By Clint O'Connor, Plain Dealer Film Critic
Cleveland Plain Dealer


Heights filmmaker has Sundance fever

Park City, Utah - After years of waiting, she finally got invited to the big dance. She had to say no.

Cleveland Heights filmmaker Laura Paglin was thrilled when the Slamdance Film Festival accepted her short documentary "No Umbrella: Election Day in the City." Slamdance runs concurrently with the Sundance Film Festival. Paglin had also submitted her film to Sundance, America's premiere film festival and one of her dream destinations.

But you can't be in both. When Sundance called with good news a few days later, Paglin had to make a choice. She canned Slam.

"For the first time in my life," she said, "I had to send a rejection letter to a film festival."

Paglin is one of hundreds of filmmakers hanging out in this beautiful ski-resort city for 10 days. Her calendar this week includes inviting notations like "brunch with Robert Redford" and "free snowboarding lesson."

Sundance celebrates independent voices and small budgets. You couldn't nail either more precisely than with "No Umbrella."

It was shot by one person in one day. Cost: $25.

"I shot it and edited it for the price of five mini-DVD tapes and a nine-volt battery," said Paglin. "But later, the cleanup of the sound and the mix cost a few thousand dollars."

The 26-minute film chronicles the rainy 2004 presidential Election Day at one Hough location, with City Councilwoman Fannie Lewis making extended appearances trying to find voting machines. Paglin captured the extreme frustration of voters waiting in long lines and included a cameo by then-Mayor Jane Campbell. It is playing five times at Sundance.

After its initial screening on opening weekend, Paglin was so happy to be at the festival, she was oblivious when Sting and Robert Downey Jr. walked by. (Sting is here with a Police documentary; Downey stars in "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.")

"It's like being in the 'In Crowd' for a change," said Paglin, who is in town with her husband and collaborator Duane Verh. "I'm just thrilled to be here meeting other filmmakers. I want to expand my world. You can feel so isolated in Cleveland."