One of the first things I noticed at my first Sundance screening was the respect shown for the film. The sound was absolutely superb, the picture quality was bright and crisp, but not harshly digital. The packed house became silent immediately when the lights went down, and the film played sans whispering, texting, phone calls, or fidgeting.
Starting with that film, a pattern’s emerged. An observer would conclude that the film industry is built upon a large bureaucratic class of 40-year-old women, like the mandarins of historic China. Yet the tenor of Park City continues changing as the weekend approaches. In the hour before sunset, main street is bustling with crowds that grow thicker as dusk settles. There are street performers – a hipster guy in black North Face plays an upright piano with the inner mechanisms exposed, a propane heater six inches from his lap. I grab a bag of ‘Perky Jerky’ (enriched with guarana) off a guy covered in hundreds of them like a ragged spacesuit. A bus pulls up and disgorges six snowboards and their human consorts.
Jon calls to see what I’m doing. I say he should come down to Main Street and bring lots of ‘Resurrect Dead’ stickers. I’ve found a series of designated postering sites: plywood plinths where Sundance and Slamdance filmmakers put up their pleas to be noticed. The eight-foot planks are a beautiful, democratic jumble of ads for dozens of works, the product of so many artists’ masochistic efforts and lunatic aspirations. I put up my three stickers, careful not to obscure other ads.
The Filmmaker’s Lodge is one of the Sundance buildings on Main Street, and one that’s only open to people with credentials. You can pick the Sundance sites out by the turquoise banners, they’re scattered up and down the street around the Egyptian Theater. Going in I have my creds checked, then find a warm and cozy room where a couple dozen people lounge around. I’m given a comped beer at a small bar and talk to the director of a piece playing in one of the shorts programs. Jon walks in with stickers, and within seconds Doug arrives and grabs Jon and they are off to another exclusive party. It becomes common in the next few days to hear the phrase “Jon Plus One” or “Jon Plus Two” for events taking place in some mystery location.
After that I may have gotten too emotionally entangled in the dynamics and etiquette of the postering sites, and I can’t blame it on the beer, which in Utah is only 3.2%. The vibrant ecosystem of ads had been totally bulldozed, in every spot on Main Street, by huge posters from three films: ‘Reagan’ (some HBO-produced thing), ‘The Lie’ (don’t know), and a Bobby Fischer doc. It seemed ironic that a high-profile film would need to displace all the little notices that these indie filmmakers had to scrimp and save just to buy (posters and press materials aren’t really cheap) – and they had a total scorched-earth policy, putting up several iterations of their big poster on the same board. Some ‘Resurrect Dead’ stickers may have ended up on Ronald Reagan’s giant wrinkly face.
Darkness falls and the temperature drops. It feels like cars are streaming in from the mountains and the town is filling with more slick-looking industry types. The artsy folks have disappeared down a hole somewhere. I walk down a side street that feels like a row of frat houses on a Friday night; I overhear a group of guys standing out in front of one. “Yeah bro, my boy Dante who plays tight end for the Panthers is coming in tonight. We’re going to a party but it doesn’t start until one.” “Well text me, I’m not going to answer my phone.” (Woah he was talking about Dante Rosario!) On Main Street, every little chocolate shop seems to be putting out cordons in anticipation of lines, with bouncers growing like welts. I grow depressed and slip onto a passing north-bound bus.