Enjoy The Show
In my second evening here at the Sundance Film Festival, there is one thing of which I have not tired: blue moonlight on snow. Beautiful.
I made it to Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon after an excruciating twelve-hour commute. Though I’ve slept most of the way, I am shredded, dehydrated, starving, and suffering from a soul-crushing headache at the base of my skull. I pick up my rental car, and head east towards Park City.
3:32 PM – I stop off at a Sinclair gas station somewhere high atop I-80. There is nothing for miles. Crispin Glover is pumping gas into his very-90s Cadillac coupe. He is dressed all in black, is freshly shaven and shorn. I hold the door for him and he looks at me with those eyes. I decide not to tell him that I loved him in “Back To The Future.”
4:17 PM – Jared Leto crosses the street in front of my condo. I nearly run him over in my rented Ford Explorer.
5:07 PM – I am credentialed.
6:32 PM – Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional strides into The Ben Sherman House for him MTV News interview. He is remarkably slight. He takes his pick of swag, then does his interview on a beat up leather couch with Union Jack pillows. As a singer/songwriter myself, I find it difficult not to answer his questions for him. Afterwards, I decide to tell him I dig his song, “Hands Down.” “The solo acoustic version, the Stipe version, and the full-band version were all in heavy rotation on my iPod in a time when they were highly needed,” I say. “Thanks, man,” he replies. “Glad it connected.” I send him off to perform with Fountains of Wayne thusly, “In the immortal words of Nigel Tuffnel, ‘Do a good show, ok?'”
8:22 PM – Jay Mohr attempts to incite a riot amongst the waiting ticket holders outside of the “Hustle & Flow” premiere. He chants, “Let them in! Let them in! Let them in!”
8:33 PM – Alyssa talks us into the “Hustle & Flow” screening.
8:37 PM – Taryn Manning is wicked hot.
8:38 PM – Holy shit! That’s John Singleton!
8:41 PM – The film starts. It’s a Dirty South version of “Eight Mile.” It’s a little hokey, and I have a hard time empathizing with the antihero who is a pimp and a rapper. But the music’s phenomenal, and the performances are first rate.
10:42 PM- The cast of “Hustle & Flow” joins director Craig Brewer on stage. Did I mention that Taryn Manning is wicked hot? John Singleton directs what I can only assume is a DVD crew from the stage. Brewer explains the financing of the film. His co-producer put $200k of her own money up after selling her house. Co-producer Singleton matched that. It’s Brewer’s first major film after ten years of struggle. He nearly breaks into tears explaining that his deceased father gave the watch used in the film to him. “This ones for you, dad.” During the Q&A session, Tyrese shouts, “Yo! That film was the bomb! I’m telling you the truth! If I had the money, I’d buy that shit right now!”
11:02 AM – Corey, Alyssa, Josh and I pile out of the SUV and into Albertson’s, the heart of our Sundance experience, to buy frozen pizza and beer. My grocery bill totals $48.76.
11:24 AM – Corey DJs on his iPod as the MTV News team decompresses in front of the fire.
1:57 AM – I go to sleep.
10:55 AM – I wake up. (I haven’t slept this late in years.)
11:46 AM – I tug on the door to the Yahoo Cafe just steps from Town Lift, the epicenter of The Sundance Film Festival. A security guard stops me and asks, “Do you have a pass?” I should have known it was a private function when I spotted Jerry Pennacoli.
11:57 AM – Ludacris’ publicist calls Alyssa. They’re just leaving New York City. He won’t be making his 4:30 PM date with MTV News.
12:17 PM – I am standing outside the Easy Street Cafe looking important on my cell phone (though I’m actually trying to find a CompUSA within driving distance to replace the PowerBook G4 AC adapter I left in New York) when Jenny McCarthy walks up. She is completely done up with immovable blonde curls and a full face of make-up. She is not smiling.
12:37 PM – Alyssa and I finish our second pot of French press coffee. Sheri Lansing is sitting at the table next to us.
2:22 PM – Driving west towards the Salt Lake City CompUSA, I spot a huge, wooly corpse on the side of I-80. It’s road kill. A moose.
3:38 PM – I ascend from the fog of Salt Lake City into the crisp blue sky of Park City.
4:22 PM – Ludacris still hasn’t called.
5:32 PM – Corey, Jason and I (three boys from Iowa) assault the “Thumbsucker” red carpet. I man Jason’s Canon EOS 10D and blend in with the paparazzi. Except that I’m laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all because it doesn’t really matter if I get the shots or not. Everyone else is absolutely frenzied. “Keanu! Keanu! Over here! Turn right! Smile please! Keanu! Keanu!”
Park City itself is far more sprawling, far more developed, and far less quaint than I’d expected. It’s packed to the gills with industry types, all smiling, laughing, and scanning passers-by for recognition. We figure we are at best third in the food chain here — stars, deal makers, press — though volunteers may come first (they certainly have better access and cooler jackets).
Overall, I’m glad to be here. I’ve always wanted to check it out, and get some sense of what it’s all about. Of course, I’d like to premiere a film here someday (like everyone else), though “Mr. Rogers & Me,” should it come to pass, is far more of a Nantucket Film Festival Thing than a Sundance Thing.
After maybe 24 hours on location, I’d say the Sundance Thing is pretty much the Hollywood thing, which isn’t too surprising. It’s all about the press junket, the close-up, the soundtrack, the deal. But instead of the Hollywood sign, or the glistening Pacific in the background, there are snow-dappled mountains. Which isn’t really so bad.