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Last Days of the Fest

Just got back to Los Angeles and wanted to drop a line about the last couple days at Sundance. As far as TYFS goes, the festival added a final screening on Saturday in Eccles (the big theater) because of all the buzz. It was a real joy sitting there and watching it with everybody. I think it was the first time I just relaxed and watched the movie without a worry in my mind. It was a thrill. I was reminded of all the great contributions people made along the way to make this film what it is. Particularly the dialogue. Some of my favorite lines were coined by the actors -

"The great state of Vermont will not apologize for it's cheese." - William H. Macy

"Come on Hiroshi, the sand's not going to rake itself" - Adam Brody

"I have to go fire a call screener" - Dennis Miller

"Bitch, Whore." - Aaron Eckhart

"He's a fun guy. You'll like him" - Rob Lowe

"Thank you" (in response to "I'm sure you both deserve vigilantly justice" - Maria Bello

"We can have our own celebrity victim tour" - David Sacks (producer)

And of course Christopher Buckley wrote everything else. If you haven’t bought the “Thank You For Smoking” book yet, I can’t tell you how much you’re missing. You really owe yourself the opportunity to read it now and be the first to claim how much better the novel is than the movie.

Oh, and we found the missing Katie Holmes footage. It was on the floor of a projection booth at Sundance. It played as part of the film on Saturday and I think everyone was under whelmed. I tried to warn people, but I guess folks want to believe the gossip.

I took an MPEG as I was introduced before the screening so you could see what it’s like to take the stage at Sundance. Check for that on the site in the next couple days. In the mean time, enjoy the cool photo my wife Michele took of me live on CNN. It rocks. I may hire her to shoot my next film.

As the festival cooled down, I got the chance to see more films. My hand is covered in stamps from going to so many theaters. So much great stuff, Loved all the docs. Particularly “Awesome: I fucking shot that” (Beastie Boys), “Everyone Stares” (the Police), and “Clear Cut”. However, here are four narrative films you need to see:

“Little Miss Sunshine” – As good as the hype. It’s the “Sideways” of this year.

“Quinciniera” – Charming. Beautiful. Real. Eric Steelberg (who shot all my commercials and short films) was the cinematographer.

“Alpha Dog” – Late 90’s tale of a kidnapping gone wrong. Unbelievable portrait of Southern California youth culture.

“13 Tzameti” – French thriller. Black and White. Russian Roulette. Will leave you sweating. Promise.

Back to work tomorrow. Finishing the deal on my next film right now. Getting ready for a national tour with the film that leads up to the release on March 17th. First stop is the Santa Barbara Film Festival on February 12th. If you’re nearby, come by and say hello.Jason_on_cnn_3_1
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In My Defense

I've been following the comments on this blog as well as our IMDB board and noticed that some people have gotten it in their head that somehow I orchestrated this controversy from the start. If you don’t mind, I’d like to offer the following thoughts in my defense:

1. I'm not that clever. You have to keep in mind that when I came to explain the projection error after the screening, I thought it was hilarious. Of course, the one moment to be missing was a scene featuring Katie in the act. I made reference to it in jest. It wasn't 'til 48 hours later that the press suddenly decided to make a story out of this.

2. Anyone looking for some action will be very disappointed by the twelve seconds at the end of reel two. There is no nudity. It's not even remotely sexual. It's a comedic moment with some humping in the background that is undercut by humorous voice over. If I really made this all up, I’d only be setting people up for disappointment.

3. I don't have access to the print. I know this sounds ridiculous, but in the modern era of piracy, the studio keeps enormous security around the print. An armed guard from Fox arrives with the print one hour before the screening and sits in the projection booth throughout the show. Then promptly returns it to Fox. It would take Oceans 11 to hijack the reel.

Most importantly, I really like Katie. She’s just a sweetheart and was nothing but professional and lovely on set. I couldn’t be happier with her performance and I’m thrilled to have her in the film. It kills me every time she gets crucified in the press and I’d never want to add to that muck.

