From aspiring artists so broke their only possessions are the clothes on their backs and the dreams in their heads, to high-power company executives, the internationally renowned Sundance Film Festival continues to provide a platform for filmmakers to tell their stories.
First-time festival attendees may not know what to expect from such a unique event other than a chance to watch independent films. Whether it’s festival volunteers dancing to Lady Gaga or film lovers sipping hot drinks at a premium price, attendees are in for a treat.
“It’s a love fest,” said first-time festival volunteer Tom Iredale, of Philadelphia.
For Iredale, the Sundance Film Festival is about more than just filmmaking.
“Here’s what you’re missing out on: the experience of the people, the diversity of everybody, the camaraderie of everybody and the networking of everybody,” Iredale said with a smile. “They’re all from different backgrounds. They’re all opening up and talking to one another. They’re interesting. Their guard is down.”
The excitement and pace at which people walked from shop to shop, theater to theater was brought about by a mixture of the formation of new friendships and desperate attempts to stay warm despite the sharp cold.
With the festival attracting people from all around the world, Park City businesses can’t help but feel the impact of the festival.
“We are beyond full occupancy,” said John Kenworthy, owner of Flanagan’s on Main Street, who had to take a step outside to leave his packed pub of film lovers for a breath of fresh air.
“Everybody has their occupancy load maxed out,” Kenworthy said, pointing toward the many businesses on Main Street. “We don’t have the parking near necessary to handle the crowd this week.”
Parking seems to be the only complaint travelers have had, according to Kenworthy.
The only other events that have come close recently were the Olympic trials for the Sochi games, Kenworthy said.
Todd Herreid, of Green River, Wyo., has attended the film festival every year since 2002. Herreid said he recognizes the opportunity the festival presents for him and his family.
“I’ve always been a film lover, and what we see at Sundance is not widely available generally in Wyoming,” Herreid said. “It’s a chance to see some really unique films.”
“You’re going to see things you’re not going to see unless you go into an art house type theater,” Herreid said of the difference between many of the Sundance films versus a regular Hollywood film. “The other thing is the opportunity to talk to the actors and directors, to ask questions.”
Caren Monetta of Atlanta and her husband, Steve, first vacationed in Park City for another reason other than to watch independent films.
“Initially, we came to ski every year because no one is on the slopes, but now we see the films,” Caren Monetta said as she waited in line to see her first film of the 2014 festival.
“She sees more films at Sundance than she’ll see all year at the movie theaters,” Steve Monetta said of his wife.
Catching as many movies as possible has become something of a family affair for Steve Monetta, who researched films ahead of time, then downloaded from iTunes the movies he and his wife were not able to watch at the festival.
As long as the Sundance Film Festival continues to provide a platform to showcase independent films, the vision of the Sundance Institute will continue to impact film lovers all over the world.
“Our job and our role is to create a space and platform to bring new voices and new ways of seeing the world using independent film to this place, and that’s it,” said founder and president of Sundance Institute, Robert Redford, in a press conference on the first day of the festival. “We’re not interested in the money. That’s somebody else’s issue.”
“The films have so much more meaning that are being shown here. People are putting their last dollar on their credit card to produce these films,” Kenworthy said. “They have something they really want to say. Something they want told. Something they wanna expose in these films.”