Pissing In The Punch Bowl At The 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Part 1: Spies, Bloggers, And Dead Comedians

INTRODUCTION: MY NAME IS UZI SILVERSTEIN BECAUSE I FUCK MOTHER FUCKERS UP LIKE A SUB MACHINE GUN.

If there's one thing that the Israeli Defense force teaches you, it's to always have a plan.

Not only should you have a plan, but you should have a backup plan. And just in case, you should have a backup plan to that backup plan.

And that is what you're reading right now. This is my back up plan to my back up plan. But I wonder if it's appropriate for me to write in the present tense. I might be dead already as you read this. So am I supposed to speak in the past tense when there's such uncertainty right now? Maybe I should say that this was meant to be my memoir. I've only started to write my life's story a few months ago and already I doubt this will ever make it to the public's eye.

You're starting at this point now and not at the earlier parts because this is where it really gets interesting.

I should probably introduce myself. My name is Uzi Silverstein. I'm 59 years old, and for the past 37 years, I've been employed as a high ranking assassin within the Kidon, an elite counter terrorist intelligence arm of the Mossad with the Israeli Defense Force.  I've tracked down and executed former Nazi war criminals hiding in Argentina. I've assassinated key terrorists associated with the Munich tragedy in Cyprus. I've carried out missions in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, and even eliminated some nuclear scientists developing weapons for the North Koreans.

I've killed more than 35 men in my life.

I'm also the producer of three successful movies.

And maybe that makes me sound like Chuck Barris. But I assure you, my history as a double agent isn't bull shit. And it's not nearly as uncommon in the entertainment business as you might suspect.

I can only hope that I can complete my book before Arnon Milchan finishes his.

But as of right now, I'm being held hostage in the gymnasium of an American public high school in Park City, Utah by a mad man named Eli Atzmon.

Eli is an independent film director. He's supposedly known for his work with in the mumble core genre. I'm not really sure what that means but it doesn't sound very enticing. I think it means he makes movies about bored rich kids who sit around drinking boxed wine in expensive warehouse lofts while talking about their feelings and disappointments in life.

Unfortunately for both him and I, Eli is convinced that I'm a film critic named Greg Christie. I should probably clarify that Greg isn't a real critic, he's one of those online blogger types, the type of lonely, angry, and desperate nerd who spends his nights writing long and heated rants and diatribes about inconsequential issues with in contemporary popular culture which he posts online for the entire world to suffer through.

From what I gather by Eli's incessant screaming, Greg wrote a scathing review of his last film, Life at One F-Stop at a Time. Greg caught the picture's premiere at a small festival last year and his review was the only review that Eli's modest film received. He's now convinced that this blogger's damning words were the cause behind the film's failure.

No distributor has been willing to touch the picture and Eli blames Greg for that.

And since Eli borrowed money from the wrong people to fiancé his latest feature, the type of people who break legs when they don't see a return on their investment, he also blames Greg for the stilted limp that he now walks with.

But why am I here against my will?

Eli has been trying to track Greg down since August, but it seemed like he had just vanished into thin air. No one knew where he went, not even his friends or family.

Eli had been following Greg's articles published for some website called Twitch, and he read that the critic had gone to Austin back in the fall to cover last year's Fantastic Fest.

But it appeared to everyone that he never returned from Texas.

But Greg liked to tour around film festivals under a pseudonym, joking to industry insiders that he was an Israeli film producer.

And can you guess what that pseudonym is or was?

Uzi Silverstein.

So, it's 11pm on Thursday, January 16th and I should be at the opening night reception party for the Sundance Film Festival at the Legacy Lodge of the Park City Mountain Resort.

I should be helping a bunch of New Yorkers and L.A.lites pat themselves on the back for keeping cinema alive in the dawn of bittorrent and Netflix.

Instead, I'm seated in a class room chair with my hands tied behind my back and jumper cables attached to my nut sack while I listen to some self-entitled half film director in his mid twenties whine about all of the hard work that goes into his silly little movies and how film bloggers are destructive sociopaths that have no place in today's society.