My problem is that what we’re dealing with is a mundane projection issue due to a cut to black that occurs between the reel change marks. It’s the truth and it sounds like a lie.

Anyhow, if you feel like promoting further rumors, knock yourself out. I suppose it only provides more publicity for the film and more importantly, I find it incredibly entertaining….

In fact, please submit the most outlandish version of events you can come up with to this blog in the comments section. Astound me with your conspiracy theories. I’ve certainly heard some interesting ones over the last few days. Would love to hear what you can come up with.

12 Seconds

Okay, here’s the story.

Since Searchlight picked up Thank You For Smoking at Toronto last September, they’ve been previewing the film to the press. Each week, I get an email with reactions from the various critics and journalists. In last week’s report, writers from both Playboy and Penthouse (I didn’t know they critiqued films either) complained as to a missing sex scene. At the time, I thought they were simply under whelmed by the amount of sex and were asking for more. I had no idea the scene was actually missing from their screening.

Saturday night, the film premiered in front of 1300 people in the Eccles Theater at Sundance. Around thirty minutes in, at the end of the second reel, there was a sudden jump in scenes, thus eliminating a twelve second montage with Katie Holmes and Aaron Eckhart. The montage contains tame snapshots of the couple in various sexual positions around the house as Aaron’s character comments humorously on the situation.

I immediately started looking around the theater for the nearest Fox executive, presuming they had cut the scene without telling me. However, I quickly discerned that wasn’t the case. The cut was crude. As if someone literally took scissors to the print.

Since the scene contained no crucial plot information, the audience didn’t realize what they had missed until I informed them during the Q&A after the film. One audience member asked if they would have the chance to see any nudity. I referred him to the DVD of “The Gift”.

The following day, we had an 11am screening. This time, I introduced the film with a pre-emptive apology for the missing scene. When the screening reached the end of the second reel, the entire audience groaned in unison at the harsh cut, this time aware of what they were missing.

It was only Monday morning that I suddenly found myself inundated with reporters, curious about the missing footage. TV and print journalists were asking me whether or not Tom Cruise had contacted me to remove the scene or had he simply gone behind my back and had it removed himself. As I was writing this blog, my wife interrupted me to let me know Conan and Kimmel had both made reference to the story in their monologues.

While I can’t help finding the whole thing kind of hysterical, I feel awful for Tom and Katie who really don’t need any more publicity. I’m sure when they see the film, they’ll find the scene as hilarious as the previous audiences in Toronto and LA.

In the mean time, we are trying to get to the bottom of the missing scene. All evidence is pointing to a projection mistake in assembling the reels. The previous scene cuts to black and this could have been construed as the end of the reel. Either way, Fox has assured me that the scene will be intact for the release of the film.

In the wake of all this controversy, Sundance has added an additional screening of TYFS in the big theater this coming Saturday. While all efforts are being made to include the scene in this weekend’s screening, we still have to find the footage off the projection room floor.
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My New Camera

When I found out I was going to be doing this blog thing, I started taking photos through out my Sundance experience. However, the night of my premiere, I left my camera sitting on a bench outside Main Street Pizza and Noodle at 2am. I literally walked away for five minutes to catch a cab. By the time I realized I had left it and got back, it was gone. I asked around, but no one copped to taking it.

While I never expect to see my camera or the irreplaceable photos on it again, I can't help but put out a minor APB on it. It'll be pretty obvious if you find it. It's the one with all the photos of me, mugging up and down Main Street.

That said, HP has generously provided me with their R707 to help me photograph the remains of my experience. So, forgive me for the shameless plug, but they are saving my forgetful ass. You can check out their blog at http://h71028.www7.hp.com/enterprise/cache/104417-0-0-0-121.html

The Brat, The Magician, and The Unabomber

Somehow, I was invited to a celebrity poker tournament sponsored by the coming W Hotel in Las Vegas. There was no buy in, however the winner was walking away with a $750,000 condo at the new hotel. Second and third place were to get plasma televisions. Here’s the catch, five professionals would be playing with us - Phil Helmuth, Phil Laak (The Unabomber), Phil Gordon, Annie Duke, and Antonio Esfandiari (The Magician).

