Waiting for Paula Jones at Sundance
Contemplating the debut of "The Hunting of the President" at Sundance on this sunny afternoon, I think I'm finally beginning to understand the strange combination of exhilaration and trepidation felt by authors whose books become movies. Those feelings are intensified by the fact that I haven't seen the final cut, complete with narration and score. This project has been in the works for more than two years, but of course the editing and mixing continued in Los Angeles until a few days ago.
That isn't to say I don't know what's in the movie; I've seen most of "Hunting" more than once. But aside from recent editing changes, with some segments cut and others put in, the addition of spoken words and music always has a transformative effect. (How transformative isn't easy to understand unless you've looked at unadorned footage during a movie's editing process. The impact of music alone can make an enormous difference.)
Although this event will be the first showing of the complete work, the producers previously screened about 40 minutes of footage at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival last fall. Those excerpts were very well received, playing twice before SRO audiences, but that was Arkansas. It seems auspicious that Film Festival Today, trade magazine of the enormous festival industry, names "Hunting" as one of the top 25 "must-see" movies at Sundance. I'm told that the tickets sold out almost immediately here, but I'm also told that all the Sundance screenings sell out every year.
Inevitably, there were some important aspects of the book that had to be omitted from a 90-minute film. (And I didn't always agree with the directors about those omissions -- perhaps Gene Lyons and I will add an "authors' cut" to the DVD someday.) Happily, there were also remarkable moments in the film that expand the story we told in the book. Among my other favorite moments are cameos by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post newsroom, and Jerry Falwell at his Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, Va.
The big news at breakfast this morning, however, was that a certain amazing clip of Paula Jones -- an outtake from the infamous "Clinton Chronicles" video that we tried to obtain years ago -- has been added to the "Hunting" movie since the last edit I viewed. In the outtake, Paula finishes her recitation of all the awful things Bill Clinton supposedly did, and then says something that is far more revealing about her. It's only a few seconds of film, but I can't wait to see it.
[1:30 p.m. PST, Jan. 23, 2004]