a distributor on Tuesday. She credited the Berlin screenings for the attention.
"It got a lot of momentum and it got a lot of attention," she said.
The buyers, she noted, seemed to follow the film’s buzz.
"It went, overnight, from obscure to something with potential," Dymalski said. Berlin was "Jupiter Landing’s" second festival, she said, after the movie premiered at the Park City Film Music Festival. The piece is also screening at Cinequest in San Jose, Calif., and she has been invited to apply to the FEMINA International Women’s Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro.
But Berlin seemed to be a highlight for Dymalski.
"This was something that was equal to Sundance, but totally different," she said.
While the Sundance Film Festival limits its entries to approximately 120 films and in 2005, drew approximately 46,000 people to its primary home in Park City, the Berlin Film Festival is an entirely different operation.
"Berlin has something like seven-million [people], and the festival draws, like, 18,000," said Dymalski.
The event also shows far more screenings, she noted, with more than 250 films screening in the European Film Art category alone.
Otherwise, Dymalski said the Berlin Film Festival seemed to focus more on plot-driven films.
"They’re not as artsy," she said. "They’re not all thinking movies You don’t have to sit there and try to read something into it."
She also said the event seemed to focus more on the movies and less on the business than its Park City counterpart.
"There’s a lot of the energy without a lot of the schmooze," she said. "This was less about the money and more about character and story."
Ultimately, she said the experience was an interesting one. After attending the Sundance Film Festival for more than 20 years, Berlin’s event offered a definite change of pace and setting, and perhaps, she noted, some new opportunities for her films.
"It was a really pleasant surprise to go over there," Dymalski concluded.
Now, she noted, the process of hammering out a distribution deal which she likened to buying an expensive home is just beginning for "Jupiter Landing."
"It’s weird," said Dymalski. "It takes on a life of its own."