University represents at the Sundance Film Festival


Michael Williams

The streets of Park City were packed with celebrities this past week as they gathered for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

The university was well represented at the festival with one BFA Acting Professor, Julie Fain Lawrence (“Concussion”), and two students, Jake Robbins (“Interior. Leather Bar”.) and Anna Friedman (“Milkshake”). Julie Fain Lawrence portrayed the role of Kate Ableman in director/writer Stacie Passon’s Concussion, which received a great response at the Sundance Film Festival. This film focuses on a typical lesbian couple going through a mid-life crisis.

When Abby (Robin Weingert) gets a concussion from being struck in the head with a baseball, she realizes that her life cannot just be about the house and the family. Consequently, her alter ego “Eleanor” is created. Lawrence got involved with this film in the beginning stages and instantaneously fell in love with the script. She explained how director/writer Stacie Passon had such a clear vision for this film, and truly enjoyed working with her as well as the rest of the cast, including Robin Weingert (Deadwood).

Homosexuality is undoubtedly a common theme throughout the film. Lawrence explains, “Lesbian couples, gay couples, and straight couples are all a lot more similar than we think. All relationships go through the same thing.” This is certainly an important theme to take away from this film.

One of Lawrence’s favorite moments from the set is when director Passon just told the cast to forget the script and just go, which led to great discoveries for Lawrence’s character. “Concussion” was picked up by The Weinstein Company and is expected to be released sometime towards the end of the year.

Jake Robbins starred in a film titled “Interior. Leather Bar.” which also covers topics of homosexuality, but additionally explores sexual and creative freedom. This is an interesting film because filmmakers James Franco and Travis Matthews are attempting to creating a movie within this movie, in order to show the “lost 40 minutes” of the 1980 movie “Cruising”, which featured vivid intercourse scenes among homosexuals in this bar.

Robbins, one of the only straight men in the cast, was attracted to his role in this film because it made him feel uncomfortable. As an actor, he explains how important it is to go out of your comfort zone and take a risk. Additionally, this film was a work of James Franco and Travis Matthews. Robbins views Franco as a huge source of inspiration.

According to Robbins, Franco has a strong work ethic and has no problem switching between feature films and arts films. Just getting the opportunity to meet and talk to Franco was surely remarkable for Robbins, but he explains “getting oiled up” for the scenes was quite unforgettable too. In this film actors engage in sex that are not simulated.

Robbins explains, “I hope this film changes peoples’ views and have them sympathize with homosexuals more. Why is sex between a man and woman considered normal? Who cares if it is sex between a man and a woman or a man and another man? It doesn’t.”

Another University student who starred in a film featured at the Sundance Film Festival was Anna Friedman. She played Jeanette, the grunge girl, in David Andalman’s “Milkshake”. This film follows the tragic sex life of Jolie Johnson who strives to be what he cannot be, black.

Friedman has worked with Dave Andalman on three other films including “The Braggart”, but was especially interested in the role of Jeanette because it was a different type of role for her rather than the usual innocent girl she plays. She explains how working with Andalman was such a pleasure.

Friedman and the other actors were given a lot of room to explore their character, which is always a great experience for an actor. One of her most memorable moments on set was actually when fellow-actress Shareeka Epps taught her how to smoke a cigarette.

Friedman has a scene where she has to hold the carton, a lighter, and light the cigarette simultaneously, yet each time she kept dropping it all. Luckily, Epps was there to show her the ropes. A common concept found throughout this film is stereotypes.

Friedman explains, “I hope the audience learns from this film to not judge a book by its cover,” a very important life lesson.

Each actor had a tip for aspiring actors. Prof. Lawerence said, “I know it’s cliché, but don’t give up. It takes time. Ultimately, always be true to yourself. Be who you are.”

The main suggestion for Robbins is to get involved. He said, “If you want it bad enough, eat, sleep, and breathe it. Get involved, like with the shows at Pace. You just got to do it if you want it.”

Friedman had similar advice and wants to push her fellow actors. She suggested, “Be bold. Make them remember you. Those who take a chance are more likely to get a callback or even better, the role.”