Don’t asked me why I go invited, but I found myself at a table with Laak, Esfandiairi, a guy from Good Charlotte, and a couple actors from Everwood and That 70’s show.

I started out strong, doubling my chip count from $2500 to $5000. However, the magician went all in against me and I made the mistake of calling. This left me with very little chips. That said, I finished 21st out of 50, playing three hours, and I got to play against Helmuth, who gave running commentary through the night while playing… He also won the tournament.

However, the highlight of the night was meeting Kevin Smith. He’s been a comedy hero of mine ever since I saw “Clerks”. He gave me the impetuous to become an independent comedy director and set my sights on Sundance at fifteen years old. When I told him all this and that I directed, “Thank You For Smoking”, he responded by mentioning how much he liked my trailer and how it had received 4 out of 5 hamburgers on joblo.com. Adding… “4 out 5 hamburgers is really good.”
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Night of the Premiere

As long as I've wanted to be a filmmaker, I've wanted to premiere a film at the Sundance Film Festival. Most young directors stay up at night coming up with their Oscar acceptance speech. I spent that time drafting the introduction to my film.

That said, I found myself terrified as we drove up to the red carpet outside the back entrance to the Eccles theater - A high school auditorium turned into a 1300 seat movie theater for the week of Sundance.

I got out and did the red carpet with my cast. Answered the typical 3 questions:

Why did you do this film?

What does your father think of the film?

Do you smoke?

Then, I entered the packed theater. It was slammed. I heard Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Demme couldn't get in. I was going over the speech in my head, when David Lonner (William Morris agent) came over and asked if I wanted to meet Alexander Payne...

I should preface this by saying that I’m an enormous fan of his work and his film "Citizen Ruth" was a huge influence on TYFS.

Lonner brought me over to meet Alexander. I told how much I thought of his career and he congratulated me on getting into Sundance. Great. Now the pressure had doubled.

Moments later, Geoff Gilmore introduced the film and welcomed me to the stage. I got up there and thanked Sundance for giving me a career and thanked the people who really made the film possible. After which, I sat down and the film began.

The film played great right from the credits. All the cast names got applause. People practically gave a Standing-O to Macy’s credit – He’s a God here. The laughter just kept on coming… even when a short twelve second scene went missing at the end of reel 2. (More on this to follow.)
The Q&A was great. Everyone just kept laughing. As we were leaving, Alexander came up and congratulated me on the film. Greg Kinnear said we should find something to work on together.

The after party was great. The DJ was playing fantastic early nineties hip hop and people were actually dancing (a big Hollywood no-no). Classic cigarette girls walked around with trays of candy cigarettes. So many of the crew were there to celebrate, from the production coordinator to the accountant.

Around 2am, we all started to lose steam. A small group of us went looking for pizza and were striking out across town. We finally wound up at the William Morris condo eating Dominos while one agent did his impression of the Pacino/DeNiro conversation from “Heat” ‘til three in the morning.
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How to answer the same question fifty times

For those who have never been to Sundance or Park City, let me give you a little geography. The town is not set up on an easy to follow grid. Rather, it is a collection of small pools of commercial property, each surrounded by condos and townhouses. Each time I arrive in town, it takes me a few minutes to orient myself and figure out how to get to each theater. There are around ten screens here at the festival and they’re about five minutes apart by bus.

That said, there’s one main drag, and that is Main Street. Anytime you see footage from the festival of signposts covered in posters, the Egyptian Theater marquee, or porn stars dressed in animal costumes, you are looking at Main Street. This is where I spent my entire press day with my cast of Aaron Eckhart, Rob Lowe, and William H Macy.

