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Editors Note: Jonathon Trent is an up-and-coming actor in Hollywood. Though young, he has had leading roles in seven feature films and supporting roles in several others in 2005 alone. The varied characters he plays include, the drug addicted, hopelessly in love teen in “Love is the Drug.” He was the homeless drifter in “Making Change.” He plays the misunderstood poet in “Smile,” a feature shot in Mainland China. He had the role of the flamboyantly gay club kid in “Boy Culture.” In “Pray for Morning,” he was a high school sleuth. In “Delusion” (2004) he was the movie idol, psychopath. TV Audiences have seen him as the star of “The Inside”.

This former high school football captain, a California native, was born to a Finnish father and half Japanese mother and spent his youth excelling at a variety of sports including football, wrestling, track, tennis and surfing.

Mr. Trent currently resides in Los Angeles.

The following is his personal view of his recent visit to Sundance/Slamdance, the annual film festival in Utah.



A Young Actor’s Sundance
By Jonathon Trent

A film I worked on, called “Love is the Drug,” was in a festival called Slamdance. Slamdance and Sundance happen at exactly the same time and place. Needless to say, I had a Sundance experience.

Over the 3 or 4 years of my career as an actor, I have acquired an extremely solid corner. I have a manager who is more a friend and companion than a business partner, an agent who I cherish, and a recent alliance with a publicist that has secured all doubts about publicity.

These people, along with myself, have and are continuing to groom me into what I am to become. The help that they have given me will be shown and validated in this dissertation about my first experience at Sundance.

I was very skeptical about attending this festival. My feelings were that Sundance was going to be about business. That it would have no art. That it was something that you had to do; a game you had to play. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it work. I was even more worried that I would.

Here's where it gets deeper. My manager and I went on the trip together. We drove. We drove because we wanted to. We stopped in Las Vegas for a night. I mention this because in Vegas we started the real journey that was "our Sundance". We sat in our room and talked for hours about what we were going to do there, and what we wanted to accomplish. We talked about the way we wanted people to perceive us. We used our intent to help try to create an experience that would be significant. We felt, that what was necessary for us to do was to show up. We were going to say, "yes" to every, and any "thing" that came into our space. We would step into the weird alien planet that is Sundance, and have a free tour. And with the support and planning we had going into this, we felt armed and charged.

We arrived at night and immediately met with the group where we were staying. It started a bond with a few particulars that involved little sleep, magical conversation, and plenty of altering experiences.

The next morning we walked on Main Street. I'm sorry, let me rephrase: We walked the one street in Utah that, for two weeks out of the year, is a compact and dense version of "New Hollywood" (New York and Hollywood). I remember that first day very well. I felt judged. Dismissed. As we walked up and down Main Street, I could feel eyes looking at me. Looking to see who I was. If I was someone. I was not.

The cast of my film had a couple interviews. These are all the same. Cameras on. Live. In the moment. Questions asked. A heightened meeting between two strangers.

I like interviews, though they are difficult. There is a format. A way to do it. I don't know this format very well. But it sure is fun. It is an extremely important part of being a successful actor. Actors give interviews. They speak from their gut and let people into their crazy world. They voice their opinions. And people want this. They want to hear from them. To tell them what life is like in their shoes. It was cool to get a chance, a venue, to be the actor who gives interviews even if it was only for a moment. Where I was able to talk about how I felt about this thing or that. It was a great honor.
The next couple of days I spent working. "Work" is a strange word to use for what we had to do. But it is work. It's not something I would do for the sheer pleasure of it. Sundance, from what I gather, is the only festival that has this ritual. Everyone calls the ritual "swag acquisition". Many companies, brands and businesses come to Sundance to advertise. They set up booths in lounges created by Publicity firms and herd in actors of all types and calibers. Then they give their merchandise away. They give it to you in exchange for a picture and promise to wear it, or sport it, or use it. All of this comes down to one thing -- are you on the list? Being on the list means everything. If you're on it, consider yourself equal to John Malkovich, or Matt Dillon. If you aren't on the list, you aren't even good enough to come inside, out of the cold, to warm your feet. I was fortunate to warm my feet, and to have this weird experience of getting "star" treatment. Now, "star" might sound silly. But it's no exaggeration. When I walked into the VW Lounge, they treated me like royalty. When I was in the Levi Lounge, where they were fitting me for my new free clothes I was right next to Matt Dillon.

