Park City basked in the afterglow of Obama Day as rising temperatures caused snowboarders to come off the slopes at noon to strip off layers of clothing. A pleasant day to ride around in busesâ€”something you do a lot of here, stuck at bus stops anxiously eyeing your watch as your next film begins, or strap-hanging aboard a menagerie of sluggish Festival shuttles and Park City buses that pick their way through branching back streets, stopping at resorts you never knew existed.
It was bad enough years ago when the main theater circuit was the Egyptian on Main Street, the Holiday Village multiplex near Albertsonâ€™s, and the makeshift auditorium in the Prospector. With luckâ€”meaning the shuttle-bus gods deemed to smile on youâ€”you could dash between them in 20 minutes. Or jump in your car and zoom off, which I did often.
Then came the Olympics. Park City built a bus terminal behind Main Street to accommodate the crush. One consequence is that Main Street buses no longer stop along Main Street, adding additional walking time to wherever you need to go on Main. Building new bus routes for the Olympics meant that festival shuttles no longer stopped in front of the Holiday Village cinemas either. Instead, you must now debus (is that a word?) in front of the Yarrow Hotel and make a mad dash across the Yarrowâ€™s parking lot, hurtling into the Holiday Village cinemas breathless and snow-encrusted if you slipped on the ice.
Cars were banned from Main Street too, and were now towed from the Yarrowâ€™s and Albertsonsâ€™ parking lots. The message was clear: donâ€™t bring cars into Park City during Sundance. Your alternatives? Those jolting buses, or scarce cabs with price-gouging habits that would embarrass Bronx livery drivers.
To make matters worse, a couple of years ago the outlying Park City Racquet Club, familiar from years of Festival awards ceremonies, was added as a theater, and this year a new synagogue, even farther afield, became the latest festival screen. As bus routes elongated to accommodate these new venues, the rambling Theatre Loop took longer and longerâ€”both to arrive and to get anywhere. (To get to the new Temple theater, you take a bus to get to another bus that shuttles you there.) So much for seeing more than a handful of films each day at Sundance.
What Iâ€™m really getting at, however, is that Sundance makes for strange busfellows. (Is that a word?) You spend so much time trapped on them, you end up eventually bumping into all your friends and making plenty of new ones too. (How years ago I met Ted Schilowitz, now â€œLeader of the Rebellionâ€?â€”his card actually says this–of RED Digital Cinema.)
Extemporaneous exchanges among riders form a sort of coffee klatsch on wheels, sprinkled with endless overheard conversation, much of it anonymous and terribly frank, about actors, films, and filmmakers.
No wonder Sundance bus rides have become the de facto Festival grapevine, easily overtaking the official Daily Insider newspaper. How ingenious of Sundance to bring us all together in this truly democratic way!
Today, for instance, I met a Miami-NYC producer (Sundance veteran with past films at the festival) on a bus detouring past the Park City Resort Center, who said heâ€™d just come from Slamdance where heâ€™d seen Finding Bliss, a lark about an idealistic film school grad who jams her foot in the industryâ€™s door by editing porn, and Weather Girl, about a Seattle TV meteorologist who flips out on-camera when she learns her boyfriend–the morning anchormanâ€”is a cheat.
â€œIt rounds out the festival experience,â€? he said, to attend a Slamdance screening, and â€œit makes you feel like youâ€™ve been to an indie festival.â€? I inquired and he replied that the Slamdance screenings heâ€™d attended were â€œpacked.â€?
How long, I mused to myself as the bus rattled on from stop to stop, before Sundance invites Slamdance to officially join the party, much as the Berlinale did to what is now its long-established experimental Forum section, or Cannes did to Directorâ€™s Fortnight, both of which were born during the tumult of 1968 as anti-festivals to overturn the established festivals they were ultimately folded into?
Back to reality: Sometimes riding the bus you hear more than you want to.
Young woman, mid-20s, Valley-style upspeak:
â€œI have the best Facebook story? So this girl I went to school with? When I was in first and second grade? She got in touch with me by Facebook. I hadnâ€™t seen her since the first or second grade. We were friends then. And she got in touch with me because her father had been in the witness protection program and she couldnâ€™t get in touch with anyone. But now she can. You know, Iâ€™m from New Jersey.â€?
Now thereâ€™s a Sundance storyline, free for the making.