It’s 2020 and bragging about yourself is garish! That leaves a problem: How do you convey to the person you are talking to that you just got back from Sundance without sounding like a dick? Here are 5 surefire ways to shoehorn your Park City trip into any conversation.

  1. The weather has been very cold in Los Angeles recently, or mucho frio as my white friend Naomi would say. But you know where it has been even colder? Sundance! Be sure to let anyone you see back in L.A. wearing Uggs or a Patagonia vest know that it was way colder in Utah and also, by the way, that you saw Adrien Brody while you were there.
  2. Did you watch the Super Bowl? Sorry, I didn’t because I am still so jetlagged from my trip to Sundance. It must be the altitude. I was thinking of going to Miami for the game but decided to recoup this week since the CAA Oscar party is going to be so nuts. Yes, I think Adrien Brody will be there and no I can’t get you in.
  3. No, I haven’t watched Cheer on Netflix, I was way too busy processing the beauty that was Never Rarely Sometimes Always which I saw at Sundance. One time Oscar-winner Adrien Brody agreed that it is a true European masterpiece that doesn’t succumb to Hollywood’s perpetual need to give audiences a happy ending.
  4. Oh my god, I am so sorry for your loss. Was he young? 67? Shit, he’s gone too soon. Robert Redford, who started Sundance, where I was just at, is 83 and is still really spry and charming. No, I didn’t meet him at Sundance but I saw a picture of him hanging at Sundance and I could tell he was still all there. I did meet Adrien Brody though. I think we really hit it off.
  5. Anyway, it was so nice running into you! Or, as Adrien Brody told me at Sundance…”Until we meet again.”

Shit, I should have asked for Adrien’s number at Sundance. We only spoke for a moment while I was catering the Never Rarely Sometimes Always premiere and he was in a deep conversation with David Krumholtz, but I could tell he had a positive energy as he took several frittatas and would probably appreciate me reaching out.

I spent a few hours researching Adrien’s publicist and management team and making calls to them hoping to get reconnected. His publicist’s assistant was not at all helpful, but I found his manager to be much more accommodating since I pretended to be David Fincher on the phone and said I was interested in meeting with Adrien about a film. His manager seemed really excited about the opportunity and mentioned several times that Adrien could really use the money. He asked me what the project was about so I mentioned something about alienation and said that Trent Reznor was on board to do the soundtrack. We arranged for Adrien to meet me at Canter’s the next day for corned beef.

I was a little nervous showing up to the restaurant to meet Adrien since I am not David Fincher. When Adrien arrived at the table he gave me a puzzled look.

“Hi, you’re not…”

“David Fincher, no. Obviously. I’m…Henry…uh…I should have thought of a name before I showed up…stein. I’m David’s producing partner. Please sit.”

Adrien sat and I told him that David Fincher got called off on some emergency directorial/writer/producing business and asked me to fill in. 

“Say, you were at Sundance, right? I think I saw you at the Never Rarely Sometimes Always premier?” I told Adrien. “Oh yeah, I hated that movie. So depressing!” I told him I agreed.

“So, did you have a nice Sundance?” I asked. “Yeah, I guess. Just a bunch of phonies and industry fakers there though. The only reason people go is out of respect to Redford, who is losing it anyway. So what’s this movie you got for me?”

I was beginning to think Adrien Brody did not have as positive a vibe as I had anticipated. I told him he probably wouldn’t be interested in the role, but he objected.

“Bro, I love Fight Club. I should have been in Fight Club,” he told me. Playing along I told him that was a very flattering compliment to David Fincher’s film which I co-produced, don’t look it up, but that Eddie Norton did a great job in it.

“No, no, no, no, no, fuck that!” Adrien said. “I would have played the Brad Pitt role. And I would have killed it too. Maybe then I’d be Tarantino’s newest butt boy. So what’s your new film about, Mr. IshouldhavethoughtofanamebeforeIshowedupstein?”

“Oh, it’s about alienation. And it’s going to have a moody industrial score by Trent Reznor,” I told him.

“I love it. I fucking love it, I’m in. Can I read the script? Is that it?” he said pointing to a prop script that I had put together the night before that was just the script for Donnie Darko that I found online with a title page that it was now called “Occum” and written by Fincher. As Brody flipped through the script he commented on how he wanted to play both Donnie and the fucked-up bunny dude. I felt like maybe this deception had gotten away from me and that I hadn’t thought about how to end this. When I was finally able to leave the restaurant Adrien kissed my hand And said “until we meet again.”

It was two years later that I found myself as a producer at the Occum premiere at Sundance. Shortly after our meeting, Adrien called up some of his “favorite Jews, it’s okay I won an Oscar for playing a Jew” who were eager to finance the film since they needed to “move some money around.” I told David Fincher that I had inadvertently gotten financing for a film He is attached to direct while I was catering the CAA Oscar party and he jumped on board. We gave Donnie Darko’s writer a producing credit and $800 for him to assign the rights to his script. Honestly, the hardest part of making the movie was getting Trent Reznor on board. That guy can be really difficult.

As I glad-handed and was glad-handed by the audience and press at the premiere I felt like maybe all of the pomp was more, if not impressive, exciting when I was on the outside looking in. Maybe it’s because I had taken someone else’s script and conned some very aggressive Israelis into putting this show together, but maybe it was something more. It’s kind of like how from space the earth looks smooth and perfectly spherical. But on earth, we see all of the imperfections: the hills and valleys and mountains. It’s the same at Sundance. From far away it seems perfect, but upon closer inspection, it isn’t. That’s not to say it’s bad, just not perfect.

“Do you ever feel that way?” I asked Adrien as we waited for the movie to start.

“Nah, bro. The earth is flat so I’m not buying any of your bullshit,” he said before quieting down and watching our movie which would ultimately play to mixed reviews. It was exactly what I needed to hear.