Ryan Fleck's Sundance Film Festival was a lot more involved this time around -- but then so too was his movie.
After Fleck's "Gowanus, Brooklyn" shared the short film award in 2004, the 29-year-old director returned to Park City, Utah, this year with a feature-film version adapted from the prize-winning short. "Half Nelson," as Fleck's new film is called, follows an elementary school history teacher (Ryan Gosling) whose drug addiction is discovered by one of his students (Shareeka Epps).
While Epps stars as the student in both films, little else remains the same. "Gowanus, Brooklyn" played in a little-seen collection of Sundance shorts, while the 1 hour, 46-minute "Half Nelson" filled theaters in which it was shown. Ignored by film buyers and the media two years ago, Fleck was inundated by both at this week's festival.
"I really need a nap. I've slept about eight hours in 10 days," Fleck said in the middle of his Sundance madness. "We're trying to sell the movie, so we're out there, trying to be a part of the scene." The work appeared to be paying off. Even though they arrived in Park City without a theatrical distributor, Fleck and screenwriting partner Anna Boden were on the verge of landing a deal as they headed into a crowded "Half Nelson" Sundance screening Thursday morning.
"The great thing," Fleck said, "is that audiences are responding to the film."