Last weekend, I was at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. What is an authentic Sundance weekend like? Well, my experience attending the Sundance Film Festival consisted of the following:
1. A Long Car Ride. A group of fellow writing students and myself rented a pair of minivans and traveled to Utah via road trip. One of the vans (the one I rode in) happened to have a DVD player. This was the first time I have been privy to the in-car DVD experience, in which you can shut out all the annoyance of taking in your surroundings, like The Road or The Majestic American Landscape, and simply focus on watching the entire first season of Arrested Development in one stretch (we made the drive up with three episodes to spare; however, we didn’t start until we were two-thirds of the way to Vegas). Meanwhile, the driver gets the pleasure of simply listening to the show, secure in the knowledge that his passengers are well-entertained and will not need to speak to him. Also viewed on the trip (including return drive): The Iron Giant, The Office (season 2) and the first ten minutes of Ghostbusters. As great as it is, I plan to never allow my children the pleasure of in-car entertainment on long road trips. Boredom builds character. Maybe when they’re twenty-four and on their own they can have it, but not before. They have to earn it. If they grow up with it they’ll never appreciate it. A quick list of the things my children will not be allowed to have: 1) In-car DVD viewing, 2) Motorized scooters, 3) Fun.
2. An Automatic Sliding Door. Our minivan, a Buick something-or-other, had two sliding doors, but only the one on the passenger side was automatic. To open, tug the handle, then let go and get out of the way. To close, do the same, or press the handy button. If you try to pull the door all the way, it will rebel, and you will be frustrated. It took plenty of figuring out, and plenty more explanation every time someone unfamiliar with the van used it for the first time.
3. A $10 Cover. After checking in to our accommodations, the first stop was a bar on Main Street where other USC people had supposedly gathered for a mixer. By the time we were there, they were gone. The bar was okay anyway, and included such amenities as:
4. Free Converse Jack Purcell Sneakers. For no apparent reason, people were giving away free Jack Purcells. You would walk up and they’d call out sizes, and you’d say, “That’s me,” and they’d hand you a pair of shoes. Unfortunately, the laces on my shoes were cut, so I had to tie them together, and they’re all frayed there. But once I get new laces, they’ll look great. My Chuck Taylors were dirty and worn out anyway. Okay, so they’re not really free, since I paid $10 to get in, but they did help me feel better about the charge. The bar also had:
5. A performance by the band …And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, or something like that. People seemed to think they were pretty good. They had two drummers drumming the same routine in sync, which was an interesting gimmick. Fellow USC student Robbie Pickering and I tried air-drumming in sync, but I kept screwing it up and a couple of tall blonde guys in gray sweaters started staring at us and muttering to each other, and Robbie became convinced they wanted to kick our scrawny asses. As the bar shut down and people prepared to leave, there was also:
6. Some Hot Girl with a Low-Cut Shirt and Her Less-Hot-But-Okay-Looking Friends, who were goofing around and grabbing each others’ breasts and shoving their faces in each others’ breasts. Ha ha ha. So silly and playful. It would have been rude to stare except that we were pretty sure this was not actually happening.
7. A Missed Showing of Who Killed Cock Robin? Don’t ask me what the movie was about. We bought tickets for it because by the time our advance ticket-buying window came along, most every show was sold out. So we tried to get as many shows as we could, and there were still tickets for a Friday showing of Cock Robin, so why not? Here’s the stupid part. None of us had printed out a list of when all our shows were prior to leaving for the festival. I can’t pass the blame for this, because as one of the designated ticket-buyers, it would have really made sense for me to be the one to do that. Anyway, Thursday night, after driving all day and getting home late after the bar, we realized that we probably had a show to see Friday morning, which would mean we’d have to get up in about three hours. Three hours later, I woke up and conferred with some of the others, and the verdict was Fuck It. No one cared about Cock Robin more than sleep at that moment. Later on, after we picked up the tickets at Will Call, we realized that the showing had been at noon, and had we known that, it was entirely within the realm of possibility that we could have gotten out of bed and to the theater in time.
8. A debate on the merits of Freddy Got Fingered. Over brunch at a restaurant on Main Street, Robbie and I defended Tom Green’s intentionally repulsive comedy Freddy Got Fingered as a successful prank on its audience, arguing for the nobility of Tom Green martyring his own career for the sake of a joke almost no one got. Paul argued that this was elitist comedy, and that a true comedian should want to entertain his audience, not alienate them for the fun of the privileged few who “get it.”
9. A Wait List Line. To see a show at Sundance that you did not get advance tickets to, you come an hour before the show and get a number. Then you come back a half hour before the show and you wait. After the ticketholders go in, they see how many waitlist tickets they can sell. If you’re unlucky, you stand in line for an hour and change, then leave and have the fun of:
10. Finding That Your Van Has Been Towed, because Albertson’s doesn’t take kindly to people using their lot for Sundance parking, and when they post signs warning of a one-hour limit, it turns out they really mean it.
11. A One-Hour Drive To Ogden. Sundance is actually spread out among several cities. While its heart is in Park City, screenings also occur in Salt Lake and Ogden. On the upside, this inconvenience is probably the main reason I was able to get tickets to Kung Fu Hustle. On the downside, the trip was made more difficult by the lack of directions to the theater anywhere in Sundance festival brochures. We set out on a wing and a prayer, hoping that a festival worker’s suggestion to “drive to Ogden and ask for directions” would bear fruit. I drove, and while the others watched the last three episodes of Arrested Development, I frantically tried to figure out which exits led to Ogden, weaving through deserted industrial areas while Derek called 411, then repeatedly called the theater for clarification on their vague directions. We managed to get there just in time.
12. Kung Fu Hustle. See reviews.
13. An Impromptu Party. The condo contracts specifically disallowed so-called “parties,” and in fact even disallowed the presence of more than eight individuals at a time. This was ignored, as people gathered at one of the condos, which shall go unnamed. No one went to any industry parties, if there were any on the dead second weekend, but who needs them anyway when you’ve got a fridge full of Budweiser and Miller Lite?
14. An Inadvertent Slight Against a Starkie. A producing student at the party met us writers and asked what we write about, expressing interest in reading our scripts. I responded that I exclusively write movies about screenwriters trying to get their scripts read, adding that I had based a character on him—a producing student who wanted to read my main character’s script. Robbie chimed in that he wrote about “ovens,” taking his cue from the nearby oven in the kitchen where we were talking. Later, I apparently referred someone else to the Starkie, telling them that he would surely “get their script made.” People told me that this may have come off as insulting.
15. A Fight Over the Van Keys. I guess “drunk driving” is “too dangerous,” according to “Kristen Davis.”
16. A Hangover. Just kidding. I don’t get hangovers. Hangovers are for losers. But Paul and I did have to get up super-early to cash in our vouchers for movie tickets. You see, we discovered the previous day that we had tickets to a show in Salt Lake, and we didn’t want to drive out of town two nights in a row, so we traded them in for vouchers we could use on the extra tickets released early each morning. With the help of Jennifer Needleman, who had gotten up extra-super-early, we snagged some tickets for High School Record and also helped a couple of fellow USC folks get their Kung Fu Hustle on.
17. Shorts Program V. See reviews.
18. High School Record. See reviews.
19. A Less Impromptu Party. The third night’s party was more planned, but seemed to be a dud at first, with only a dozen first-year writing students gathered in a circle playing Asshole. Robbie quickly rose to President, and a round later I won the Vice-Presidency, and there we stayed until other people showed up and the game broke down by Robbie’s third term.
20. Breakfast From 7-Eleven. Nothing fuels you for a long drive back better than some kind of mysterious taquito roll.