Yes, I skied. I was in the mountains. Every morning my partner Richard and I would summon up the stamina to exercise for two hours or so. I do it in NYC, usually at the Central Park reservoir, but not from the summit of a Park City mountain top--9,000 feet closer to heaven. Walk from our Grand Summit Resort condo to the elevator to the second floor and then 20 yards to the gondola. Ride The Canyons gondola up the side of the mountain, grab another chairlift to the top and then carve our way down the mountainside, giggling like schoolboys again. The fresh air, the sun, the snow, the worries of global warming (lack of snow everywhere this year!), bills, podcasts to record, movies to see, all an afterthought for the next few hours. No doubt that Redford must have felt the same way when he set up his cozy film festival so many years ago.
But Park City is still quaint, compared to L.A. and London and New York. Sure, itâ€™s an old mining town that ultimately absorbed the retail attitude of Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue (on a much smaller scale) as it bumps along for the ride towards the next millennium, condos springing up at an alarming rate and threatening to squash the life out of the mountains and the simplicity of the ski culture. And Deer Valley just up the road, well, thatâ€™s another story, and a well-heeled crowd to boot.
But Sundance the film festival exists for other reasons. To champion the indie film spirit. To welcome new voices of screen, in front of and behind. To broker deals with the big boys and girls from La-La Land and New Yawk, to carve out some kinda indie deal with some fast-talking indie film broker. Deals, deals, deals. Flyers and screeners being flung in a thousand different directions. All vying for attention, some deserved, some questionable. But there's no denying the passion of the individuals whoâ€™ve invested their life savings and energies into their projects to get noticed in this switched-on Utah town.
You see, Virginia, itâ€™s not always about the money, or that new ski parka you grabbed from some swag stall on Main Street. Ultimately, itâ€™s about the art. Moreover, itâ€™s about words on paper that find their way into the mouths of actors then captured on video tape or film (if youâ€™re well-funded or just plain lucky or plucky), edited, and copied to a DVD to hand out to some dude named Dusty from some pop culture website called Culture Catch.
Truth be told, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of moviesâ€”documentaries, shorts, features, animated shorts, etc. By day three I didnâ€™t know what to do, who to say â€œyes, Iâ€™d love to see your movieâ€ to, or where to run and hide. If we missed a screening, weâ€™d watch â€œscreenersâ€ late at night back at the condo, often selecting them randomly, or deciding by the cover art, or by some clever pitch by a clever filmmaker.
And you know what? We found gold in them thar hills!
Irish musician (of The Frames) turned actor Glen Hansard's heartwarming buskerâ€™s tale Once was quite marvelous. His song "Falling Slowly" from his collaboration with Czech singer/pianist/co-star Marketa Irglova is my favorite new song of this young year. And the delicious coming-of-age movie Clubland by Australian director Cherie Nowlan, starring Brenda Blethyn was another favorite. At breakfast one morning, Richard and I howled watching the very Lynchian short Songbird (photo above right), directed and written by the young filmmaker John Thompson. And one of my favorites from the festival is the must-see (and Sundance documentary winner) Enemies of Happiness by the Danish director Eva Mulvad (photo top left), a true story about a young woman voted into parliament in Afghanistan.
Few celebrity encounters will ever top my gondola interview with Crispin Glover; that should be enlightening to say the least. Part two of his self-financed trilogy, the very twisted, yet profound tale It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! (photo left), had tongues wagging all over the valley. The screenwriter, Steven C. Stewart, is also the star (Stewart had cerebral palsy and passed away shortly after filming was completed).
And as it should be, there was music too, an abundance of music. BMI and ASCAP both featured music salons. I saw Terence Blanchard, Viktor Krauss, James Morrison, Dana Parish with Andrew Hollander, and Keb Mo. Shiny Toy Guns played an amazing, energy-zapping free outdoor concert at the bottom of Main Street along with Of Montreal and a few other bands. G. Love and Special Sauce also played a free outdoor concert at our resort. And Pedro (Efren Ramirez) from Napoleon Dynamite jumped on stage to lend his harmonica chops to a few songs.
Met DJ Spooky at the New Frontier on Main Street while hanging out with our mutual friend and fellow New Yorker Luke DuBois. Luke had two computer-generated art pieces running in this very switched-on gallery space. Spooky dropped me an advance of his crisp new CD--a clever mash up of James Brown, The Police, dancehall reggae, Bee Gees, you name it. Stay tuned for his interview with me.
I even managed to secure a video podcast with one of my childhood music idols, Donovan. Wait till you hear Mr. Leitch explain how he wrote part of â€œYellow Submarineâ€ at the request of Sir Paul McCartney. Wear your love like heaven...
Iâ€™m leaving out plenty of other great moments, amazing movies, and new friends that I met, but Iâ€™m exhausted just thinking about it all. By the end of last week I was spent. Senses worked overtime.
And so on Saturday we rested...well, actually me and Richard headed over to the mountain behind Park City -- Alta (photo below). That was a day for Vikings and an entirely different story....
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency!