Sundance short "Catching Up," tackles tough subject |

Sundance short "Catching Up," tackles tough subject

Sundance Film Festival Programming Director Trevor Groth recently characterized Bill Crossland as one of the bravest filmmakers in this year’s festival.

Crossland wrote, directed and stars in the narrative short "Catching Up."

The centerpiece of this intimate story is a conversation between two physically disabled men about their chances at romance. The interchange is witty, poignant and uninhibited

Producer Jill Gray Savarese gives Crossland all of the credit for the engaging dialog.

"This is a passion project for him," she said.

Crossland, who has muscular dystrophy, plays a semi-autobiographical character — a physically challenged school teacher who has fallen in love with an able-bodied co-worker. He confides in a friend, who is also disabled, and asks for advice.

The exchange is both familiar and uncomfortable. Most viewers will easily relate to Crossland’s character, Frank, when he expresses the agony of being suddenly smitten.

"I can deal with any other problem that comes up and then this girl comes into the picture and somehow it is the only thing that makes me feel I am not good enough."


But less familiar to those without disabilities is how Crossland, and others like him, are supposed to navigate today’s hypersexual dating scene. His cynical friend Dirk (played by Erik O. Mayer) puts it bluntly.

"Sex used to come later, now it comes first This isn’t PBS, it’s MTV."

He goes on to tell Frank, that his chances of landing a partner are slim to none.

But Dirk’s brutally honest assessment is unlikely to sway Sundance audiences. Thanks to Crossland’s heartfelt dialog, it’s a good bet they will be cheering him on in his quest to win the heart of his coworker, regardless of their physical differences.

Savarese hopes that will be the takeaway.

"Catching Up" is her company’s first film and she said they are already working on a feature-length version that will introduce other characters in Frank’s life.

In addition to filmmaking, Savarese is a sign-language interpreter and founder of DEAFinitely Theatre, which stages productions featuring hearing impaired and deaf actors. Her new company, Gray Savarese Films, also focuses on advocating for artists with disabilities, she said.

Crossland and Savarese hadn’t met face to face until they were on set, but in an email exchange she said his talent for writing was immediately apparent.

"I jumped at the opportunity. I really believe in him," she said, adding that she, Crossland and Mayer will all be attending the festival. "We are really excited to be here and to see how audiences react," she said.

"Catching Up" is in Sundance’s Narrative Shorts program and will screen with the film "First Girl I Loved" at the following times:

  • Sunday, Jan. 24, 5:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre
  • Tuesday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m., Library Center Theatre, Salt Lake City
  • Wednesday, Jan. 27, 6:45 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinema 3, Salt Lake City
  • Friday, Jan. 29, 9 p.m., Temple Theatre, Park City

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