Preparing for Sundance 2017, Part 1

It’s exciting. It’s scary. I’m hopeful and I’m full of anxiety.

You would think that I was writing about submitting to the Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. That’s not the case (this year).

I’m heading to Park City, Utah in about 7 days because I’ve mixed 2 films that are in the domestic Documentary competition. My humble company provided the audio post services on The Force and Unrest. And I’m going to network with as many people as I can as a first time filmmaker. I’ll be joined by Nicole Newnham, co-director and co-producer on Crip Camp, a few days after the festival begins. It’s our hope that we inform a number of funders and producers about our film and tell them why it’s going to be fantastic and needs to be seen, heard and felt by the whole world… Or, in calmer terms… We want to put a human face on our film to build awareness about it and hopefully, gain some support.

The excitement comes from joining some of the best people in filmmaking to watch films, talk in coffee shops and bars and from not knowing what good fun and fortune await me. I do have this cocktail party personality and hate to be late or leave too early when it comes to being in the thick of things.

The scary part is that I’ll be driving out from Oakland, California. I want to be able to use my own vehicle when I need to.

Flying is very difficult for me because I use a power chair. When I tell you that I find things difficult, it doesn’t mean that every person like myself finds it as difficult as I do. Some find it much easier to transfer into an aisle chair, get rolled to their seat and helped with the transfer. My body isn’t built to sit in an aisle chair. I’m a bit wide and I can’t sit up straight because doing so constricts my lungs and I can’t breathe. I would love to digress at this point and write a 5 page treatise about trying to travel by air as a wheelchair user. Let me leave it to this: You can’t ride in your own wheelchair. You can’t get into the bathroom. I have to pee into a bottle when I’m on cross-country flights. And a high percentage of wheelchairs get damaged by being loaded into and unloaded out of the plane.

I’ll be driving through the Donner Pass, through Nevada and into Utah over 2 days. At least I won’t be alone on the drive there and back. I have 2 new tires and I won’t ask what could go wrong. Speaking of tires, those 2 tires are on my van. I just got new tires on my wheelchair. The old ones were bald and I want as much tread as I can get. No, I don’t have chains on my chair, although I remember reading about a wheelchair using Park Ranger who had chains on his push chair.

I grew up with snow in the suburbs of New York City. I managed, but it wasn’t easy. And I was a lot younger then and used a push chair. When your push chair starts sliding on the ice, the chair itself doesn’t weigh too much. If you hit a snow bank, it’s not too hard to get up by yourself or with a little help (not that you want to do this all the time). However, my power chair weighs over 300 pounds and I’m about 200 pounds. I can only imagine sliding down main street right at Oliver Stone, screaming my head off. The last time I ditched out of my power chair, it took 3 people and a boy scout troop to get me back in the saddle.

In part 2, I’ll explain the hopefulness I have and the anxiety. Oh, that reminds me, better order some Ativan…

Jim LeBrecht