My First Experience at the Sundance Film Festival Will Last Forever
by Ethan Anderton
February 1, 2011
In the seemingly glamorous town of Hollywood, dreams are brought to life on the big screen thanks to the miracle of show business. But far away from Tinseltown, in the mountains of Park City, Utah, dreams come true in a way that is much more about the show and much less about the business. Yes, I'm talking about the Sundance Film Festival. While the showcase of independent film has become a breeding ground for the next big talent to launch their career, directors, writers & actors come to Sundance because they all share a passion for storytelling. This was the first time I was able to share that passion, and damn was it splendid.
Let me just say that I'm already grateful that every morning I'm able to roll out of bed and have a job that allows me to watch countless movies, report on upcoming films, and occasionally discuss them with readers like you. However, most of the time that we talk about films, they've gone through the Hollywood washing machine, and marketing, publicity & more have shaped them and the way they should be perceived. But at Sundance, people like me have a chance to experience dozens of films for the first time alongside the movers and shakers of the film industry. It's here that we're not just following the buzz, we're actually creating it.
At the Sundance Film Festival, it was truly a joy to experience films for their big premiere with hundreds, even thousands, of people who just plain love movies. Every morning you wake up, hop on a shuttle, and trek to the nearest theater (whether it's a library or a high school auditorium turned theater) where people are bundled up in all their winter gear and lined up to see a big star like Tobey Maguire in The Details, a Sundance favorite director like Kevin Smith with his self-promoted film Red State or an indie darling like Brit Marling in Sound of My Voice (review coming soon). No matter where you are in Park City, people young and old are buzzing about movies, even the volunteers are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.
As someone who hates the winter, waking up in the snowy mountains of Utah isn't exactly ideal. But when I'm waking up with the sole purpose of seeing films and introducing many of them to readers like you for the first time, it's all worth it. After seeing plenty of Festival Dailies installments on the Sundance Channel and seeing festival laurels on movie posters and DVD covers, it was truly a dream come true to be a part of the hustle and bustle on Main Street and join the filmmakers in the excitement (and sometimes nervousness) of unveiling their latest achievement. Some will be quickly forgotten, but others will get snagged by a studio, step out of the indie world, into the spotlight and may be remembered forever.
In sharing the experience of premieres with thousands of other film fans, part of the joy also comes from being able to speak with the talents in front of and behind the camera of these festival films. Though I don't want to drop names just to sound cool, I know plenty would be excited to sit down with Kevin Spacey to chat about the tense financial drama Margin Call, talk with a nervous Vera Farmiga after screening her fantastic directorial debut Higher Ground (review also on the way), or interview Ed Helms and director Miguel Arteta about their work on Cedar Rapids (both interviews coming soon, too). These were just a few of the amazing experiences I had at Sundance.
But this experience wouldn't have been as enjoyable if there wasn't an amazing group of colleagues around town loving Sundance as much as I was. When we're not watching movies, we're also talking about movies. Sometimes that entails a delicious meal around town. Thankfully I shared many great conversations and meals with the likes of Peter Sciretta, Germain Lussier and Dave Chen of SlashFilm; Eric 'Quint' Vespe of Ain't It Cool News; and/or Jordan Raup, Dan Mecca and Raffi from The Film Stage. Outside the usual film banter, much fun was had on the dance floor with great folks like James Rocchi of MSN Movies, Chase Whale of Gordon and the Whale and Katey Rich of Cinema Blend. Of course none of this would've been possible without my fearless leader Alex Billington. All of these people and many more contributed to my absolutely spectacular and unforgettable experience at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
It might seem a bit silly or cheesy to say that my first year at Sundance will stay with me forever along with the likes of my first kiss, but those who have been lucky enough to partake in the festival know what I mean. And for those of you who don't, add this to your bucket list. If you've love films a fraction as much as I do, Sundance is truly Disneyland for movie buffs. Granted this version of Disneyland can be filled with as much depression and violence (on screen) as inspiration and triumph, that doesn't make it any less magical. If you have the means, get your ass to Sundance before you die. You will not regret it, and you will have memories that will last a lifetime. And if you don't end up with any good memories, well, they also sell festival t-shirts.
Thank you to the Sundance Film Festival, all the amazing festival volunteers, fellow critics and writers, inspiring and aspiring filmmakers, writers, actors & actresses, and everyone else who made this experience one for the record books. If this is just the beginning of 2011, I can't wait to see what the future has in store.