Off-screen diversions |

Off-screen diversions

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

For me, it’s always been a gluttony thing. I’m seldom satisfied. I’m constantly "jonesing" for another fix. And nowhere is it more evident than during film-fest week up here in the Wasatch. I constantly desire more diversion, even when I’m chock full of films. I’ve never learned how to say "when."

Luckily, for those ravenous festivarians with similar afflictions, off-screen roadside attractions abound at Sundance. With panel discussions and the Music Café and the New Frontier installations, one can pretty much pig out for the entire 10-day feast. And that’s not even taking into consideration the many sidebar events not officially associated with the festival.

Over the years, the panels have most always provided tons of bang for the buck for us non-industry types. They’re voyeuristic. You get to peek inside the minds of filmmakers and screenwriters and such. I doubt I’m going to be able to take in much of this year’s fare, but the menu sure looks inviting.

Take, for example, one entitled "Once upon a Quantum Symmetry: Science and Cinema." You’ve got Paula Apsell (of PBS’s NOVA) moderating the likes of Darren Aronofsky ("Pi," "The Wrestler," "Black Swan") and Scott Z. Burns ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "An Inconvenient Truth"), plus a neuroscientist/biomedical engineer and a Harvard professor with a background in theoretical particle physics and cosmology.

This is just another example of how hip the science-oriented bonding between the Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has become over the years.

Or as the Institute put it: "During our 10-year collaboration with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we’ve traveled from synapses in the brain to distant universes hitting an infinite number of galaxies along the way, and proving that both scientists and filmmakers are creative, imaginative, speculative, and adventurous." ‘Nuff said!

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Two "Power of Story" panels are also on tap this year. The first, entitled "Independence Unleashed," takes a look at the recent movement of independent filmmakers toward distributing their "edgier" materials on television and online. Featuring, among others, such heady film icons as Jane Campion ("The Piano") and Richard Linklater ("Slacker," "Before Sunrise," "School of Rock"), this panel could get quite animated.

The second Power of Story panel is "Measure for Measure," which deals with the power of music in film while spotlighting some of the more innovative among the current crop of film-score composers. Even if one of my all-time jazz heroes, five-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard, wasn’t part of the panel, there would be reasons aplenty to take it in.

For instance, Chris Douridas (Dreamworks Records, AOL, iTunes, "Northern Exposure," "Austin Powers," "American Beauty," and past host of KRCW’s "Morning Becomes Eclectic") will be the moderator. Mark Isham, a film-score veteran of "Crash," "A River Runs Through It" and "Nell," plus recordings with Springsteen, Willie and the Stones, is also scheduled to take part. How’s that for a lineup?

A very cool way to kick off your day at the festival is the Cinema Café, which is held each morning at the Filmmaker’s Lodge in the Elks’ Building. Roger Corman, famed godfather of the independent film movement, is part of the mix on Sunday, January 20, while musician/filmmaker Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Sound City Players) sits in on Tuesday, January 22.

The Cinema Café is a great place to kick back and listen to filmmakers dish on their process in creating their art while cupping up and downing a snack or two before hitting your first film of the day. Especially if it’s the kind of morning that chooses to flaunt temperatures like those we’ve been experiencing lately in these parts.

Then there’s the Music Café, the jewel of the festival in my humble opinion. ASCAP and Sundance have once again (it’s their 15th annual) joined forces to bring an eclectic lineup ranging from legendary icons to stars on the rise for this year’s edition. As has been the case in recent years, it will be holding forth in the Rich Haines Gallery on lower Main Street.

The New Frontier category is once again staging art installations, multimedia performances, transmedia experiences, panels, and films from the current edge of media and imagination. Some of them sound quite compelling, including an installation takeoff on the Tom Waits song "What’s He Building in There," and a panel called "Tupac, Elvis, and Benjamin Button walk into a Bar ".

For information on schedules, venues, and insights into the many other fascinating nooks and crannies of 2013 Sundance Film Festival, be sure to check out the Program Guide. And dress warm!

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.

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