PARK CITY, Utah – For kids, there is Disneyworld. For adults, they can be whisked away to fabulous Las Vegas. For yours truly, there is nowhere more desirable in January than the place where the Sun meets the stars, and everyone enjoys a late night dance.
My friend David called me one day when I was doing nothing of importance and offered me the trip of a lifetime. For $400 I could have airfare and a floor to sleep on with his school-organized trip to Park City, Utah. It took me about 20 minutes to secure the funds and I started dancing. That’s right, I started Sundancing way before I made landfall in Utah. Excited as I was, I had no idea what was in store.
With the nudging of one my great film professors, I obtained through The Hatchet a press pass. This was the equivalent of a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate factory. I’m serious. I was allowed to see as many movies as my eyes could stand, attend parties and rub shoulders with the cr?me-de-la-cr?me of the industry. Add the fact that I was just excited to be there, and you can imagine me smiling.
I smiled (and teared up with absolutely bliss) when I sat in what would be “my seat” for my first show at Sundance. It could have been a documentary about dog feces (it turned out to be about recycling in Jordan) and I would have been happy. Over the next four days I sat through 15 movies – some great, some terrible, and most just OK. Each night I’d come back to the house and try to write down as much as I could. Decompressing is tough when you have a full day ahead of you in four hours.
As a member of the press, I was allowed to get one ticket for the next day’s shows in the public screening venues. You could use this on a premiere or on a film you wanted to see that was not playing during the press screenings. My only regret was that I did not get a ticket (although I had the ability) to see U2 in 3-D. Al Gore and all of U2 was there promoting the new film along with a live performance from the band. Shucks.
The culmination of my Sundance experience was my last night, where I partied with many, many celebrities. I got my friend and I a hook up to Harry O’s, the hottest club in Park City. We saw Lil’ Jon, Paris Hilton, Ian Ziering from 90210, and the band One Republic performed live. My friend gave rapper Young Buck advice on cigars, which the superstar listened to as if in a classroom. I didn’t chase the cool too much while I was there – I’m a film nerd, and that’s what I did. However, one chance encounter allowed me to pick up some free swag.
See, if you are a celebrity, sponsors want you to wear their product. If you are press, the sponsors want to make sure the celebrities are seen wearing their product. So in I walked to a swag session totally oblivious to what was going on. Timberland was promoting eco-friendly boots and clothing. Diesel was giving away jeans. Frederic Fekkai (my sisters hit me when I didn’t realize what that was) had make up, and the humane society had fake furs. But that’s not why I was there.
I met producers, filmmakers, critics, directors – you name it, I met ’em. All walks of life out for one thing – a big break. The amazing thing about Sundance was that everyone was in it together. Everyone was looking for that one “Little Miss Sunshine” (or Harvey Weinstein) to catapult their life from Independent film making to studio high life. With this came some drawbacks, however. Some people I talked to wouldn’t raise their eyes from their Crackberry’s and have a human conversation. Maybe no place on Earth will prepare you better for Hollywood fakeness than D.C. political talk.
Not all were of this ilk. Some, usually East Coast natives, were all too happy to talk to a young idealist reporter who was just lucky to be there. They told me hot spots, gossip and industry know-how that I hope to gain if I get into film school. These interactions pre, post and during some of the films were what I went to Sundance for. It was an affirmation of everything I believed going in, but just needed to hear from someone else. It was the best experience of my life, and I have my friend David, family and The Hatchet to thank. n
The writer is a senior majoring in Dramatic Literature and Theater. This was his first trip to Park City, Utah, for the annual Sundance movie festival.