The Technical Writer

Director: Scott Saunders
Screenwriters: Michael Harris, Scott Saunders

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Merriman Jessup checked out of the human race long ago. A grumpy, repressed agoraphobic, he surfaces from grinding out computer manuals in his windowless hovel only long enough to collect food deliveries or visit his dying buddy upstairs.

In The Technical Writer, Scott Saunders's superbly realized, smartly written third feature, Jessup becomes a reluctant Frankenstein experiment about to join the land of the living. As he is dragged kicking and screaming out of his arid shell by decadent, unabashedly forthright neighbors, he discovers a subterranean part of himself he thought was dead. The flip side of this emotionally paralyzed hermit turns out to be a man with qualities we never expected, so watching his untidy transformation is sheer pleasure. Though his awakening brings its share of problems, Jessup is finally free because he risked feeling anything at all.

Raw and truthful, with extraordinary performances by Michael Harris, Tatum O'Neal, and Pamela Gordon, The Technical Writer presents an idiosyncratic New York where doors are always unlocked and enigmatic neighbors unapologetically engage in perversions. Saunders never sensationalizes quirkiness; rather he fashions a nonjudgmental universe where strangeness is the "norm" and desire a messy, unkempt thing. Deeply moving, this at times delectably naughty tale restores our faith in humanity—warts and all.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]