So you locate the end of the line in lower Swede Alley and queue up with the rest of the film freaks and before you know it you’re hangin’ out, talkin’ trash, dishin’ dirt, and laughin’ at your lot in life. You had reading material but it wasn’t backlit and it was dark as all-get-out and anyway, actually engaging a few fellow carbon-based life forms doesn’t hurt all that much. Ticket acquisition time for this year’s Sundance Film Festival got curiouser and curiouser as the days rolled on. "I’m sorry but those packages have all sold out but we do have a few left for half of the festival for three times the money" became the litany. You’re kidding. Three times the money and they didn’t sell like hotcakes, you say. Obviously this bunch in line, at least those who tried, were also less than successful in acquiring locals-only "film-lover packages." But, to judge by the collective mirth, it hasn’t hurt the vibe all that much. As it turns out, being relegated to "wristband country" ain’t all that bad. Actually it was a pleasant surprise that they allowed us "Heber types" to co-mingle with the Park City folk. They certainly made no such offer when it came time to apply for the passes and packages. This year they broke down "locals" (Utah residents) into "Summit County" and "outside Summit County." Now, I don’t know if that change impacted my inability to secure said package but, when I couldn’t get one, it was the first straw at which I grasped. The individual in front of me in line, however, was also ignored by this year’s random selection call-in process and you could tell at a glance that he was a Summit County kind of guy – and I don’t just mean the sloping forehead. At first blush it didn’t appear that the line was moving& much. Crowd estimation raised its head. We "ball-parked" the number of celluloid pilgrims between our "pod" and the door at somewhere short of 300. This was a good thing only in the sense that they said they would pass-out 700 wristbands. And no-way would fate dare deal a hand whereby 400 additional devotees loitered in ambush inside the Gateway lobby. Right! In a most creatively convoluted and serpentine progression, one that needed a traffic cop at the front end, a burly security type at the other, and could well have used an underpass or two, the succession inside the building bantered and bopped through its assigned follow-the-fleece-in-front-of-you model until it reached the wristband box. At least you didn’t have to concoct the process — the Sundance Festival folks did that for you. And it turned out to be, as long as you were one of the 700, pretty much a total gas. You were able to "work the room" without leaving line. At one point or another, everyone there rubbed up against everyone else there – sometimes by accident. There were slim pickin’s, wristband-wise, when our turn ripened enough to fall off the tree. But that mattered not. According to the gospel of this year’s changes in ticket redemption, "random is as random does" and believing that the god of haphazard will shine her everlovin’ light on you is what this pilgrimage is all about. Step one of this random process has it that it is your mitt that dives into the box and selects the wristband. Upon this bracelet of sorts is stamped a number that, when punched into cyberspace, coughs up the day and time when you will actually be allowed to purchase whatever tickets haven’t already been gobbled-up by package and pass holders. You’re feeling good about your chances as the young lovely affixes the wristband and you mosey toward the blinking sculpture of flat-screen monitors. "Early Saturday" would be the best of all possible times with "late Sunday" being the worst. The quick karma check emerged from hiding with a most self-satisfied smirk. "Sunday 4 PM" was the verdict. The previously gregarious computer operator fell silent. Glances were exchanged. "Sometimes it’s best not to say anything," he offered. You told him to keep his head up and save his sympathy for those who didn’t get a wristband. Somehow you knew that it was all going to work out for the best. Sundance always does. Anyway, the experience in line had been a great way to spend an early Friday evening and catch up with old friends of similar ilk. When the paradigm is preposterous, the pros crack-up& at themselves and each other. In the interval, however, there was plenty to be done. The official neon green wish list needed to be filled out with both first and second choices including films and timeframes and venues. It’s not the most simplistic process, what with screenings selling-out between the time you enter them upon the sheet and you show up with legal tender. So you arrive somewhat early and cross off show times to which tickets are no longer available, while scrambling to insert those that might-still-be once it’s your turn. It’s about keeping the faith and never losing hope that, when all is said and done, you will once again look back on the festival fondly. In the hurry to have the form completed by the 4 p.m. land rush, two possibly logistically-challenged screenings get the axe. All those remaining on the list, however, pass muster and, with a smile (they are everywhere by the way), are forked over across the counter. Included in the plunder is the "Wim Wenders Sam Shephard Trifecta," a scenario originally deemed too rare to possibly be available on late Sunday afternoon. That would be tickets to two films by the legendary tandem and entry to a panel discussion featuring their esteemed selves. The screening of the brand new print of 1984’s "Paris, Texas" (featuring the to-die-for and ever-so-bluesy re-mastered soundtrack by Ry Cooder) and their latest and greatest "Don’t Come Knocking" starring screenwriter Shephard, could well be the buzz-of-the-beat come weeks end. The Q & A’s and the panel repartee will no doubt also enter into myth. You stood in line and played the game and, as usual, it all came out clean in the wash. Bring on the music and film and the shuck and jive. The secret is to jump right in or hit the long dusty trail. As they say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Let’s get on with it. Turn down the lights.
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