It's a shame.  I'd hate to have to kill the kid. It doesn't feel entirely kosher having to take someone out named Eli Atzmon, but obviously, that's the only outcome for this scenario.

This isn't the first time I've been tortured, but I can tell that it's his first time to be the one to do the torturing.  He's pacing back and forth and every time he points his finger over to the generator that my genitals are hooked up to, I can see that his hand is trembling.

I don't think he's got it in him, but maybe I should take this situation more seriously seeing how there is a corpse in the room with us.

I feel sorry for this other hapless victim of mistaken identity that's now lying dead on his stomach about ten feet away from me.

Eli has already explained that he accidentally killed a popular comedian named David Cross thinking that it was his fake media nemesis, Greg Christie. Supposedly, the two share an uncanny physical resemblance.

I wish Eli would listen to me but he's already silenced me with a ball gag. Directors, they never listen to anyone. What's even more obnoxious about them is that they think everything in life should play out it like it does in the movies.

Not only has Eli brought me to a high school gym but the only light is coming from a few Arri LoCasters that have been strategically set up around me which suggests that Eli has scripted all of this as if it were a scene in some hackneyed genre flick. I can't be sure, but I think Eli has me properly backlit as if he were going to shoot this on film.

It's all very cinematic, and it's even being provided with its own soundtrack. Eli is playing one of the overtures from Vivaldi's four seasons on a small boom box somewhere in the room.  

If he directs his films like he sets up his torture interrogations, then I can see how Greg could have shit on his work.

There is an incredible irony to all of this though.  And it's that I actually know Greg Christie. He's the reason why I'm here. Well, I should probably be a bit more specific. You already know that he's the reason why I've been tied up and am now being lectured at while also being threatened to have my testicles fried.

I should say that he's the reason why I've been living in Park City, Utah for the last year. He's the reason why I became a film producer and started to write this memoir.

PROLOGUE:  A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN A YEAR


It was only last January that I was shot and left for dead.  

And it was the film blogger named Greg Christie who accidentally plugged me in the chest with a .44 magnum slug before abandoning me in the snow of a celebrity ski resort.

I came to Park City for last year's Sundance Film Festival on an official Kidon mission. It was suspected that an independent sect of the online activist group, Anonymous had developed into an anti Zionist terrorist organization. It was only a very small group of individuals, mostly made of former film production members with disgruntled grips and production assistants. But they had successfully hijacked a shipment of military arms on its way for distribution at Park City. We had gathered intelligence suggesting that they were planning an attack on the film festival.

I was sent to America to find this band of would be terrorists and deal with them with extreme prejudice. But I had arrived too late. Greg Christie had been going around the festival conversing with many influential individuals within the industry, telling them that his name was Uzi Silverstein.

Unbeknownst to the film blogger, many of the film producers and studio head executives that he had been talking to were all members of the Mossad and were already contacted  and told to be expecting an Uzi Silverstein.

Mistaken for me, Greg was enlisted by the Mossad to fight for them and rescue Natalie Portman.

I found the film blogger in the middle of a snow mobile fire fight with the terrorists.  I don't hold it against the kid. He didn't know who I was. There were a lot of bullets flying around and he had no way of knowing where mine where aimed.

So he took a shot at me, and it was a good one.

He came to me demanding answers and I gave them to him. Time was short and it was his responsibility then to be the hero that I was meant to be.

But he promised to send help for me, and that, he never did.

I was able to dig the bullet out with a pen knife and cauterized the wound with a match and some gun powder from one of my own rounds, but a .44 caliber bullet is really fucking big. It had hit some key nerves leaving me paralyzed from the waist down. Although I was no longer bleeding, I was totally immobilized.

I spent forty eight hours alone, in the snow, and the cold, until someone came and found me.
It was two days later when a married couple on their way to the ski lifts saw my head barely poking out from the sea of white.

They took me back to their vacation home condo and nursed me back to health.

Avi and Hannah Meyers.

