PARK CITY -- Julian Goldberger is antsy. Of course he's antsy. The rent on his apartment in the Hollywood Hills is paid up through March.

And then?Julian grins a sardonic grin.

And then, he says, he's in deep trouble.

Welcome to the heart, soul and frenzy of the Sundance Film Festival. Scrape away Robert Redford's opening night smile, Laura Dern's acting award, Rosie Perez's photo op, and the bigger budget films trying to elbow their way in through the side door, and what you're left with is the real iceberg.

What you're left with is . . . this.

A 29-year-old in a baseball cap and black jeans, holding his breath for a week. Along with some of the biggest names in American finance.

Visa. Mastercard. Discover.

Deficit? Julian the filmmaker knows deficit.

"I'm eating debt every day," he says, "but at least I'm doing what I want to do."

Julian doesn't just make movies. He is a movie. The name of his production company is -- wait for it -- Downhome. Downhome Pictures. His release at this year's Sundance Festival is called "Trans," a film about growing up troubled and teenaged in the South. It was filmed in Ft. Myers, Fla., Julian's hometown, and if it isn't his life exactly, it has more than a few parallels.

So did Julian grow up wanting to be the next Cassavettes? Driving his parents crazy with his amateur movie-making?

"No, I drove my parents crazy when I moved back home to make 'Trans,' " he says.

Picture this: You're Mr. and Mrs. Goldberger and you've sent your son away to college at, in order, Florida State, NYU, and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

Finally, he graduates and becomes a filmmaker, Mr. Big Shot, and the next thing you know he's back on your doorstep, asking for his room back. And he's brought a few friends with him. Wearing berets.

To say Julian made the movie on a modest budget is to say the Republican Party is currently experiencing a slight public relations problem.

He shot "Trans" with one camera and six people, none of them actors. To get the lead character for the movie he went to Cypress Lake High School, his alma mater, walked the halls, and signed up, on the spot, a 16-year-old named Ryan Daugherty.

Julian says he saw in Daugherty "a natural." He also saw someone who had never heard of the Screen Actors Guild. Daugherty could be the next DiCaprio, as soon as "Trans" becomes the next "Titanic."

In the meantime, all Julian can do is spin his wheels, hoping for the same thing all "indies" hope for: a distributor.

Somebody who likes your film as much as you do and will see that it gets placed in all the hip places that carry independent films.

Julian knows it's a longshot. But then he knows if you want to talk longshot, how about moving back home to Ft. Myers, making a movie starring a 16-year-old who's never acted before, and have it wind up at Sundance -- as "High-brow Indy" as the festivals get.

If nothing happens here in Utah, well, there's always Berlin in February, where "Trans" is also booked. Before Sundance, the film was at the Toronto Film Festival. So chalk up "the big three" for "Trans" and Julian.

He gets paid nothing for his movie's showings this week, although Sundance did pick up his room.

Undaunted, Julian merely shrugs a starving artist's shrug. "I'm very proud of the fact that 'Trans' has a soul," he says, chanting the mantra of independent filmmakers everywhere.

That and a distribution deal will pay April's rent.

Lee Benson accepts faxes at 801-237-2527 and e-mail at lbenson@desnews.com. His column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday.