Last year, with the help of some of our more connected staff members, Dances With Films began a program called the Industry Choice Award, or ICA, which we're continuing this year.
The idea is two-fold: First, it gives us a chance to give your movies industry exposure – not only for the filmmaker, but the cast, the department heads, and all of the people on your projects who are playing at a professional level. We've always maintained that, while not every film in the festival is perfect, there is something perfect about every film.
The other goal for the Industry Choice Award is to give one filmmaker a chance to step up to the mound at the majors and throw his or her best pitch. Last year, the guy who got that opportunity was William J. Saunders, the writer director of the adorably charming feature, Sweet Little Lies. I recently followed-up with him about his festival experience and the ICA in particular.
William J. Saunders... Can I call you Bill?
(Laughs) People have tried. Joe seems to stick better.
We get a lot of alumni coming back to the festival their sophomore year, and I always like to ask, "How has your year been out on the circuit with your movie? Good stories? Cautionary tales?"
Gees, where do I begin? DWF was certainly the highlight, and I’m not just saying that. We had nearly our entire cast/crew out for that. Since DWF, we spoke with several small distribution companies. It was not a pleasant process. It opened my eyes to the incredibly large number of small indie films in distribution, most of which I had never heard of. Actually, I got in touch with J.C. Khoury, another DWF Alumni, [The Pill, 2011] to trade stories about distributors. It was a short but very helpful conversation. If anything it was comforting to know someone was going through the same thing. In the end SLL [Sweet Little Lies] went with a company called FilmWorks Entertainment, who were smaller than some other companies we were talking with, but FW was an ambitious new company. And most importantly, they were affable people. Some of the other companies seemed like car salesmen. So Sweet Little Lies had its officially release last month (iTunes, DVD, Walmart, etc).
I believe DWF was your World Premiere, yes? How did you like having your film on Sunset Blvd? What are some of your memories of the fest a year later?
It wasn't the World Premiere, but it was the LA premiere. The location of the festival was great. I have a picture around here somewhere of WeHo Jesus endorsing our film and the festival. That was a pretty funny moment. One of the most memorable moments was watching Richard Riehle approach the box office and purchase a ticket to my movie. I wanted to chat with him afterwards, but I missed him. Unless he left half way through! (laughs) …eh…I hope not.
You know we're moving this year. The Sunset 5 is no more. I can't yet announce exactly where we'll be, but ... let's just say, if your film wins an Academy Award, you'll be in walking distance.
I didn’t know you were moving…Egyptian Theater? That would be amazing.
Actually, no, but that's a good guess.
You were our very first winner of our Industry Choice Award, and I don't mind telling you, I'm jealous. Tell us about it – from winning, to your meetings, to now – was it good for you?
It was the single best award we won on the festival circuit. Both meetings I went to were great, and I’ve kept up with those contacts since. They’ve asked me to send my next project their way, and I plan to. Who knows if they’ll like it, but if they’re not interested, they may know someone who is and you get more contacts etc. This prize gives you the ability to significantly improve your career. That’s something incredibly valuable for someone who doesn’t have representation or access to those meetings otherwise. I’m not sure why other festivals don’t have something similar.
What advice do you give next year's winner?
Have a brilliant script ready for the meeting.
Do you have any suggestions for how we might make it better next year?
The only thing I can think of is including a talent agency into the industry pool. Getting a meeting with even a small agency would be great. That side of the business is really foreign to me, but seems like an essential step in the process. It’s the same principle with the producers I met, but I think an agent might be more willing to take immediate action – if they like you and your work of course.
What's next for you, project-wise?
Actually, I was working for Mark Osborne, director of Kung Fu Panda, who saw Sweet Little Lies at the DWF festival. He’s working on the adaptation of The Little Prince. It was a lot of fun to work in animation for a bit. Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on a documentary about a little known country musician named Billy Mize. It was accepted in the Film Independent Doc Fellowship Program and hopes to be done in May, so be on the look out: www.billymizemovie.com. I’ve also been directing commercials, short projects, writing and slowly building momentum for the next feature.
Any parting words of wisdom?
100% of people who made it in this industry never gave up.
By ROBERT MELLETTE
See Full Article Here
Winner of the Audience Award and Industry Award at the Dances With FilmsFestival this past year along with several other kudos along the route of its year-long festival run, Sweet Little Lies is a unique, funny and occasionally quite marvelous coming of age film centered around trailer park teen Bess (Caitlin Kinnunen), her 9-year-old friend Waldo (Joseph Montes) and the career grifter they encounter while on their way from Kansas to Las Vegas in a desperate search for Bess' father, a man she's never known.
