Back in October, Southwest had a really good deal for a trip from LA to Salt Lake City, so I decided to jump on it in the hopes that I could attend Sundance for the first time. Turns out that my brother and his friends were going to be in town at the same time doing some skiing, and his buddy said we could stay at his house in Cottonwood Heights – which is just outside of the city.
As an actor and a writer in Los Angeles, Sundance has a certain magical-kind-of-cloud around it that makes it feel intimidating – at least it did to me. I didn’t have a film at the festival, I had never been to Park City or the festival itself, and I was going by myself – so it was a bit intimidating at first, but I’m so glad I went.
I got to SLC on the second Wednesday of the festival. Evidently the “crazy” part was already over – as a lot of people supposedly go the first week, but not the second week, because a lot of wild parties and premieres happen over the first week and it kind of slows down after that. I was okay with it. I’m a slows down kind of guy, and tons of people elbowing and cramming into places isn’t really my thing. After getting to the airport, I grabbed the rental car and just headed to Park City via my google maps and just decided to figure it out from there. Turns out a friend of mine from my Second City classes ended up staying for the second half, when she originally thought she wouldn’t, so I had someone to connect with when I got there. Before leaving LA, though, I had gone on the Sundance website (that wasn’t terribly straight-forward and easy to use, unfortunately) and figured out how to purchase single tickets to a few things that I wanted to see. I figured that I could get to Park City by 3p, so on the first day, I saw the “Indie Episodics 6” showcase which highlighted two independent episodic shows – the first called “Leimert Park” and the second called “The Adulterers.” I was so very impressed with both of them, but aesthetically and story-wise – Leimert Park was just amazing. I was blown away. I related more closely to The Adulterers, because of the relationship between the characters, but also because it felt like something I could do and be a part of. Both were great. Then, after the Q&A was finished, I turned my phone back on, and my friend from class had texted me that she signed me up for none other than the Indie Episodics Event/Party that was happening in about 30 minutes. Perfect, so I went to that and the people involved with both of the episodics I saw 30-minutes prior were there, and I was able to chat with both of them. The director of Leimert Park, Mel Jones, was sitting on one of the couches with her producer and some of her other team, so I was able to chat with her for a bit and tell her how much I liked what they did. Turns out they’re looking for buyers (shocking!) but some of the names she was throwing out regarding people she’d want to work with were sort of connected to people I’m connected with so I got her email address and was able to share it with one of my good friends – who then reached out to her, and now they’re going to hopefully be best friends and make amazing stuff together in some way, shape, or form. I love connecting people.
The second day I was there, I wanted to see the documentary “A Polar Year” which was kind of a re-enactment of what happened to a guy who went to this remote village in Greenland to teach the 80ish people there Danish. It was beautifully shot, and it was fun getting to know the characters, but I mainly wanted to see it because doing something like that (although I want to go to Antarctica, rather than Greenland) has been a dream of mine since I was about to graduate college.
I was also able to see (the next day) the anniversary showing of “Smoke Signals” which was celebrating its 20th anniversary of it’s debut at Sundance. The lead actor, who is now a doctor, was even there to answer questions. I hadn’t seen it before and it was really good. The acting was fun and made it easy to love the characters and their relationships.
I can’t say the same for the movie Tyrel. I was happy that I had gotten a free ticket through my friend’s friend, because not since “Eyes Wide Shut” did a movie I saw in the theater finish and I was like “what the hell was that?” And I would’ve left the theater thinking that same thing except for the director came out to do a Q&A and one of the first questions was something along the lines of “what do you want your audience feeling or thinking after they see this film?” To which he replied, “I want them to be confused.” Mission accomplished. Then he talked about how he wrote just the beats of the script over a 10-day period, and allowed the rest to be improvised, and how this actor did it because he was a close friend, and this other actor was in it because he owned the home, and it kind of felt a little boastful rather than humble and excited to be at Sundance. I wanted to like it, but after the movie, and then the Q&A, I just kind of felt angry.
I was able to wash down that anger with some whiskey, thankfully. Over the course of the four days I spent at Sundance, I had some really good, hearty meals at places like No Name Saloon, Butcher’s Chop House, High West Saloon, and Wasatch Brew Pub – not to mention a bit of the alcohol. At a random pancake breakfast my friend’s friend had an extra space for me at, I was able to meet one of my favorite actors and humans of all time, Nick Offerman. At another party, a woman came up to me to kind of get to know my “deal” and it turns out she was a somebody as well – even though I didn’t know it at the time. Top it all off with the fact that I was invited to the awards ceremony and after party, and I definitely, definitely would consider my Sundance experience a smashing success – one which I would greatly love to re-experience next year…and the only way I won’t be going back, if I can help it, is if I get a job on Antarctica. Here’s hoping!
If you want to see some blurry images proving that I was there…here you go: