Exploring the Sundance Film Festival in less than 24 hours is not an ideal situation.
The festival, considered movie mecca by countless of filmmakers, is home to a myriad of seminars, screenings, events and parties, and it can be tough to navigate it all in one day.
However, I still had a chance to see a few movies, documentaries and attend a few events in the short time that I spent in Park City, Utah.
My first stop was the exclusive Variety suite on Main Street to speak to Variety editor Stuart Oldham. As I entered the suite, I walked by actress Lena Dunham who had just dropped by for an interview. Oldham mentioned that Matt Damon had just stopped in the night before, an exciting coup for Oldham, as the actor’s movie, “Manchester by the Sea” has been getting considerable buzz at the festival.
“Amazon scooped up just this morning [for] ten million dollars… which has been by far the biggest splash of the festival so far,” he said. “That’s been the ‘it’ movie.”
Oldham also said that documentaries are getting better at Sundance. One such film, “Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper,” debuted that night. Robert Redford attended the premiere and gave a nice introduction beforehand, causing audience members to remark how humble Redford was.
The documentary was put together with new interviews and historical family footage of Vanderbilt, Cooper and their family. The story, however, focuses on Vanderbilt, her family’s famous custody battle case, her four marriages and relationships including Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. It also sheds light into the sadness Cooper and his mother experienced, especially with the loss of Cooper’s brother, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper.
A Q&A followed the screenings, and one of the very first questions was directed at Cooper. Had he been too open with his life? Had he shared too much in the documentary?
Not at all, he said. “I wanted to be around people who spoke the language of loss,” he explained.
Another film I watched was "The Hollars." It has great performances from John Krasinski and Anna Kendrick. The creative writing by James C. Strouse and the second directorial debut by Krasinski in this movie deserves a shot on the big screen.
Sundance is a place for filmmakers to showcase their best work, and provides an opportunity for agents, actors and directors to come together to share ideas. However, it has some competition from Slamdance, a film festival for which submissions have considerably lower budgets then Sundance movies.
According to the co-founder and president of Slamdance, Peter Baxter, when Slamdance started in 1995, there were only 48 film submissions. Now it receives more than 10,000 each year.
“This is scary because we want to be able to help all artists and it may be hard to do with such a large volume of submissions," he said. "Slamdance is artist-driven and we consider ourselves real."
Twenty-four hours may be a short time to spend at the 10-day festival, but it’s possible to pack in a lot of action—and some skiing to boot. Interested? There’s still time: The festival runs from Jan. 21-31.