The film has been picked up by the folks at FilmWorks Entertainment for a DVD/Home Video release with some mighty fine packaging that once again for Filmworks transcends what one usually finds for the lower budgeted films. The film also picked up quite a few kudos at the Feel Good Film Festival, Kansas City Film Festival (where it sold out two screenings) and the Big Island Film Festival.
Working with a group of his peers from Columbia University's film program, Saunders has constructed an entertaining and thought-provoking film that really flies largely on the strength of both Caitlin Kinnunen, who is simply terrific as the young Bess, and Bill Sage, a major casting coup with credits in such projects as Trust, Flirt, Simple Men, American Psycho, High Art, I Shot Andy Warhol and several television projects. Sage and Kinnunen display an awesome chemistry that works wonders for the film, and director Saunders really brings the whole project to life with spot-on pacing, bits of animation that work quite nicely and the excellent script by James Windeler based upon a story created by both Windeler and Saunders.
The film's underpinning may very well prove to be in the performance of Joseph Montes, whose role at first seems almost inconsequential as Bess proves to be Waldo's protector on multiple levels. Yet, watch this character carefully throughout the film and you see a transformation that is remarkably brought to life by Montes in ways that you will likely find resonating emotionally and spiritually.
While it's not likely that you got the chance to check out Sweet Little Lies in the theater, you can now purchase it for yourself and have the good feeling of knowing you're supporting an up-and-coming filmmaker with an abundance of talent available throughout the film.
The film's packaging includes a terrific audio commentary featuring the director and Editor Michael Louis Hill, a fun blooper reel, deleted scenes, the film's trailer and a photo gallery. While the extras may not be as abundant as some Hollywood releases, it's quite abundant for an independent.
For more information on purchasing your copy of Sweet Little Lies, visit the film's website or that for FilmWorks Entertainment.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
Hello SLL Fans, we have great news! We have partnered with Film Works Entertainment, a boutique distribution company who specialize in selling family genre films. Film Works displayed a keen understanding of our movie and a hunger to grow as a company. We felt their approach fit us perfectly. DVDs are up for pre-order on Amazon.com for $20, but we are selling them for $12 to our loyal fan base. Click the Paypal button below to get your copy! You can also download on iTunes!
Sweet Little Lies nabbed BEST ENSEMBLE CAST from the Feel Good Film Festival! A prize packed with various goodies from the wonderful sponsers of FGFF including 3 bottles of Tito'sVodka. LIttle Joe Montes was on hand to accept the award. With the room already in stiches watching a 10 year old collect 3 bottles of Vodka, Lil' Joe approached the microphone and quipted dryly, "thanks...thanks for the vodka."
Listen to Joe Montes on ESPN RADIO discuss his time on the shoot with SLL Director, William J Saunders and Editor Michael Louis Hill.
Small Little Lies that Could
By Julia Bicknell
As you all know, we like to bring you independent films that perhaps don’t get huge budget wide releases. Yeah we love industry indies, but what about really powerful small films? The ones that go to smaller film festivals. Let’s take the little-known, but critically acclaimed indie Sweet Little Lies. Not only was this movie an Official Selection of the Kansas City Film Festival, it sold out its two festival show times, it was also the Official Selection of the Big Island Film Festival and LA’s Dances With Films Festival that premiered in LA on June 4th. Our question is, why haven’t you heard about it? Has anyone else heard of Sweet Little Lies or the Dances With Films Festival?
What about our FilmBuff film 11 Minutes Ago which was critically acclaimed and an Official Selection at ten film festivals–including the Dances With Films Festival?
Most other film festivals are known because of their celebrity status and flashing lights (aka paparazzi). But does that mean something that isn’t as flashy can’t put out something more innovative than Tree of Life? Not at all.
Sweet Little Lies has an incredibly original coming of age story that really hasn’t been done this way before. A girl (played magnificently by Caitlin Kinnunen) getting out of a rut to find her Elvis-impersonating biological father–intertwined with a conman who ripped off his dead mother’s jewelery. And then they meet and decide to run away from their lives together. WHAT? THANK YOU ORIGINALITY.
It’s a big film that needs more people hitting the small indie circuit. Why? Because small indie circuits are where all the films you should be seeing are hiding.
