There’s Always Something New at the Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival 2014 was my third in a row so I knew there to expect surprises. Obviously the films are the draw, but the experience at Sundance is always different, too. Three new and/or innovative things in particular caught my attention. In technology, the new E-Wait List was the buzz on the street. People were jumping all over themselves to show me how it worked when I asked.  The Air BNB Haus was another place everyone said I “had to go” and the round pavilion that seemed to pop up out of nowhere showing “The Source” by David Aiken was a “don’t miss.”

Technology – the E-Wait List

You certainly can’t completely avoid waiting in line to see a movie. Besides it’s part of the experience to chat it up with people in line but the E-Wait List site cut down on unnecessary wasted time.  Basically, all you had to do was sign up and then sign in to the Sundance E-Wait List. Then you simply checked the website – which looked and felt like an app – as to the upcoming movies to grab your numbered spot on the list – two hours before the movie.

The downside I heard was that people signed up for movies capturing coveted wait list spots but didn’t cancel when they ended up not attending. But if you did make it in, you showed up to the venue a half hour before and cued up in line based on your number – very civilized!  You didn’t have to leave your friends behind either. Because you linked up with them, you were “in-line” together. To top it off, the real question you wanted to know was answered for you right there on the screen, “What’s the likelihood of me getting in?”  Pretty good? or not!

Capture

Connections:

After getting my cup of coffee and hanging out at the Air BNB Haus for a while, I tweeted “very chill.”  This little spot, well I guess not so little since they took over an entire building, felt like you were visiting your best friend’s place. It was a nice respite from hustle and bustle of Main Street during Sundance – a great spot to relax between movies. You could connect with other people there or find a spot to relax with friends.

There were comfy chairs for reading:

Book

Complimentary tea and coffee for everyone:

Tea

Free Wifi:

Long Table

And a creativity corner where children and adults created some artwork:

Art

 

Innovation – The Source at New Frontier

I was thinking, “Was that building there before?”  A 2,000 sq.ft. round pavilion seemed to appear out of nowhere by the Gateway Center and housed the New Frontier Exhibit, “The Source.”  Filmmaker Doug Aiken interviewed “groundbreaking pioneers in various disciplines who are shaping modern culture” about the source of their inspiration as well as the journey to the finished creation.  These interviews were shown in this round pavilion with six viewing rooms.

The StructureFilms

Watching interviews with architects, musicians, photographers and other disciplines, was inspiring!  I walked away with a greater appreciation for artists who are ahead of their time. Enjoying Sundance experience #3 only made me want to come back for more next year.

School Bus Synergy

photoTrue story: I’m “Facebook friends” with over 1,800 people. At least a dozen of those are people with whom I rode the school bus to Rutland Town Elementary School with from 1978-1986 in Rutland, Vermont. As the small world turns, I run into one of these pals, Julie, on a weekly basis at our favorite exercise class at the Silver Mountain Sports Club. Another friend, Tori, lives in Atlanta, and I’m used to following her adventures from afar—she and her family (including two young boys, not that far in age from my guys) travel a lot, and get to go to a lot of fun events, in far-flung locales. So, imagine my delight when I found a Facebook message from Tori, letting me know she’d be skiing at Deer Valley on the first Sunday of Sundance Film Festival.

“Smart move”, I told her. “The hotels are full, but the slopes are empty!” I promised to meet her by the ticket window after I dropped off the boys at Ski School, so that we could say hello in person—which we had not done in over 25 years.

I was so excited to see Tori and meet her husband and kids that I forgot to take a picture of us together. But I did score this great photo of her family enjoying their day at Deer Valley Resort. I’d say they fit right in, wouldn’t you?

Come back sometime soon, Tori and family… so we can ski DV together!

A Local’s View of Sundance Film Festival – Opening Weekend

Ticket holderSince moving to Park City, I suddenly find that I am extremely popular with my out-of-town friends.  This could be due to my outgoing personality or wonderful hospitality but it’s doubtful.  The real reason for the sudden surge in attention is my location—Park City, my home, is the host city of the Sundance Film Festival.  I don’t take this personally instead I simply roll with it and enjoy having so many visitors.  My husband and I are never lonely.

LA girls at Sundance resort

First dibs for the opening weekend of Sundance went to my LA girlfriends.  I think I enjoyed showing them around town even more than they enjoyed their first Sundance Film Festival and first time setting foot in the State of Utah.  Experiencing Sundance thorough their eyes made my own experience so much more fun especially since we started off our experience riding the city buses to Main Street and the High West Distillery for whiskey tasting.

Here are some highlights of my LA girls Sundance experience:

Seeing ice fisherman on drive to Sundance Resort –Our official Sundance experience started on Friday.  With some local’s tickets in our hands, we drove through Heber City and over to the Sundance Resort to view our first film. This gave the girls a chance to see Utah’s beauty but also to observe a sport they don’t have in Southern California – ice fishing.  The girls who had totally stressed over what clothes to bring since it was 10 degrees at night were shocked to see people voluntarily sitting on a frozen lake on a folding chair fishing.

Sundance Resort

First film –loved it.  We saw a film titled, “The Machine That Makes Things Disappear.”  The film was about hopes and dreams of young people in Georgia (not the state but the country).  The film was fascinating and haunting so we talked about it over a wonderful lunch at Sundance for hours afterwards and all agreed we’d like to see it again. They loved it!

tickets at sundance resort

Second film – not so much.  We won’t name names but our second film was a head scratcher for all of us.  We all were wondering how it passed the jury to be entered into the film festival.  Part of being a film buff at Sundance is to expect the unexpected and enjoy the experience regardless if the film suits your particular taste.

