Sun-dancing: Stargazing in Park City (Day 3)

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(A firsthand account of the films, celebrities, snow and occasional Mormons that compose the greatest film festival in the world, or that we've been to so far.)

INT. -- PARK CITY PUBLIC TRANSPORT BUS -- MORNING

Salt Lake City is a pleasant town with what will serve as an adequate taste of what the Sundance Film Festival is about. But the meat and potatoes still rest in Park City. It’s a very small city full of ski resorts and enough money to make Alpharetta jealous.

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I have two goals for the day: catching Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? and stargazing. The latter is simple, really. You just walk the streets stalking famous people. At this point I’d take Jack Black and 50 Cent. Actually, I’d take French Stewart. I have to look like I’m doing my job here.

Parking isn’t really an option on Main Street, so my party finds a Wendy’s and hops on a bus. Transportation inside Park City is free, but the service does encourage donations. As far as I know, I don’t get an expense account, so fat chance of that happening. I can’t help but notice what looks like a newly developed Wal-Mart across the street from the bus stop. Seeing a Wal-Mart here is how I would imagine stumbling across Michael Vick at a PetSmart would feel. There’s not a lot to the town other than rich housing communities and snow.

Skiers board and exit the bus at seemingly every other stop, but they are still a minority. Everyone on the bus appears to be headed to the festival. If the brochures and film booklets stuck in every pocket and purse aren't enough, it’s obvious where we’re going because of the chatter.

Films are being analyzed, recommended, sliced and diced, and in one woman’s case, weighed on a scale of sexual content vs. lack of sexual content. Someone brings up Ballast and an insult escapes my brain before I can stop it. I’m immediately refuted. Seriously, everyone seems to like this film, and it is beyond me. Batman & Robin people, Batman & freaking Robin.

The bus route takes about half an hour, but along the way we find the Library Center Theatre (which I read Liberty and asked for directions to twice). Morgan Spurlock’s film will be playing there at 8:30 p.m. That gives my group about seven hours of stargazing before we need to line up in the wait-list group.

Once off the bus, my friends and I find the center of town. It’s basically just an incline of buildings swimming with average Joes, media and a variety of as-yet-unidentified celebrities. Bars, restaurants and ski shops line the sides of the road with a thin sidewalk caked in snow and a constant stampede of feet.

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The scene really isn’t as impressive as I hoped, but I was expecting the red carpet at the Oscars … just with snow instead of carpet and myself glad-handing Robert Downey Jr. and James Cameron. But once we ascend the incline, I already spot my first celeb. It’s not much, but it will do. His name is Brandon Molale and the only reason you’d know he exists is if you’re a big fan of Dodgeball and "Reno 911!," which I think he’s been on a handful of times. He’s a very distinctive- (read: tall drink of water) looking human being with a face that looks like it was stolen out of a comic book. Consequently, he’s been lobbying for the role of Captain Marvel for a soon-to-be feature on the classic DC Comics character Shazam!. Yes, I’m a nerd. No, I don’t have a life.

Moving on. My party decides to grab a beer and pizza. It seems that everyone moves from restaurant to bar to restaurant in an effort to find celebrities. I suspect an average Sundance-goer will gain about 47 pounds by week’s end and, yes, I’m counting all the lost calories from the walking. Before we slip into a restaurant, I pick out Rex Lee (Lloyd from Entourage) doing an interview on a second-story balcony.

In an effort to pass the time, I attend a technology exhibition in a small mall off the strip. It’s basically a young filmmaker’s dream. Sony and other movie companies have displays for their latest equipment. I wander into a discussion and showcase on Sony’s XDCAM EX camcorder. It’s small, inexpensive, lightweight, saves directly to disk and can transfer 100 minutes of video to your laptop in less than three minutes. I may have ordered seven of them without realizing it.

Discussions like this are common, but not limited to equipment. There are focus groups on helping rookie filmmakers talk to studios, what equipment to buy and where to find it cheap, and various panels on the world of cinema. There are also a handful of editing workshops, all meant to help small-timers like myself.

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On the way to a screening at the Library Center Theatre, I finally catch a celebrity I’d want to talk to. His name is Mark Boone Junior, a large, bearded man that someone could spot from about a mile away. I did and I stared at him for about five minutes. He noticed and said hello. Instead of asking him for a photo, I nodded and greeted him back. Boone has had a random career. He’s obviously tight with Christopher Nolan, because he was in both Memento and Batman Begins, as Detective Flass in the latter. He was in a pretty good episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," playing a homeless man.

Most recently, Boone was in 30 Days of Night – which wasn’t very good, but it’s nice to see him working. I really wanted a photo, but I’m not sure what the protocol is here. You’re either in a position to just say hi and share a good story later with a friend or come off looking like a freak. I doubt Boone has fans, so I froze, not wanting to seem weird. Mark Boone Junior 1, Me 0.

The walk to the Library takes about 15 minutes, but even though we’re nearly three hours early, I can tell Morgan Spurlock will be lost to another day. The wait-list line is almost out the door, so our placement would be somewhere between 108-115. Where in the World has now become my white whale. My last chance to catch a screening may be in Salt Lake City on Friday. This is the difference between screenings in SLC and screenings in Park City. The hordes don’t mess around up the mountain. You’d better have tickets, arrive ridiculously early or get back in your car and drive home defeated.

It took us 45 minutes to get back to our vehicle. The drive home was about 35 minutes, and we arrive in SLC in time to grab wait-list tickets for Robert De Niro’s What Just Happened? (see review). The cast is loaded with Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Stanley Tucci and several others. I don’t understand what it’s about from the description, but when you have that cast, it’s difficult to mess things up.

We get into the movie with quality seats after grabbing some food next door and a latte. On my schedule, I was supposed to be dining with Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, but when you can’t even ask Mark Boone Junior for a photo, you’re not going to open many doors. Lesson learned. I'll have to try again later in the week.

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