Any other recent films working smaller festivals that you want to get known? Shout it out to us!
BEST ACTOR – Bill Sage
BEST ACTRESS – Caitlin Kinnunen
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST – Sweet Little Lies
BEST DIRECTOR – William J Saunders
BEST FILM – Sweet Little Lies
Awesome recognition from a great festival! Please come out and show your support if you're in LA on August 14th @ 4pm! Hope to see you there.
For Tickets click this link: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/187669
Looks like Sweet little Lies is staying in Los Angeles for another month. We have been selected to screen at the Feel Good Film Festival! If you are in LA and missed our Dances WIth Films premiere, PLEASE visit us at the Feel Good Film Festival.
When: Sunday - August 14th @ 4pm
Where: Raleigh Studios • 650 North Bronson Avenue • Los Angeles, CA 90004
You can purchase tickets at the door for CASH only. If you want to pay by credit card, please click HERE and scroll all the way to the bottom. Hope to see you there!
A GREAT Sweet Little Lies Review:
LIES AND BONDS
Mar Gómez Glez
Sweet Little Lies (2011)
Director: William J. Saunders
Writers: James Windeler, William J. Saunders (story)
Stars: Caitlin Kinnunen, Joseph Montes and Bill Sage
Plot summary: Bess, a lonely, trailer park teen, steals a car and makes a desperate journey from Kansas to Vegas in search of a father she never knew. Her trip takes her deep into the seedy underbelly of America where she encounters an array of lost-souls, deadbeats and con men, and learns that family can be found in the oddest of places
In 1939 Victor Flemming surprised the world with "The Wizard of Oz". In 2011 director William J Saunders, echoes this classic in his ambitious feature debut "Sweet Little Lies". The film premiered in Los Angeles on June 4 at the Dances With Films festival. It received the Audience Award and the Industry Choice Award. The success of this feature doesn't come as a surprise. The script, written by James Windeler, excels through its subtle ironies and elegant economy. Bess, a teenage misfit, looses her mother and finds herself alone in the world. She undertakes a trip from Kansas to Las Vegas searching for the father who abandoned them before she was born. She takes her little neighbor and only friend Waldo with her. Waldo is presented as a fragile child dependent on Bess for physical protection. As Dorothy travels with her ruby slippers along the yellow brick road, Bess speeds along it in a stolen cherry-colored vintage Mercury on the highway west. Roach, an ex con-man looking for redemption through his love for Suzy, joins the kids after stealing a ring from his dead mother's finger. A social worker and Waldo's brother pursue the three closely, forcing them into constant movement and the audience with them. This family friendly indie has the warmth you'd expect from the genre, but a closer viewing reveals surprising references to mythical and universal figures.
The magic is introduced through the humor of one of the most remarkable scenes. Waldo steals a chicken from a gas station, while the man behind the counter imagines he is able to catapult food with the power of his mind. This is the sign that alerts the audience to the games, the "lies" the film tells, hiding a world of symbolism. In the following scene, Waldo and Bess break the wishbone. Waldo's wish, revealed later, is that Bess finds her father. From now on Waldo progressively transforms from sidekick Toto to the Wizard of Oz himself. He is the spiritual guide of this trip, the guardian angel that protects Bess and anyone close to her. He is the one with the power to create, inside the film, his own world and characters. Like a little Pan, Waldo descends from Olympus to nudge Bess along her way. He sets the fire that ignites their adventure. To him we owe the most lyrical moments of the film. Waldo constructs and plays with little figurines made out of wire that open the movie to the realm of fantasy.
This is a movie about friendship, about a search for love and connection, and Waldo's softness reveals itself as the only possible path. His exposed vulnerability reminds us our own fragility. Waldo's magic melts Bess and Roach's toughness. Only without their armor they will achieve their most intimate desire: companionship. As the sweetest little lie this road movie tricks us. So if you thought you were only going to watch a family drama, get ready. Maybe inside this magical film you will find your own yellow brick road home, to a place where friendship bonds are simply stronger.
Hey Sweet Little Lies fans - Great news! SLL won the Audience Award and the Industry Award at the Dances with FILMS festival last Thursday! It was an amazing night and festival. We're extremely grateful to know other filmgoers (and a panel of industry professionals!) love our movie as much as we do. Thank you all for your support. We'll keep you posted as SLL moves forward.
