Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This is exactly the kind of Sundance movie I like to see.

A lot of the issues that I have with Sundance is that it's become more of a launching point for studio movies that want to get some indie cred. Sometimes there's even a deal in place to buy/distribute a movie before it even screens, but it's a great way to get buzz.

Not all of the movies are like that, though. Some are the true embodiment of independent film—and there's no better movie to prove that than ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW.

It's kind of becoming the buzz-movie of the festival this year and I was lucky enough to catch it. It played late Friday and Saturday night, and that's when a lot of people started talking about it. Twitter kind of blew up and I became obsessed and had to see it. I checked the Festival site and it was listed for a 12:45 showing on Sunday afternoon at the Broadway Theaters. When I woke up that morning, I headed to the box office immediately. They had two tickets left. I got 'em. It was, as my friend Brandee would say, "such a Trevor Hale moment that it pisses me off."

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW isn't a great movie. It's super low-budget, kind of uneven and the actors aren't all that great. The most impressive thing about it and the reason it's getting so much attention, is that it's filmed entirely in Disney World/Disneyland without Disney's knowledge or permission.

The crew had to pay their own way in every day and the director only sent script pages to cast and crew digitally—so no one was holding pages and it just looked like they were looking at their phones. They filmed on rides, used actual Disney patrons as background actors and extras (without their knowledge), used copyrighted music, and never once did anyone shy away from using the Disney name or logo.

Disney doesn't like that kind of thing. They don't like people using their brand without specific approval and you're never allowed to do anything that might tarnish their reputation—hence Wally World in VACATION, Mooby in Kevin Smith's movies, and so on.

They'd probably especially frown on movies that portray theme park princesses as high class prostitutes for foreign tourists, a married man stalking underage girls, kidnappings, adultery, nudity and all the other strangeness that supposedly occurs at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Like I said, the plot is nothing special or unique. It’s about a guy who, on the last day of his vacation in Disney World with his wife and two young children, finds out he’s been laid off. A bunch of weird David Lynch-ian, Stanley Kubrick THE SHINING stuff happens and then it’s over. It comes to a weird, unexpected conclusion that you don’t see coming because it doesn’t really make sense.

But beyond that, it's a fascinating exercise in guerilla filmmaking. Everyone at Sundance (even the filmmakers, to an extent) are pretty sure that Disney's lawyers will make it disappear sooner than later and that this might be the only time it sees the light of day. I wish the best for the director and all the actors, but I kind of hope that's the case. It'd be nice to be in the minority that actually got to see it.

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW is exactly the kind of movie I want to see at a film festival. It was imaginative, creative, ballsy, unique, unforgettable and there's a chance that no one will ever see it again.

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