WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A Delaware filmmaking duo’s film has been chosen to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Wilmington filmmakers JJ Garvine and Tai Parquet’s documentary “Film Hawk” will debut at the festival in Park City, Utah on Jan. 24.
Garvine and Parquet will attend a directors-only brunch with festival founder Robert Redford, but the most important factor is the bump it might give their film. “The festival hasn’t even happened yet, but it has put us on the map in terms of getting attention from the people you want to get attention from,” says Garvine, 43. “It’s bigger than what I was even dreaming of.”
“Film Hawk” is one of 123 feature-length films picked from 4,081 feature-length submissions submitted from around the world, the most in the festival’s 37-year history.
The film also has been picked by another major film festival, Garvine says, but that festival’s official announcement has not yet been made, so the selection remains a secret for now.
Garvine found out his film made the cut for Sundance when festival director John Cooper called him personally. Once he heard who it was on the other end, Garvine knew good news was coming: “He doesn’t call to tell you that you didn’t get in,” he says with a laugh.
“Film Hawk” tells the story of Bob Hawk, an veteran independent film consultant who has helped and worked with filmmakers like Kevin Smith (“Clerks”), Edward Burns (“The Brothers McMullen”), Academy Award-winner Rob Epstein (“The Times of Harvey Milk”) — all of whom Garvine and Parquet, 46, of Wilmington, interviewed for the documentary.
In addition to his professional work as a champion of indie film, Hawk’s personal life story is also told — a life that began as the gay son of a Methodist minister and now finds Hawk as a 78-year-old subject of a Sundance Film Festival-approved film.
Garvine and Parquet’s most recent film was the 2009 documentary “Keeping the Peace” about peace activist Michael Berg’s run for U.S. Congress in Delaware — a run that came shortly after the murder of his son in Iraq. That film, which took 2½ years to complete, failed to garner the success the pair had hoped and got no notice from major film festivals.
With years of filmmaking under their belts, Garvine and Parquet have found the Sundance selection to be an unexpected validation of their work after plenty of rejection letters. “With the other films, we had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people, but it never clicked with anything of major status,” Garvine says, adding that he’s had more than just fleeting moments of self-doubt. “Rejection is tough. And when you think you have something special and face that much rejection, it’s hard not to take it personal. You feel very defeated.
“And then you’re getting older, have a family and you start to think this is not going to happen. That’s really depressing. So this is all so surreal.'”
“Film Hawk” is one of a dozen films selected for the festival’s Documentary Premiere category, which pits them against Spike Lee’s “Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall”; Warner Herzog’s “LO AND BEHOLD, Reveries of the Connected World”; and Redford’s own son, James Redford, who directed a documentary called “Resilience.”
“Film Hawk” cost about $30,000, half of which was raised through an online Kickstarter campaign. But with its selection, the costs are still rising even though the film is complete. The filmmakers are currently hiring a team that includes a publicist, attorney, sales representative and others to capitalize on the biggest moment of their filmmaking careers.
The goal is to sell the film and find it a home, whether it be in theaters, on television or through streaming services like Netflix or video on demand.