DANCES WITH FILMS FILM FESTIVAL
Saturday, June 4 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Location : Sunset 5 Laemmle • 8000 Sunset Blvd • Los Angeles, California
This Dances With Films screening WILL sell out so make sure you get your tickets! To purchase ticket copy this link into your browser:
Here is a little about the fest:
Dances With Films, now in its 14th year, renowned as one of the last truly independent film festivals,
champions the unflinching spirit at the very core of the independent film scene. While the vast majority
of film fests rely heavily on celebrity, DWF relies on the innovation, talent, creativity and sweat equity
that has always revolutionized the entertainment industry. And that reliance continues to prove successful
with alumni moving on to write and direct celebrity-studded vehicles, star in blockbuster movies and
network series, produce multi-million dollar films and create hit TV shows, even OSCAR® nominees...
In a world of formulaic, homogenized film festivals Dances With Films continues to break the rules and
bring you tomorrow’s stars today. This year’s fest will return to the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, CA
on June 2-9. For more information, please visit www.danceswithfilms.com.
Sweet Little Lies, directed by William Saunders, echoes Little Miss Sunshine and Stand By Me without the high-profile cast. While the road-trip premise is a precious ore that has been mined by a lot of filmmakers, Saunders's cast and crew keep things looking professional, while retaining a true sense of indie integrity. Aside from lack of high-profile stars, this film could easily be a crossover into the mainstream market.
Saunders worked with a group of fellow film conspirators from the film program at New York City’s Columbia University to complete the feature, which took approximately four years from start to finish.
The story introduces us to two "protagonist" characters whose destinies will inextricably intertwine: 17-year-old Bess (Caitlin Kinnunen) is in a trailer park rut in Kansas. Her mother has just died and she and her sidekick best-friend (Joseph Montes) are headed for foster care, with a deadbeat dad (Pedro Pascal) and a social worker (NataSha Yvette Williams) on their heels. Bess's plan is to find the Elvis-impersonating father she never met. In a separate story, conman Roach (Bill Sage) has just stolen a ring from his dead mother's hand and is on the run himself. When their worlds collide, they find themselves all in the same car and peeling out of town. Many twists and turns are in store, eventually landing them all into a resolution of deep introspection.
Celebrating the American landscape and West, the filming took almost six weeks, as the production traveled from New York to Kansas City to Las Vegas and eventually Monument Valley in Utah. Shooting the film in HD allowed smaller set-ups and crew, but nonetheless the film has the look of a high-budget feature.
As the son of former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, William has a penchant for his strong area connections, and enjoyed the benefit of locations that were for the most part unused. “This is the landscape I remember from my early days," says Saunders, "and certainly influenced my perception of things. The Kansas City area is rich with all kinds of interesting visuals."
Hopefully a third screening will be added, as the first two KCFF screenings are already sold out. But in whatever form you happen to catch it in, you will not be disappointed by Sweet Little Lies.
Sorry for those who didn't get a ticket to the KC Film Fest. Stay tuned to learn how you can still view Sweet Little LIes in a theater. We're doing our best to try and expand our release. In the meantime, check out our write up in REVIEW, mid-america's visual arts publication:
We finally have our premiere dates!!
Sweet Little Lies will play at the KC Film Fest on Thursday night (4/7) at 8:30pm and again on Saturday afternoon (4/9) at 3:00pm. We'd love to see everyone there if you can make it. Looking forward to bringing Sweet Little Lies home!!
Stay Tuned for information about ticket pricing and purchasing. For more information on the KC Fim Festival check out their website: www.kcfilmfest.org.
feature shoot to Eudora
Friday, August 14, 2009
In the cinematic masterpiece that is “Dumb & Dumber,” the main characters take off on a road trip with Jim Carrey’s Lloyd exclaiming to Jeff Daniels’ Harry, “We’re really doing it, Har!”
Now in the midst of filming his own movie about a road trip, independent filmmaker Joe Saunders has been too busy to take note of the start of his own journey.
“I was talking with the director of photography the other day, and we realized we had never had that realization because this was just the next project for us to do,” says Saunders, whose professional credit is William J. Saunders. “I guess I had that moment when we were thinking about how we hadn’t had that moment.”
Joined by a crew consisting of colleagues from the film program at New York City’s Columbia University, Saunders was in Eudora this month shooting scenes for “Sweet Little Lies,” his first full-length feature. The project has been in gestation for about four years.
Read the rest of the article at Lawrence.com >>