Avi was a plastic surgeon from Orange County and Hannah ran a nonprofit mural arts program in L.A. but also liked to dabble with documentary bridge gap financing.

We became good friends and they suggested that I leave the Kidon to become a film producer as my strong leadership skills and ability to make critical decisions were more than applicable for the job.

They introduced me to some of their west coast friends vacationing in Park City and in the months since, I've produced three successful films and another that will be premiering at the festival later this week.

And that's the abridged story as to how I came to live in Park City and left my position with the Mossad to make movies.

But the story of how I met Eli Atzmon and woke up in a gym with a dead comedian next to me starts at a lunch meeting two days ago.

CHAPTER ONE: THE DOMINO EFFECT

It's Tuesday, January 14th of 2014. I'm having lunch at the Riverhorse Restaurant on Main Street. I'm with a blogger turned director named Sara Cohan and her agent, Yosef Bauman.

I'm having the seared Ahi tuna with a glass of DuMOL Russian River Pinot Noir.  Sara is picking at her plate of macadamia nut encrusted tofu with a vodka tonic while Yosef enjoys the filet mignon prime cut and a diet soda.

I came on board as a producer for Sara's debut film, The Williamsburg Blues last March. Sara is twenty two years old and the creator of a popular blog called Don't Hate Me, I'm a Bitch where she shares personal stories of her sexual trysts, her insecurities as a New York socialite, and her college years experimenting with group sex and homosexuality. Her film is essentially just a collection of different blog posts adapted for the cinema with no overreaching narrative or plot structure.

But she's the niece of Hannah Meyer's college roommate and I was personally asked to help her with finishing the film and preparing it for the festival market.

Miraculously, it somehow garnered rave reviews from its premiere at the Tribecca Film Festival and has already been acquired for a theatrical release by Relativity Media. In addition to this, AMC networks have already reached out to Sara about developing the film and her blog into a television series, presumably a network cable companion to Lena Dunham's HBO program, GIRLS.

As the producer of the film who paid for the licensing fees for the many popular songs in its soundtrack as well as the salaries for the production crew that had been working per diem, and its final sound mixing, I'm now entitled to a cut of the royalties from the television adaptation deal.

Naturally, Sara has found herself a power agent to insure that I get as little as possible in gratitude for helping her finish her debt movie. I'm not offended though, that's the nature of the business.

Yosef wears an open smile with a chunk of bloody meat still in his mouth when he tells me, "You know, the show doesn't have to be called The Williamsburg Blues. We can easily change the title, and then it's not an adaptation of Sara's previous film anymore. The program isn't about the movie, it's about Sara. You should appreciate that you're being given an executive producer credit on the show without any direct involvement. I think that's payment enough. But if you want to draw this out and turn this into a legal battle, we can certainly go down that route, but I would advise you to do a little research on my attorney team."

I'm a former assassin.  I've killed over thirty five men. I've done my research already, I know I would lose in court, but I easily pay Yosef a visit in his hotel later tonight and give him an chemically induced heart attack that will pass the even the most in depth autopsy.

But I can't think like that anymore. This is the movie business and everything is about the art of the deal. It's about negotiation. There's a way for all of us to walk away from this over priced lunch meeting happy.

Sara doesn't even look at me as her agent continues to commandeer the conversation. She's spent the last hour alternating between texting on her phone and biting her finger nails.  What bothers me the most is the small pile of removed hang nails that she's left on the table next to her plate of food.

It seems that bad manners don't escape even those raised in the upper echelon of lower Manhattan.

I decide to cut in on Yosef, telling him, "AMC isn't going to let you change the name of the show. They bought it for its pre established brand reorganization. All of the press so far has been for the film, not for Sara. And a network cable station certainly isn't going to let you call the show, Don't Hate Me, I'm a Bitch. There's no reason for you to threaten me with litigation or with cutting me out completely. Sara has found herself a nice new career that's founded on my investment with her film. I'm only looking for a ten percent fee out of the initial purchase of the first season and 5% of any royalties that may result from future syndication."

