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How many pork sliders can you eat before you shit your pants or run out of business cards?: Sundance Part 2

January 24, 2013
By

It’s that time of year again when the hill girls of Utah descend on Park City for a glimpse of a person whose face they recognize from TV.  But for the little crowd of twenty-somethings bunched outside the press line for the premiere of Jeff Nichols’ new film Mud, this year is special.  That’s because Matthew McConaughey is at Sundance.

Too bad for these girls they don’t have a ticket to the movie.  Nor do they have a press pass or a name to drop to get them past the event wranglers and iron barricades that hold the masses back from the theater’s rear entrance.  The closest they’ll get to their dreamboat is a familiar profile swooshing by in a tinted window.  Then it’s back to the confines of home to watch Magic Mike on DVD.

For ten days a year, Park City becomes Hollywood, New York, or Washington, DC, in that it is defined by access.  But Park City is different, if not in volume, then in size.  During Sundance, the concentration of film professionals brings nepotism to a level usually reserved for dystopian sci-fi where it is like playing a game of professional football on a ping pong table.  When Los Angeles shows up in Utah with all its traffic and smartphone zombies and baby-faced-about-to-be-producers, it also brings along Hollywood’s most tired refrain: who do you know?  As the sun descends and the parties heat up, Main St., Park City dissolves into one smeared text.  Where, when, can you get me in?

Bouncing between $20 covers and guest lists, guest lists, guest lists, you come across a perfectly doll-like Nicole Kidman teetering like a Jenga tower as a half dozen nervous body men protect her from falling and shattering like glass on the back ice.  Autograph mongers sprint by, clumsily yanking glossy headshots out of accordion folders they wear like a purse.  They horde some celebrity who’s rear skull is hard to recognize, a few getting signatures before their prey vanishes into a guarded front vortex.  If you’re connected enough to get inside, Michael K. Williams is posing for Wire fans eager to see how many Facebook likes their Instagram can generate before they get back to the open bar.  Next door, David Blaine creeps out Holly Hunter with card tricks only possible in a world where magic does exist while Juno temple, drunk on Grey Goose, haunts a second story balcony mimicking a sex act only men can organically perform.

Past all the parties and celebrity sightings and business card trading and lies about projects sort of lined up, Sundance’s core function is to sell films  The producers who have financed the movies meet with distributors in back rooms while the rest of the interested check their twitter feeds and insider blogs to find out which deals have most recently broken.  For the tens of thousands that attend the festival for one reason or another, about 100 are actually involved in the nuts and bolts of this process.  The rest of it, the screenings, the schmoozing, the drinking, eating, and diarrhea which result are all scavengers activities, feeding off the doings of these select 100.  If you can trace your existence to one of the 100, it’s a golden ticket into the chocolate factory of free booze and plated appetizers.

Surprisingly, amidst all the chaos of the festival, you still run into people who have come only to ski.  “No one’s on the slopes,” one of them tells me.  He’s a kid-looking man somewhere in his indefinable 20s.  “You ski all day with no wait at the lifts, then come to town and hit the parties.”  By the way he says parties, it’s clear he’s really referring to the hundreds of young women barfing out the doors of bars with their nude legs flashing despite the 10 degree weather.

“But how do you get in?” I ask.  And he smiles and it’s clear I’m not talking to a person, but some person’s son, a human for whom access to capitol and other powerful people has never and will never be an issue.  Park City, is, after all, a place where rich people come to ski, so there happens to be a film festival, what’s the difference, make a call, get on the list.  Washington, DC; Hollywood, California; Park City, Utah… Where am I again?