Everything That Happened at Sundance (That You Need to Know About, Anyway)

Our friend Samantha Herman trudged through the snow in Park City, Utah, so you didn’t have to…

Fresh business cards ready, last Thursday I departed Los Angeles for the glistening slopes of Park City, Utah and the Sundance Film Festival.  As an indie comedy writer and producer, as well as a business affairs consultant, Sundance is the perfect setting for me to find new clients, develop collaborative relationships, and chat about what matters most–movies!  I was ready to awkwardly network, talk shop, and take full advantage of the plethora of open bars. It was a wild weekend, so to recap, here’s what everyone was talking about in between bites from circulating appetizer trays:

VR Is a Thing

To be fair, we know that VR has come a long way since Tron… in theory.

Once again, VR (Virtual Reality, for the uninitiated) was the belle of the ball, combining unique storytelling with progressive tech.  There were several venues, including the New Frontier presentation space, the Oculus House, and the UpLoad VR Lounge, that provided opportunities to gear up with a headset and enter their 360 degree virtual spaces. I’ll make a confession: until this Sundance I was staunchly anti-VR; I was intimidated by the tech, and, more importantly, I was self-conscious about what my body was doing in the outside word. A highlight was the “Dear Angelica” short film presented by Oculus, about a young girl reconnecting with her late mother through her mom’s old films.

VR Hunks Are Also a Thing

Again, we KNOW that current-day VR and VR-related hunks have nothing to do with Tron-era Jeff Bridges, but c’mon; we’d smash that.

Let’s be honest.  It’s possible my newfound esteem for this technology boils down to the discovery that all guys working in this field are straight up dreamy.  Tech nerds with a penchant for the narrative arts?  The quiet dudes you know weren’t that cool in high school and even though they’re cool today, still possess their teenage vulnerability?  [ED NOTE: I actually got a text saying “I’ve got such a boner for VR dudes now.”] Be still my heart.

Women’s March: Sundance Edition

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

 As was the case in cities across the country, Park City championed unity and civil rights by staging its own Women’s March, traversing Main Street and culminating in a rally at the Flagpole Parking Lot.  The weather was unusually poor, with unrelenting snow all weekend and traffic at a standstill. Undaunted–as were the thousands of fellow marchers–we were greeted with a 6X Uber surge. Yikes. Then, in the grandest spirit of the march itself, we were shepherded into an airport shuttle and treated to a comfortable ride, courtesy of some gals from down South.  We marched and then listened to the star-studded lineup at the rally, including a People’s Oath conducted by Aisha Tyler and Connie Britton.  I’ve never been a parade or protest person, but this one mattered. And I was genuinely moved to tears.

Oh, and There Were Movies

Wait, Sundance is about movies, right?  The buzziest flicks this year were Mudbound and An Inconvenient SequelMudbound, an epic film set in post WWII Mississippi that stars Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), was greeted by an effusive standing ovation.  I was foretold to look out for Mudbound at the 2018 Oscars. As for An Inconvenient Sequel, it is part two of Al Gore’s environmental cautionary documentary that’s even scarier than the original.  Other notable titles that were floating in the snowy air: To The Bone, The Yellow Birds, and Wind River.

Diversity Isn’t the Norm. But We’re Getting There.

Dee Rees’s Mudbound scored a $12.5-million deal with Netflix. How’s that for a boss moment?

In keeping with its mission to highlight voices from all walks, the 2017 cinema lineup was a vanguard in diversity.  A staggering one-third of the directors represented were female and of them, many were females of color, including Mudbound’s Dee Rees and Maggie Betts (Novitiate).  This statistic is not the norm… yet.  One of the biggest deals to go down throughout the fest was for The Big Sick, acquired by Amazon Studios for a cool 12 million bucks.  Co-written by real-life marrieds Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), the film documents their real-life cross-cultural romance (he was born in Pakistan and raised Muslim; she was born in the States).  So regular Hollywood should take note: it’s not just a white guy’s playground anymore.

PARTIES PARTIES PARTIES


Event hopping at Sundance is like fighting to stay on trend.  You always want to know what’s next, what list to be on, if you know anyone with inside information. And what I learned is: Never leave a good party for the unknown.  I was looking forward to the after party for the film L.A. Times (another crowd-pleaser, starring Jorma Taccone, produced by my friend Ryland Aldrich).  But I failed to consult my printed-on-card-stock Excel itinerary and arrived too late. (What? You don’t carry a card stock calendar in your purse?)  So, either be militant with your schedule or dispel the notion that what’s next is the only thing worth considering (or be mad famous and go wherever you want).  If you aren’t obsessing over your agenda, you may accidentally sashay yourself into the after party for Columbus (starring Parker Posey and John Cho) and find yourself neck-deep in sashimi trays.