Yosef slowly chews a mouthful of rare cow flesh while he mulls my request over.

I hold my glass up to my nose and savor the wine's aroma of cocoa and tobacco before taking a large sip.

Yosef stares me down for nearly a minute while Sara checks her Facebook feed on her phone.

Finally, he reaches his right arm out towards me and pronounces, "Deal!"

I shake the agent's hand and proceed to wipe it on the napkin placed on my lap afterward.
I'm not sure if that was subtle or not since Yosef's left eyebrow is now arched as he looks at me. But he's an agent, and agents should never be insulted.

Yosef washes the steak down with his diet soda and changes topic, "Can I ask, or suggest, a possible favor, Mr. Silverstein?"

"Sure."

"My dentist has a son in law who's a filmmaker. Anymore, it seems like everyone I know has a son, or nephew, or niece, or in law who's a filmmaker. His name is Eli Altzmon. He's written and directed four or five smaller pictures that are really popular with the South by South West crowds. He works with in some genre that the press folks have dubbed mumble core. I'll admit, it's definitely for an acquired taste, but that's not to say that there isn't a market for it."

"I understand."

"Well, his last film was something of a catastrophe. His first few pictures were all put in the can for under twenty thousand and he was able to make a modest turn around on those. Maybe he got a little over confident with himself after finding some success. But he went to direct a film that had cost him something in the ball park of two hundred thousand. And He went about it all in the wrong ways. He raised the funds through this Kickstarter thing but his fledgling fan base was just too small and niche to meet his goals. Rather, he found himself receiving a considerable contribution from an individual who turned out to have ties to the Russian mafia. He expected a twenty five percent return. Eli's film failed to find distribution and well, let's just say that things turned ugly with his anonymous donator. It's been dealt with and Eli is fine now, but he's coming into town this week to network around and hopefully find a producer for his next project."

"And you'd like me to be that producer?"

"I'm only hoping that you'll meet with the kid and hear him out. It's your decision if you want to take his film on. I certainly don't expect that you'll agree to the project without knowing about it first, but I would appreciate it if you could at least consider it."

Yosef reaches his arm out across the table again. And once more, I shake his hand and wipe it off on my napkin.

This time, Yosef doesn't make a funny face, he only says, "That's great news!  I've already given Eli your cell phone number. You should hear from him before the end of the day today."

We finish our meal from here in silence.

CHAPTER TWO: CHEESE, CRACKERS, WINE, AND HOMICIDAL MUMBLE CORE FILM DIRECTORS.

After lunch, I decide to pay an old friend that I haven't seen in many years a visit.

His name is Rani Mattis; he's a fellow retiree of the Kidon. We were in Syria together when the shit really hit the fan.

He left the agency in the mid eighties and went on to establish a small film studio that produced soft-core pornographic straight to video action films, obvious knock offs of Rambo, Die Hard, and Indiana Jones only with more tits and lots of softly lit sex scenes with positions that are impossible  in real life.

He made a small fortune before the collapse of the home video market and has spent his later years living between Miami and Park City.  

I haven't seen him in nearly thirty years, but when word got around that I was in the area producing films, he reached out to me.

And when he offered to share a bottle of Domaine Meo-Camuzet, I couldn't possibly decline.

As I approach his home appropriately located on Royal Street, I realize that he's not living in a house so much as a full sized lodge. It's enormous. It looks like it could double for the Justice Leagues secret snow laden meeting chamber.

Rani answers the door with a full wine glass already in hand and welcomes me into his own personal fortress of solitude.

We speak like old friends reunited after three decades speak. We speak as though the past three decades never happened.

We hardly talk about our lives since 1984, instead, we reminisce on old experiences. We tell each other stories that we already know, often finishing each other's sentences.

We talk about Cyprus, Uganda, and Lebanon while we snack on imported moose cheese from Sweden and drink Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Chu.

At one point, Rani returns from a bathroom trip with a photo album, in it are hundreds of pictures documenting his many adventures working for the Mossad.

