Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snoozing through Sundance

If the question is "How long does it take to get over going to the Sundance Film Festival?", my answer might just be "Five years."

See, I went to Sundance in 2007. It was just the first weekend, Friday night to Sunday night. I saw only two movies (Noise and Miss Navajo) and waited in line fruitlessly for a third (Waitress). I also skied for about an hour-and-a-half.

Yet I was so seduced by the experience that for the next four Januarys, every time I heard, read or saw some piece about the annual Park City pilgrimage getting underway, I became overwhelmed by regret that I could not partake in that pilgrimage myself.

Not this year.

Maybe I just didn't hear, read or see those pieces, or maybe I've got other things on my mind (house hunting, for one). But I was definitely aware of when the festival was starting, and I was definitely not sickened by longing for the closest major film festival to where I live.

I'm trying to analyze this change in me. Maybe it's just growing older.

Back then, I'd say I was still thrilled enough by rubbing elbows with celebrities that it was that phenomenon itself that so captivated me. In fact, I kept a running list of every celebrity I'd seen on my blackberry. I still have the list -- it's my same work email account as I had then -- if you'd like to see it:

John C. Reilly
Scott Speedman
Billy Baldwin
Jamie Kennedy
Tom Arnold
Eddie Kaye Thomas
Alan Alda
Harvey Weinstein
Richard Rucculo
Richard Roeper
Jude Ciccolella
Nathan Fillion
Cheryl Hines
Keri Russell
Dick Gephardt

Yes, that last one is the former presidential candidate. (Apparently, I'm much better able to identify men than women. Either that or they were more free about coming out of the woodwork.)

I kept this list partly out of a general obsessiveness, but also because I was planning to write a feature story on my experience for the website where I used to freelance. That was a damn fun piece. It basically ticked off times of the day throughout the weekend, then followed each with a brief and witty comment about what I was doing. It was a little self-indulgent, but not excessively so.

You'd think that rubbing elbows with celebrities would not be such a big deal, living in LA. But in truth, you don't run into Jack Nicholson in Starbucks every three weeks just by living in Los Angeles. In fact, I'll go six months to a year at a time without seeing any celebrities that I recognize. Much more likely is to see someone you know you saw in a commercial, as I did a few weeks ago at the playground.

When I first moved to LA in 1996, before moving back full time five years later, I also kept a journal of my "encounters" with celebrities. They seemed more frequent then. Yes, I would actually describe the circumstances of my seeing the person, and back then, I might actually talk to him or her. Just so you know, this is considered to be undignified rookie behavior, and I've long since gotten over it. But what can I say, the 22-year-old me was just starstruck.

Some vestiges of that still remained when I was at Sundance in 2007. I didn't talk to any of those people, but you better bet I noted them and pointed them out (quietly, subtly) to anyone who was with me. Which was usually just my wife (then girlfriend).

I think part of the maturation of any person, and specifically, any film fan, is a realization that it's more about the work, the product, than the celebrity behind that product. Perhaps those five years since I went to Sundance have been my own personal period of maturation. Sure, under the right circumstances and with the right insider connections, I could probably still be that guy who would have to check himself to avoid dropping names like the thousands of Hollywood wannabes in this city who seem so vulgar and shallow. But I like to think that if I went to Sundance today, I'd derive far more pleasure from getting an early look at the movies we'll all be talking about six months to a year from now.

That's what it really means to be a film fan, and not just a devotee of the E! network.

(But would I still want to get early exposure to those movies primarily so I could lord it over other film fans?)

(Yeah, probably. I'm only human. Humans love lording things over other humans.)


Thaddeus said...

Ok, so try it this way: do you remember when you used to go to the movies just to see "the next Bill Murray movie" or "because Richard Dreyfuss is the lead?" Do you think this is related to becoming more mature, or because of some change/failure on the film industry's part?

I'm trying to write shorter responses =)

Nick Prigge said...

Dude, I really enjoyed this piece. It went where I wasn't expecting it to go.

Vancetastic said...


I don't think I've ever seen a movie because Richard Dreyfuss was the lead. This may explain why I still have not seen Mr. Holland's Opus. ;-)

In all seriousness, though, I guess I don't consciously recognize a change in how much the star of a movie impacts my interest in seeing it. I'd say there's no actor or actress who makes me see the movie no matter what it is, but there are some who are close.

Did you think I thought you were writing too much? Write away! It just indicates your level of engagement with what I've written. Nothing could pay me a higher compliment.


Thanks! To be honest, I don't know if it went where I expected it to go either. For the last couple years I wanted to write something each January about Sundance, but I didn't really have anything to say previously (or have the space on my blog with all the other things I wanted to write). Maybe that's because saying "Hmm, I don't actually need to go" is more interesting than saying "I desperately need to go!"