Sundance

Main Street. We hit all the sponsor venues we could: the HP technology and the lounge for drinks and music. The L’orel make-up bar and Adobe card making station. We were very impressed with the music cafe and became instant fans of an incredible singer, Kat Edmonson and chatted it up with her afterwards.  The LA girls spotted Josh Radnor also listening so we talked with him for a minute and he was kind enough to snap some photos with my friends.   We met the adorable Stella Artois girls handing out special glasses and gifts.

Stella girls

Riding the special event buses – the event buses are part of the Sundance experience because you definitely don’t want to try to park anywhere near Main St.  So those — well most– who ride the bus are in a great mood and super friendly.  We met all kinds of people in-between venues including film festival groupies from all over the world and a screen writer and his entourage from my girlfriend’s backyard in LA.

Bus stop

We now have some new friends and some great experiences from the Sundance Film Festival.  The girls have already put in a “reservation” to stay with us next year.

LA Girls

 

Sundancing Like Crazy

I’ve been Sundancing like crazy, doing interviews, making myself generally nutso with work. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I got to attend a Toasting the Filmmakers event at the St. Regis Deer Valley, during which I caught up with Shannon Bahrke, the much-decorated Olympic and World Cup freestyle skier, who is now the official Ambassador of Skiing for the St. Regis. We made a promise to make some turns together soon, and I’m looking forward to putting together some choice runs the way a DJ assembles a playlist.

By the third day of the festival, the sky was unloading that long awaited supply of three-plus feet of fresh powder onto the slopes at Deer Valley. I was anxious to get out and play in it, but first I had to attend a few more events and interviews for Sundance—including a lovely party celebrating Kristen Bell, who is also on the cover of Self Magazine this month. But, because I used to work at the magazine, and still write for it, it felt more like a gathering of old friends. And one of those dear pals and I have a standing ski date at Deer Valley on Sundance Monday.

Lauren and I met up for our coffee in Snow Park Lodge, then hit the trails. We boarded Carpenter with a vague nod to the idea that we’d have a casual ski day. We took off down Solid Muldoon leaving that notion behind. The snow was too sweet to do anything but pound out the runs. Several hours later, we’d racked up 15 runs— 2 Solid Muldoon, one Solid Muldoon to Dew Drop to Little Kate, 2 laps on Blue Bell to Silver Buck to Star Gazer to Gemini, 1 Lost Boulder, 1 Bandana, 1 Sidewinder, 1 Orion, 2 Hidden Treasure, 2 Star Gazer runs, 1 Ontario, 1 Birdseye—all before lunch. We lucked into a table at Royal Street Café, and our friend Laura, the magazine’s Entertainment Editor, joined us for what can only be labeled a FEAST.

Amazing creamy mushroom soup, the crab tower, tuna tacos, RSC fish and chips, and Korean barbecue beef—a new and terrific addition to the menu. I highly recommend it. Lauren and Laura took off after lunch to catch their plane; I snagged one more run—Solid Muldoon to Dew Drop to Little Kate—and left the mountain very, very happy. For me, it’s not really Sundance until I ski with Lauren at Deer Valley. See you next year!

Sundance Wrap Up

There are a number of reasons that I love the Sundance Film Festival. First, there are the films—I saw a couple of documentaries that knocked my socks off this year: Rebirth and Hot Coffee. But in many ways, the festival holds personal appeal. I get to spend time with colleagues with whom my contact is limited to phone, email and Facebook messages. Not the least of these are my friends at Self Magazine, where I worked as Entertainment Editor before I moved to Park City.

These women, who edit a healthy lifestyle magazine for women, practice what they preach, pushing the envelope on their comfort zone in the name of staying healthy and active.  To wit: a few years ago, the magazine’s executive editor and managing editor decided to take lessons at Deer Valley—in part because their kids had taken up the sport. They loved it. At the same time, other of our colleagues met me for first chair in what would become a tradition of a Self Sundance Ski Day.

And, so, the morning after I attended their lovely dinner event, “Honoring Women who Make Women Look Good on Film,” I met my friend Lauren, the magazine’s publicity director (we also, by some coincidence, went to college together) for a handful of turns and some Snow Park lunch. The previous evening, I’d sat with a documentary filmmaker and explained how, in part, working at Self had inspired me to leave New York for a new life here—what better way to capitalize on all that information I’d learned writing about healthy habits than to move to a place that thrives on them?

In truth, I pulled a locals move, and met Lauren at Silver Lake at the crack of noon. By then, she’d already taken a tour with a Mountain Host, and had that glint in her eye I’ve come to love. “It was great—we took one run on every part of the mountain,” she noted. “But they didn’t want to ski as fast as I did…” I cracked up—Lauren’s unofficial skier nickname is Speedy. So, we zoomed along the groomers (safely, in control, making full use of our edges, thank you very much), and then looked for little pockets of crud and moguls to test out our off-piste legs. On the chairlift, she told me about her 5 year-old daughter’s first weekend of ski lessons, and we compared notes on parenting beginning skiers.

 

After a while, I took her over to Hidden Treasure, explaining ahead of time that I like to use the flat area to skate for a thighs and glutes workout. Lauren looked for a powder stash on the side, and found herself grounded for a minute. “That will teach me!” And we had a good laugh before heading to Homestake so we could cruise Homeward Bound—a must see for any DV visitor.

 

I look forward to Sundance for just these moments—sharing my new life with old friends. We happened to luck into a bluebird day—which made us giggle excessively over the fact that we once did our traditional ski day in blizzard conditions, and our legs could barely keep up with the fresh pow.

Over lunch, I confessed to having a slight case of nerves at the prospect of my upcoming 3-day Women’s Ski Clinic (three full days! Yikes!) – And tried to entice her to plan her Sundance travel to include the weekend next year. Here’s hoping!