Saturday, January 26, 2013

Memories of My First Sundance

Some quick fun facts about me:
  1. I have never paid money for bottled water.
  2. Despite living minutes away from some of the most popular ski resorts in the country, I have been skiing exactly once.
  3. Despite living minutes away from the site of one of the five biggest film festivals in the world, I had never been to a Sundance screening until earlier this week.
My reasoning for never having attended a Sundance screening is a topic worthy of its own post, so for now I'll just share some of my random thoughts and memories from spending my Martin Luther King Holiday covering a film festival in Park City:

  • 8:30am: Crouching at the back of my Honda Accord in sub-zero weather at Slim Olson's in Bountiful, trying to decide whether the air hose attached to my back tire was inflating it or deflating it, wondering whether I really wanted to drive up to Park City and spend the next 15+ hours covering the reputed mayhem that is the Sundance Film Festival.
  • 9:15am: Driving blindly through the parking lot at the Park City Marriott as sunlight glares through my windshield, lucking into a free parking space on the street right outside, then strolling into Festival Headquarters and picking up my media pass at the press credential desk, where I once again got that strange feeling that someone was giving my opinions credibility.
  • 9:25am: Walking through the lobby and making eye contact with a cute girl with green eyes, then stopping outside and debating whether I should go back in and try to talk to her, even though she was wearing snow pants and was obviously about to head out on the slopes and wouldn't be interested in going to a screening of a random movie based on a Jack Kerouac book, though you never know until you try, and she did have a lanyard on, so she could be press herself, and so I went back inside the lobby, where instead I was approached by a random red-haired woman who thought she had met me at a party the night before.
  • 9:45am: Kicking myself for not getting out the door fifteen minutes earlier so I could both get my press credential early and still have time to catch a warm-up screening before "Big Sur" instead of lingering around the Yarrow Hotel lobby killing time reading over each Sundance entry synopsis seventeen times in the press guide.
  • 11:30am: Filing into my first screening of the day at the Yarrow Theater, finding a seat, then being approached by a guy named Jack who also thought he had met me somewhere before. (He actually looked up a picture of the person he was thinking of on his phone and showed it to me so I wouldn't think he was crazy.)
  • 12:30pm: Watching actor Jean-Marc Barr (playing Jack Kerouac in "Big Sur") chain-smoke his way through virtually every second he spent in the incredible natural wonder that is Big Sur National Park, then remembering my own brief experience in Big Sur: trying to sleep on a picnic table in one of the park's campgrounds halfway through my road trip up the Pacific Coastal Highway in the summer of 2009.
  • 1:15pm: Wondering if the copy of Entertainment Weekly that I had impulsively grabbed from a stack in the press tent was complimentary or if I was supposed to have paid for it, then sheepishly double-checking with the amused festival volunteer on my way out of the theater. 
  • 1:30pm: Intentionally sitting in the sun at my booth at Taco Maker because it was so much nicer than the crappy cold and inversion I'd been dealing with in Salt Lake, noting that Taco Maker chooses to call its Tator Tots "Potato Gems" instead of Tator Tots (or Mexi Fries like Taco Time), then debating whether I should feel dumb for eating at Taco Maker during my one day in Park City.
  • 2:15pm: Being herded into the press tent outside the Holiday Theaters, feeling a little like I was about to become some kind of human entry in a State Fair-style livestock display, then talking to Duncan, a lawyer from LA who has been attending Sundance for two decades and looks a little like a younger Robert Redford (though I'm sure every red-haired guy looks a little like Redford during Sundance) while waiting in line for the press screening of "Manhunt," a documentary about the search for Osama bin Laden.
  • 3:30pm: Nodding off in the mid-afternoon screening of "Manhunt," then hearing the gasp in the audience when someone indicated that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month, even though another someone indicated that 183 was the number of dunks, not the number of actual sessions, whatever that means. 
  • 4:45pm: Weighing whether to try to squeeze in an extra screening--in this case, "Blackfish," a documentary about a killer whale in captivity that has either killed some of its handlers or killed some of the people watching it perform, I can't recall--even though the film was already spoken for by one of my D-News colleagues, then deciding to use the break to take a crowded bus downtown then stroll up and down Historic Main Street and take some pictures of "the Sundance scene."
  • 6:30pm: Taking a few shots of a couple of girls who had been stopped by a crew from the Sundance Channel for an interview while a car drove by and a passenger called out the window, "CELEBRITEEEEES! CELEBRITEEEES!"
  • 7:00pm: Sitting by myself at a four-person booth in The Bandit Grill, eating what was listed as a half-pound hickory burger but only seemed to be 1/4-1/3 pounds of angus beef, wondering if the guy at the table next to me is really the supporting character actor I think he is, or if I am just assuming that everyone in Park City is famous, and secretly regretting the fact that I didn't do any research to figure out the best places to eat in town before I drove up.
  • 9:15pm: Standing in the press tent waiting for the 10pm "Sound City" screening, weighing the prospects of driving home through Parley's Canyon at 12:30am,  and wondering if I should just bail and tell my editor that I would write a review of "Manhunt" instead, since I really don't know if Deseret News readers are all that psyched to learn about the studio in LA where Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" were recorded, even though I kind of am.
  • 9:55pm: Deciding to stick it out with "Sound City," then changing seats multiple times before the movie began when the middle-aged woman in the white fur coat on the row behind me starts coughing like crazy and sniffing like she was inhaling either cocaine or boogers or both and either way I didn't want to get sick for the third time in a month or take the chance of her husband/partner/parole officer kicking my chair for the fourth time while I was just trying to enjoy a documentary about a nice little recording studio in Los Angeles.
  • 10:10pm: Watching the album montage at the beginning of "Sound City" and thinking that pretty much every album released between 1974 and 1994 was recorded there, then laughing when interview segments with rock gods like Neil Young and Tom Petty and Mick Fleetwood were suddenly followed by an interview segment with Barry Manilow.
  • 10:45pm: Noting that director Dave Grohl just spent fifteen minutes on the technical details of the Sound City mixing board, and thinking that only diehard music fans will embrace the "Sound City" documentary in its entirety, but that the fans would have to be OK with R-rated language, because after keeping a mental tab on the number of F-bombs in "Sound City" so I could determine what rating estimate to use in my review, I had to give up after about two dozen.
  • 12:15am: Driving home through Parley's Canyon after 15 hours in Park City, safely and happily, glad I stuck around for "Sound City," but also glad that my long first ever day at Sundance was over.