It's surreal to think that we're both now old men residing in a former American mining city in Utah.

We only talk about the film festival for a few minutes, sharing our tentative viewing schedules and discussing which parties we plan to attend.

We've only talk about our second lives working in Hollywood for exactly seven minutes until Rani asks me if I'd like to see his man cave.

If it means that I get to spend a little more time in his home and drink some more of his wine, I'd be glad to.

I expect to find a lavish home entertainment center, possibly a home movie theater with a 35mm film projector with a fully stocked bar and maybe even a personal masseuse hanging around on standby.

Instead, Rani guides me to a bunker that he's built beneath his winter retreat's foundation. There is no home theater in it. There isn't even a television.

Instead, I find myself sipping my wine in Rani's armory. Before me on display is a major arsenal of military weapons.

On the wall left of me are M4 Carbines, Ingram Mac 10 sub machine guns, Tavor Tar-21 assault rifles, Mossberg 500 shotguns, M1919 Browning light machines, MK 19 grenade launchers,  and an HTR 200 0sniper rifle to balance things out.

On the wall right of me are numerous Nimrod and Spike anti tank missiles and a Soltam M-65 120mm mortar.

A beautiful glass showcase in the middle of the room is lined with a wide array of pistols including a Jericho 941, Beretta M951, Glock 17, and a Heckler Koch P11 in case Rani ever needs to take someone out under water.

The weapons don't make me uncomfortable, but I can't help but feel a little suspicious of Rani for hoarding so many of them into a bunker at his vacation home.

And at this point in the story, you should realize that this is still the first act, and maybe you should be thinking about the rule for Chekov's gun.  You should probably realize that this is what we like to call foreshadowing.

Rani proudly shows off his many guns and explains all of the memories that are attached to each of them.

And this is when I realize just how different the two of us are. I never enjoyed the killing. I don't wish to romanticize any of it. But I was good at it, and when you're good at something, you ought to get paid for it. So I did, and when and if I finish writing about it, I will again.

But the way Rani is smiling as he cradles one of Tavor Tar 21s in his arms like a kitten, I can't help but gulp down my thousand dollar wine like it's ten dollar bourbon.

Rani leads me to the corner of the bunker and opens a small steel enforced crate.

Inside, I see a large football shaped object and when I recognize what it actually is, I wish had more wine to gulp.

Sitting before me, just a tad bit smaller than your average street corner fire hydrant, is an RDS-46 5 megaton nuclear war head.  These nasty and very powerful bombs were developed by the former Soviet Union at the height of the cold war.

Rani smiles as he explains, "Took this baby off of a red who was trying to sell it to the Iranian government in 81'."

And in a single instant, one of the world's most dangerous spies is transformed into a drunken teenager showing off his dad's gun with the safety catch off.

I have to ask, "Is it still functional?"

Rani snorts when he says, "Probably."  

He tries to gauge my reaction for a moment before continuing, " Just think of it, every asshole from Los Angeles is going to be partying in town tomorrow night, and none of them know that that this is sitting here like an unopened Pinot that's aging until just the right time for it to be used."

I guess, when you've seen the things we've seen, it messes with you and the way you think.

That's my only way of rationalizing it.

And like serendipity, this is exact moment when I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket. When I pull it out to check my message, I find a text from Eli Atzmon asking me if I'm free for lunch tomorrow.

I give him a time and place and put the phone back into my pocket.

*** IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE OR ENJOYED THE INSANITY OF THE PREVIOUS ENTRIES IN THE FEAR AND LOATHING AT TWITCH SERIES, HEAD ON OVER TO INDIEGOGO TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN HELP CONTRIBUTE TO THE PRINTING A BEAUTIFUL PHYSICAL BOOK COLLECTION OF THE ENTIRE STORY AND SCORE YOURSELF A PERSONAL COPY FOR YOUR LIBRARY.***

Around the Internet:
  • Steve

    That was a fun read... but only one mistake: Arnon Milchan's biography has already been written and published two years ago: http://amconfidential.blogspot...

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​