Quantcast

Star-struck at Sundance — Notes from behind the lens

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 9:38 a.m. MDT

Actor Jimmy Smits, a cast member in the film Actor Jimmy Smits, a cast member in the film "Mother & Child," poses for a rooftop portrait during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

PARK CITY — Nah.

Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper wouldn't stop for a photo. Would they?

If big-time Ben Affleck, John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton and Philip Seymour Hoffman wouldn't pause for just one lousy second, then why would Jones and Cooper?

But I had to try. I knew I had one chance.

And I wanted to do a great job for the company that hired me for two days this past weekend to photograph happenings at a celebrity lounge during the Sundance Film Festival.

As for the reporter in me, I felt a little like a spy. I wanted to tell a story, however shallow and trivial it may be. To be safe, though, I won't say who hired me or where exactly I was.

I shot all of the standard stuff. The details. The wide shots. Inside and outside. There were places, faces and certain staged stuff I wasn't supposed to shoot.

Leigh Von der Esch, left, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism and Film, talks with Katy Scerbakova and producer Jeff Most during a brunch sponsored by the Utah Film Commission at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) Leigh Von der Esch, left, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism and Film, talks with Katy Scerbakova and producer Jeff Most during a brunch sponsored by the Utah Film Commission at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

One guy hired me, but six more were either telling me to not shoot someone or the next minute, for example, to follow and photograph supermodel Rachel Hunter the next minute. No, I'm not asking for sympathy.

Sadly, ex-hubby rocker Rod Stewart was absent. Hunter would have to do. And she was as sweet as pie, no doubt used to being photographed once or twice.

Then there was Tilda. There's a certain presence or energy about her, not to mention the huge entourage, that makes her seem completely unapproachable. I didn't try.

David Hyde Pierce graciously stopped.

"OK, if you do it right away," he replied to my request for a photo.

He stood there for a moment. I told him I'd take three shots. Pop. Pop. Pop.

He smiled, stocking cap still on. Over and done with. Thanks. A slap on the shoulder from Pierce. Bye.

White Rock Willie, left, of Salt Lake City, allegedly Captain Jack Sparrow's cousin, talks with Suzy Starke German as they walk along Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) White Rock Willie, left, of Salt Lake City, allegedly Captain Jack Sparrow's cousin, talks with Suzy Starke German as they walk along Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

Gold, or at least silver in my book.

The list of those who were generous with a moment and a smile is long.

SNL's Rachel Dratch, musician John Forte, director Davis Guggenheim, brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, pretty boy Adrian Grenier (a chef in Vegas has promised to "hook" me up with some serious grub for a photo I shot of her and Grenier), the injured but still gorgeous Appolonia, Grammy winner Jorge Moreno and on and on.

So many stars were so nice. I never tried to take a close-up shot without asking first.

Actor John Ortiz came in. Ortiz moved on. When he came back my way, I asked. He stood at the top of the stairs. Two shots this time, both vertical. Flash. Flash. We exchanged a fist bump.

Bam. It was that easy.

Aja Petersen, center, has her picture taken with actor Shawn Ashmore, who played Iceman in the X-Men movies and stars in the Sundance movie Aja Petersen, center, has her picture taken with actor Shawn Ashmore, who played Iceman in the X-Men movies and stars in the Sundance movie "Frozen," on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

It should always be that easy. But attitudes and publicists get in the way.

Affleck had the attitude, mouthy and off-putting as he quickly walked through the upstairs. I didn't even ask. See ya.

Some actors rely on their publicists to be mouthy. And I get it. They're busy. And the actors probably don't want to be rude. So they pay someone to do their dirty work as they quietly navigate their way around the festival.

When Hoffman's publicist denied my request, I simply told the actor, "Hey, have a good time." Hoffman looked at me, smiled, patted me on the shoulder and said, "Thanks."

When John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and part of the cast of "Cyrus" came breezing through, I merely asked how their premiere went the previous night. They were friendly. But no photos.

Donald Mustard, left, with Chair Entertainment from Provo, Utah, talks with Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and Dr. Craig Caldwell, a professor of digital media at the University of Utah, during a brunch sponsored by the Utah Film Commission at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) Donald Mustard, left, with Chair Entertainment from Provo, Utah, talks with Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and Dr. Craig Caldwell, a professor of digital media at the University of Utah, during a brunch sponsored by the Utah Film Commission at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

The best shots I would get of "Cyrus" cast members during the festival came during their red carpet appearance. Like shooting fish in a barrel. I zoomed in close enough on Hill to see beads of sweat on his face.

I can show you the red carpet photos, because at the time I was freelancing for the Deseret News. The other shots from the celebrity lodge are off limits. They now belong to my temporary employer.

So I can't show you the photos I took of Joseph Gordon Levitt, who did stop and gab when I asked how his project was fairing at the New Frontier exhibit just up the street. I fired off a few frames at New Frontier for the D-News. Levitt didn't mind.

Same thing with press conferences. The stars are fair game at press conferences.

Sundance head honcho Robert Redford had a hundred still and video cameras aimed at him last week. Actor James Franco and the cast of "Howl" were wonderful subjects as they sat and talked about their film.

Derek Mellus, left, with the Utah Film Commission, and Tim Nelson, a member of the Motion Picture Advisory Committee in the Governor's Office of Economic Development, joke with producers Kubilay Uner and Kjeld Gogosha-Clark during a brunch sponsored by the film commission at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) Derek Mellus, left, with the Utah Film Commission, and Tim Nelson, a member of the Motion Picture Advisory Committee in the Governor's Office of Economic Development, joke with producers Kubilay Uner and Kjeld Gogosha-Clark during a brunch sponsored by the film commission at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

The press conferences were D-News assignments. I can show you those photos.

But I can't show you the three shots I fired off of Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper.

Yes, they stopped for a photo. Whoa! Really?

Seriously, they actually threw me a bone.

Neither one came into the lodge with people. They entered with serious looks. Their walk was slow but deliberate — in a word, cool.

As they strode out after giving a press interview, they didn't stop to talk with anyone. I had positioned myself next to a line of windows and a door with lots of natural light pouring through. The camera's ISO, shutter speed and aperture were adjusted just so after a few test shots.

Actor Jimmy Smits attends the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (Scott Halleran, Getty Images) Actor Jimmy Smits attends the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (Scott Halleran, Getty Images)

Quietly and calmly I asked, "Tommy, can I get a quick shot of you guys?"

Cooper stopped for a second, maybe thought I was only talking to Jones, and started to walk away. "No, both of you guys," I said to Cooper.

Without a word that I could hear, Jones grabbed Cooper by the arm and posed him in front of the door. Then Jones staggered himself just behind Cooper.

You could tell Jones knows a few things about lighting a shot.

"I'll take three guys," I said. Half smiles from both. The light was perfect.

Click. Click. Click.

I said "Thanks" and they nodded.

Actor Orlando Bloom attends the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (Scott Halleran, Getty Images) Actor Orlando Bloom attends the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (Scott Halleran, Getty Images)

Cool. Very cool.

e-mail: saspeckman@yahoo.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company