January 20, 2016
Utah might be a landlocked state, but we are just hours away from a hurricane slamming into us. And if history is any indication, this year’s Sundance Film Festival will be another Category 5 storm.
The festival has changed quite a bit since I first arrived in Park City. There are a lot more Hollywood A-listers and a bit less true independent film. There are more tourists, more confused drivers and more movies that fewer and fewer locals seem to be attending. I’ve noticed there are more VIP lounges and parties and more international media each year. There are more people darting across a busy road in the dark, the glow of their cigarette the only thing drivers can see. The number of "don’t you know who I am?" types grows with each Festival, and the number of locals who bother to stick around town to reply, "nope" seems to be shrinking. Who can blame them, really? When a "don’t you know who I am?" is willing to pay several thousand dollars to rent your house for a few days, getting out of town seems like a great idea.
Every year I notice changes in the Festival. Both operational and how the locals adapt to the 50,000 visitors who descend on us.
Enter stage left, thousands of city folk who seem about as frantic as a pack of rats in a burning meth lab. Sometimes I look around when I’m on Main Street, at a movie, a restaurant or even the grocery store and catch myself thinking how happy I am that I don’t work in "the industry." I know the fast-paced, hyperactive, very important/"don’t you know who I am?" folks find it rewarding. But frankly, I’ve seen more relaxed people in an electric chair. I couldn’t do the nonstop panic attack they seem to be so good at. Some people thrive on the madness, I guess. Me? Well, I’m amused by it.
Despite all the changes over the years, one thing remains the same: The time-honored tradition of locals who do stick around, scratching their heads over what we see during the 10 days of Sundance. Fur and inappropriate footwear are just the beginning. Everyone has a story that starts like this: "One time at Sundance I saw "
A few of my favorites include: The time I saw a man running on a treadmill at the gym, wearing his Festival credentials. They kept flopping in this face with each step, but he wasn’t about to take them off. Perhaps he thought he was on the VIP treadmill. I’ve seen a woman sitting in a hot tub talking on her cell phone, reading a script to her agent, cursing to him about it, all while smoking an e-cigarette. There was the time I nearly got "front-ended" by someone with California plates, who must not have known there’s more than one place to make a left turn. He missed his turn and instead of just going to the next intersection and correcting course, put the car in reverse, right on 224, nearly backing into me. He clearly needed his Starbucks NOW. A friendly reminder to tourists: Three right turns make a left.
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The outfits are always amusing, too. Head to toe black seems to be the clothing of choice. Until you see someone trying to make a statement. I’ve seen lingerie, fur jock straps, formal gowns, wigs in every color of the rainbow and bathing suits parade down Main Street. It’s difficult to imagine a place with more of an "anything goes" vibe than Main Street during Sundance.
But all of that is part of the Festival’s charm. Much like a true hurricane, some of us stock up on the essentials (wine, aspirin and toilet paper) and just wait out the storm. Some of us evacuate the town. And still others will run right into the eye of the storm, camera in hand, hoping for the money shot.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of a rescued Dalmatian named Stanley.
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