Movies, parties and business cards

Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Film Festival, might claim that filmmakers, stars, journalists and Hollywood-types journey to Park City, Utah, each January to see movies. But in fact, many Sundancers stay the entire 10 days and see only a few.

While The Hatchet did plow through 25 films in five days, to only report on the life within the dark and crowded theaters would be to ignore the reason why Sundance is a festival and not just a Cineplex.

In 10-degree weather you can’t exactly rock a miniskirt, even if you’re wearing Uggs. So in Park City, where the sun is bright and the air is frigid, the dress code is functional-chic. Everyone wants to look good, but when it hits zero, there’s no messing around. The streets are full of furry boots, hats and big fur coats over jeans and sweaters. It’s PETA’s worst nightmare, but thankfully Pam Anderson isn’t the indie film type.

There’s something in that glacial air that brings even the most superficial Hollywood types out of their Versace backless dresses and their Gucci murses (man purses). Paul Rudd was sporting a mountain man beard so big that he was barely recognizable, Wynona Ryder was in baggy jeans and a jacket so non-descript it’s just a blur in my memory and Nick Nolte looked like any other sleazy old dude.

As one festivalgoer explained to me, Sundance takes the L.A. out of the L.A. people. Famous directors, celebrities and rich producers come and mingle with aspiring filmmakers, starving actors and, yes, college press. Even Harvey Weinstein (the founder of Miramax who oozes money from his skin) briefly gave me the time of day – “Are you Mr. Weinstein?” “No, I’m Harvey Weinstein” – before walking away toward more important people.

Like the arctic-ready fashion, the social scene is also functional-chic. Every party I attended (approximately three per day) was both practical and stylish – the ultimate combination of business and pleasure.

Sundance festivities were alluring and delightfully decadent, but most attendees were there to network, not to get inebriated. For them, schmoozing had a purpose. Each new drink helped find a conversation with a new connection. “Making friends” was goal-oriented and every chat always ended with the classic card swap. In fact, I made a new friend myself; the casting director for “Flava of Love,” who explained to me that at Sundance, “there’s always networking to be done.”

That’s not to say that there was no fun to be had. Every bar was an open bar stocked with top-shelf liquor (hello, Grey Goose!) and party-sponsors didn’t want their guests to starve. They dined us with never-ending sushi, designer pizzas by the dozen and even a gigantic platter of Godiva chocolate bars. But what made the parties truly chic wasn’t the drinks, the food, the band or the fancy DJ – it was how many people were rejected at the door. Being on “the list” is serious business.

Weaseling your way onto “the list” is an art and a skill – it takes practice, guts and knowing who to know. “The list” is all about finding functional-chic friends – the ones that go to the hottest parties and can get you in, too. So, if you take a trip to Sundance 2008 – make friends, find where the open bar is, stay where the open bar is (Maker’s Mark keeps you warm), and stuff your wallet with a hefty supply of business cards.

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