PARK CITY, Utah — Call him the gatekeeper. For eight years, Christopher Ryan has curated the must-have list of Sundance parties. To be on his list of 300-some odd events is to be in the know. To be left off is to flounder through a sea of individual invitations, to party hop madly, to exhaust yourself searching for the Next Big Thing because it’s impossible to figure out what’s worth going to without Ryan’s guidance.
“For most people in Hollywood, they want the list, I hear executives yelling at their assistants to get the list, there are a lot of people who ask me to forward them the list,” said Mikey Glazer, who curates his own Sundance events list for industry titans at TheWrap.com. “Chris is comprehensive. If anything’s happening, big or little, it’s on here.”
Ryan calls himself an experiential marketer. Based in L.A. and seemingly in his mid-30s (he’d rather not have his age published), he’s been helping brands promote their products at Sundance (and other festivals like Comic-Con and South by Southwest) for 12 years. Eight years ago, realizing that he knew about most of the parties worth going to in Park City, he decided to spread the wealth by starting a party guide for press, publicists and brand representatives. Rule No. 1 of receiving it: Don’t share.
“I’ve stopped sending the list to some major Hollywood talent agencies because they’ll blast it out to their entire company,” he said. To keep hangers-on off, he throws a few fake parties on the list with RSVP email addresses that go to his inbox.
“I’ll get RSVPs from press and publicists that I know, but if I start seeing names I don’t know, my assistant and I take down that link and kill it,” he said. “We took down a link for 28 hours this week freaking everyone out. I was getting so many calls — ‘I can’t get the list, I can’t get the list.’”
“One year, I said there was a Dubai Film Financing party and I said everyone who goes will get round trip, first class airfare to Dubai. I got 800 RSVPs. I realized I need to make the fake parties sound somewhat normal.”
Ryan is so well known here that some people pretend to be him to get into parties. (Last year, while in line at the Sorel boots gifting suite, he overheard a guy in front of him insisting that he was the real Chris Ryan.) He’s also seen how desperate people can get to party with stars.
“I just booted a person who claimed to be from Universal Studios UK,” he said. “This guy was RSVP-ing to parties saying he was with David Spade and some other celebrity. So I called David’s publicist and let him know. I don’t think this guy understood how small this community is.”
If you claim that you’re a member of the media, prepare to have some proof as backup.
“I get requests from online magazines I’ve never heard of,” he said. “A lot of people say, ‘I work for such and such magazine,’ and I say, ‘That’s great, show me evidence that you work for that magazine.’ About 100 press outlets get it, and it’s the top ones.”
Despite his connections, Ryan is not, by default, on the list of every A-list event. He RSVPs just like everyone else at Sundance. And he doesn’t try to hit every single party happening on a given night.
“I’m kind of picky on what I go to,” he said. “If I find an event and I’m having a good time there, I stick around. Everyone RSVPs to everything. What I find is, if you stay at one event, you’ll run into everybody.”
His plans for Friday night?
“I’m probably just going to sleep early,” he said, laughing. “It’s going to be a long weekend.”