Panic in Park City

Fear is the driving force at this year's Sundance Film Festival

CP: It's also very much about writing: about the anxiety of writing, the tricky relationship between the writer and his or her self-esteem, and how all of that fits--or doesn't fit--into the context of an intimate partnership with another person. To the degree that the film is a personal project for you, I want to ask: What inspired you to write it? What was going on with you personally at the time?

COYLE: I was in a pretty ragged place emotionally. Without getting too specific about it, I'll just say that I had been in a relationship that went bad--at the exact same time that some things had gone bad for me professionally. I found myself alone, needing space, afraid to move on--afraid to leave the house. The one place I knew I could go was my imagination: sitting by myself and writing. That's the one thing that really connects me to the character I play in the movie: his struggle to make contact with something other than his imagination. When you're creating--creating a screenplay, especially--a writer gets to play God: Everything in the world of this fiction stems from you. For John, the world he knows is alcoholic and dysfunctional, but at least he knows it. The hell you know can be better than the hell you don't know.

CP: Now your own creation--the movie--is out there in the real world. What do you hope it will achieve out there?

What--no cell phone? Joaquin Phoenix in Thomas Vinterberg's 'It's All About Love'
Nimbus Film International
What--no cell phone? Joaquin Phoenix in Thomas Vinterberg's 'It's All About Love'

COYLE: In a way, it has already achieved everything I could have dreamed of. I've gotten my small, low-budget independent film to the Sundance Film Festival. I've done as much as I can do.

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