Most of the storefronts and homes have been converted into interview lounges and photo studios. I even did one interview in a converted jail cell. The schedule is nuts. Fox has a team of publicists that whisk me around from location to location, taking photos and answering the same questions over and over.

The interviewers really only care what the actors have to say, but every once in a while they humor me with a question or a portrait. The interesting addition to all these places is that they often double up as swag houses.

SWAG HOUSE – (noun): Location in which they doll out free crap. Swagging (verb) : The pursuit of free crap, even when you don’t deserve it.

Sometimes they make you feel guilty for taking their stuff, but most often it’s like being on Supermarket sweep. Your only time limit is your publicist trying to get you to the next interview. My catch as of yet includes a Gameboy, a Motorola Razor, Lee Jeans, Seven Jeans, le Tigre Jacket, Timberland Boots, and Pony sweats.

In return, they always take a photo of you with the product to use for later publicity. Something tells me you won’t be seeing any PR photos of me in Lee jeans.
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Invasion of Park City

The direct flight from LA to Salt Lake City is basically Air Hollywood. Everyone is blackberrying ‘til the last possible second. When they tell us to turn off our electrical devices, everyone pulls out a script. I’m not exaggerating. I went to the bathroom at one point and counted. Every single row had at least one screenplayt. No wonder Utah hates this time of the year.

The drive in is quite beautiful. But once we took the exit for Park City, it became a nightmare. I’ve been coming to Sundance seven times over the last nine years and I’ve never seen it this bad. For the first time, I immediately regretted renting a car.

We dropped our stuff at our hotel, the Marriot Headquarters. A convenient locations as it contains all the Sundance offices and staff during the festival. Then, we headed off to Main Street Pizza and Noodle. It’s this pizza joint halfway up the main drag that doesn’t take reservations. It’s one of the only remaining places in the city that you can just drop in for a bite.

After that, we went to the ICM party at the Premiere Magazine Lounge. It was a madhouse outside. I’m not talking a long line. It’s like a miniature riot of self-important pricks. Imagine the G8 summit or the last train out of Nazi Germany… Only everyone is wearing cashmere.

My wife and I were at the front talking to the promoters, when a swell of people rushed forward. The bouncers grabbed each other’s hands and pushed back. I thought - Wow, now I know what it’s like to be a soccer fan. Christopher Buckley’s agent noticed us and finally got us in.

Once inside, we found an empty corner with our friends, and claimed it for ourselves. Lots of people who worked on Thank You For Smoking were there and all my buddies from Fox sat down with us. Funny enough, I used to be an ICM client, but I wasn’t harassed by any agents.

We didn’t last long, as I had press starting the following morning at 9am. As we were leaving, we passed the actress Bai Ling posing for photos on a red carpet wearing torn jeans and a bra top… Just in case you were wondering, it was around 14 degrees outside. Welcome to Sundance.

Hi, my name is Jason Reitman

Thanks for coming to check this out. My name is Jason Reitman and I directed the film "Thank You For Smoking". Over the next few months, I'll be blogging about my experiences promoting my first feature film. Hopefully, I'll be able to give some sort of insight into what it's like to release a movie and answer any questions you have about... well, anything.

I'm writing this, my first post, from the lobby of festival headquarters at the Sundance Film Festival. It's 8am and this place is already hopping. People are all on their way to their first screening of the day. (they start showing movies here at 8:30am). My festival experience has just been unreal so far and I look forward to telling you more about it.

In the last 48 hours, I watched my film play before 1400 people, met two of my all time favorite directors (Alexander Payne and Kevin Smith), and played poker against Phil Hellmuth. Yeah, I lost.

Check in for updates and photos shortly. I'd post some snapshots now, but I lost my camera yesterday at the pizza joint on Main Street. No fear, there's no shortage of cameras here and who knows, maybe I'll snag a free one from one of the swag houses.