Sundance Diary Day One
1:14 AM Finally finish packing as my body angrily shuts down, demanding sleep. I've been on highly hectic multi-day (five? six?) commercial for a Big Brand Retailer. In my other life I do film production work, so I was styling products and on my feet for 12 hour a day, stressed out. I wish I had a day to decompress but there's no time, there is only work.
5:20 AM I wake up and think about the horrible things I would do for about four more hours of sleep. But, I'm being ferried to the airport by a bestie and there's no time for such self-indulgence. She arrives on time as I'm frantically attempting to remember things like pants. And shirts. And like, a jacket. Everything makes it into a suitcase and I trundle towards Long Beach.
6:30 AM This is a new terminal which of course confuses everyone and turns everyone into pre-9/11 fliers. "We have to take our jackets off? AND OUR SHOES?" I just think about my bag and how it's filled with delicious dried fruits, and wonder when I can start cramming dried pear slices into my gob. Soon, my precious, soon.
7:40 AM Finally in the air, sitting next to a tiny amicable child who informs her mother that "when the plane takes off" is the best part. I want to tell her the best part is when the plane stays in the air the whole time and you don't think, even for a minute in the skies over Vegas as the plane shakes violently, that maybe you should have been more generous, that maybe you should have said "I love you," when it caught in your throat for fear of rejection the other day. I instead bestow my favors by not glaring at her as she reads an entire book aloud to herself for the entire flight. "Princess Yellow gets a pet. Mom, she got the pet it's a cat." Thanks for the SPOILER, you little rat.
10:30 AM Finally on the ground in SLC, there's a million people here. Spy the finest PR publicist in the world, Morgan Ressa, and chit chat with her about a karaoke party on Saturday night that I am planning to drag fellow Pajiban Seth to. He hates karaoke, so get excited for that rage-report.
10:45 AM On our way in the shuttle, the shuttle driver is one of those people who doesn't listen when you talk and shouts "WHAT?" at you no matter what you say. He also breathes very, very loudly. I text Seth frantically about how this is killing me, ignoring the snow outside and choosing to believe that my thin coat from Old Navy is fine. It's fine. It's fine!
11:45 AM Drop belongings off at hotel. There's some kind of snafu with passes so I rush out to Headquarters to meet Seth. On the shuttle I meet some film fans who ask me to explain the plot of The Sessions, even though I've never seen it. "Laura Linney!" I say, "No, that's Helen Hunt." This goes on for some time.
12:15 AM Pick up my pass and meet up with Seth, who is surprisingly rational and calm about the entire matter of having a different kind of press pass. It basically means he can only get into some films five minutes before they start, which is no bueno for trying to see all the stuff he's got planned. Though he's taking it very well, I'm not fooled, as his stoic demeanor is likely hiding the stone cold rage of a serial killer.
12:45 PM We share a leisurely lunch and I explain about my life, he explains about his life, we sit and stare in silence thinking our own dumb thoughts now and then. We talk about everyone we know and how much we hate them (Note: We do not actually do this, I think I just did.)
1 PM or Something Time to head to the press tent! Sundance has different press and industry screenings and then regular public screenings. If you're an accredited member of the press (Which, every time I say that, I think of the scene in Notting Hill where the concierge goes "Are you an accredited member of the press, Sir?" and Hugh Grant hands him a Blockbuster card and says something like "Yes, I'm with their in house magazine, Movies Are Our Business." I wish I had written that damn line, it's so stupid funny to me.) then you get to go to P&I screenings which are all held in the Holiday village area of the Park City spread. Four lines, four little theaters, it all runs quite efficiently and most of the time your biggest problem is which movie to see!
2 PM I see a bunch of writers I know in line, nobody ever recognizes me so I have to say hi first, which just makes me feel lame. I'm trying to re-work my schedule so I can see everything. I think it'll be okay, it's just a tight squeeze for some of the days.
3 PM My first Sundance film is A Teacher, dir. by Hannah Fidell. I wish I liked this one more. It just felt overall lacking. Seth will have a longer review shortly, but there were a few aspects of this story of a teacher in Texas who falls in love with one of her senior male students that rang true.
One thing I really did love about it was the detachment, even in intimacy, and the mismatch of intensity and emotion. She would so easily say she loved him, so quick to compliment and adore him. He often responded with a joke or by laughing. Not out of malice, but simply out of not being emotionally mature enough to reciprocate without fear or embarrassment, perhaps. It's a tough thing to tell the truth about such matters, I think even in writing I want to write men and women as stronger or better than they are. I think critical thoughts about the sex scenes, the selfishness of this man, but he's a teenager, he doesn't know any better perhaps. Her deranged behavior also feels honest, but the film falls apart over time. Lots of walkouts.
5 PM I see a bunch of volunteers I talked to last year, including a screenwriter, Abby, and we chit chat about the past year. She has a good memory and is duly impressed with what I've done with myself this year. Hooray, one more person buys into this thinly veiled illusion of Mild, Mild, Mild Success.
5:45 PM Seated for "Lasting."
6:15 PM Accidentally weave in and out of sleep during the dreamy Polish/Spanish film "Lasting," which is a real pity as I'm a huge fan of Polish cinema and of the main actor who looks like the most pro totypically beautiful person I've seen in ages. There's definitely elements of Kieslowski throughout, which only makes sense. To the woman who turned around and gave me the stink eye when I awoke suddenly with a delicate snort -- Madam, you have my deepest sympathies.
7:46 PM I order a pound of potato wedges and the woman gives me .39 lb, which is absolutely the right number of potato wedges to eat. I choose to think she simply went rogue rather than performed some sort of psychic soul searching, although the idea of gazing at a person and ascertaining how many potato wedges they need is kind of a miracle of an entirely different sort.
8 PM I polish my Sightseers review and send it off, then I work on this here diary. All around me people are discussing movies and it reminds me a bit of what I love so much about this festival. That it's okay to be passionate about details and minutiae, that it's a joy to see films with people who love them, and that there are things to love about this difficult industry.
9:20 PM Roll in to the Wasatch Brewery to attend the "Newlyweeds" party. Free drinks and shish kabobs, also my friends who invited me are staying with a bunch of the guys from The Wire, so I immediately begin to quash my desire to walk up and go "Sheeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiit." to Clay Davis. Later on someone is like "Oh he played a judge or..." And I jump in "NO HE PLAYED A SENATOR. AND HE PLAYED A DRUG DEALER. THAT ONE. AND..." Everyone stares.
10:10 PM A man who worked on Valentine Road is staying with my friends as well, he begins to tell us about a strange building that was built in Russia by a mad man and showed us photographs on his iPad. It looks like something straight out of Solaris and I'm blown away, unable to stop asking questions about this otherworldly white building that is no longer in use. I think about the building, and I think about other places in the world I want to see, that hole in the ground in Iran or somewhere around there that has been on fire for 30 years, natural gas keeps it going perpetually.
11 PM Have another glass of red wine as I discuss the season premiere of Downton Abbey with Conrad. I can't believe he's watched it as closely as I have and has so many thoughts about Lady Edith. Turns out I have way more thoughts about Downton than even I could have predicted.
12:30 AM Catch the last shuttle back to the hotel, I'm the only one on board so I drowsily regaling the driver with drunken antic stories and My Feelings On The Film Industry. He seems interested but who knows. Later on Seth tells me he was running after the shuttle frantically waving hoping we would wait for him but I was off in my gilded chariot, impervious to the cries of the plebs like a modern, snowbound Cleopatra.
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