I can see where someone might ask how this relates to work. Let me tell you, it's hard and tense work to go around to these vendors and receive the gifts they are giving. It's not as easy as one might think. It is a big responsibility to show up and truly accept a gift without being "gross". Allow me to explain further. I saw people "getting free stuff". That's what they were there to do and all they wanted. Picture, I mean imagine, Paris Hilton in your mind. I mention that name because every one can see her in their mind doing something to this extent. Note: I did not see Paris Hilton at Sundance.

Unfortunately, she just happens to be the perfect visual representation of what I am trying to explain. Imagine you see Paris in the VW Lounge. Now, watch as Paris moves from table to table, from vendor to vendor collecting everything free. She is saying "Hi" to people, looking at the free thing that is being offered to her and deciding whether she likes it or not. Getting excited over the really cool new purse she is about to get, or being very dismissive towards the body shaver she will never use. Let me tell you what the imagined Paris is not doing. She is not connecting to the people giving this stuff away. She is not genuinely interested in what these people are doing with their lives, why they are there, who they are. There is no human connection. That makes this transaction "gross". That is why I call it "work". It would be easy to walk around mindlessly grabbing free things. It is another thing to meet these cool people who want you to have their things. It takes energy, time and respect.

I could tell you the names of the places I went to and whom I saw. That would be boring for me. Instead, I'll tell you about some of the people I connected with and why they are cool. Take this lady named Valerie Downs. She is from Chicago and owns her own jewelry line. Everything she makes is a one of a kind piece. She gave me a wicked cool ring that is a black opal with metal wire coiled all around it. I liked her.

I saw this guy from my high school. Well, actually I saw three people from my high school. It was a nice reflection. I saw how their lives were starting to take shape. One of them is launching a clothing line. The others are working in public relations.

I also have to tell you about Mr. Ed, this normal guy from Maryland. He was an investor in my recent film. He's maybe in his early 70's. He doesn't know much about Hollywood, but he is one hell of a guy.

There is Kim and Emily. We worked with Kim and Emily. They are the publicists that represented the movie (not the publicist that I was talking about earlier). The cool part about meeting them was being able to watch our bond grow. When we met, we were strangers. By the last night, we were like a bunch of sappy schoolgirls. It was almost pathetic. In a good way.

One person will always stand out. He is John Patrick. He is also in the movie. The movie is kind of about him. I knew him because I worked with him. J.P. is a talented, smart, deep human being. And my manager and I got the chance to really get to know him. In a certain way. We all stayed at the same condo and every night we would stay up until like three or four. We would just talk. I listened a whole bunch. I like to listen. The conversations that we were having were awesome. It all related to acting. It was creative and inspiring and made me feel like I was charged like a cell phone.

I don't really know what to say about my movie. First, I did not see any other movies. I went to Sundance/Slamdance and did not see one movie aside from mine. Pathetic, I know. But we were that busy. The two screenings of “Love is the Drug” . . . I don't know exactly what to say. It's hard to be objective. It's hard to watch yourself in a public arena. It's hard to talk to people afterwards. I enjoyed the experience. I really did. But it was hard. That's all I want to say.

To sum up. This trip was a journey. We started at one end and finished on another plane. A tangible evolution took place. In the midst of the madness, we succeeded in finding many people willing to connect. There was hope, passion and inspiration. There was a goal that we met. A simple path that we followed. "Yes" became our way of life. It empowered us to transcend normal reality. This became a heightened experience, a dynamic out of normal context and turn out to be something a little more magical. A little more pure. I feel confident in saying all this. And I truly hope more experiences, like this one, present themselves in the future. Oh, wait . . . they do everyday!


 

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