Films & Food: Sundance Film Festival 2017

Today begins my eleventh Sundance. If you had told 14-year-old Sarah that future-Sarah would have spent over a decade trekking to Park City, Utah, she would have laughed in your face. (She would have also probably not realized that Sundance Film Festival was in Utah.)

But here I am. My eleventh time riding up the mountain to stand in lines, cry in movies and overdose on airborne while trying not to catch the plague. Sidenote: the Sundance flu is real and faithful. Post on that next week.

With an Industry Pass, I attend most of my screenings without a public audience and with fellow industry colleagues. There is a distinct difference between Industry and Public screenings. Industry are notoriously more critical of films and it’s common for people to walk in and out of screenings. Buyers or programmers may decide in fifteen or thirty minutes if the film is something they are interested in and will not waste time finishing it if it is not the right fit. This was an odd thing to witness when I started attending P&I screenings long ago, but now I’m use to it and have played my part in it. Public screenings have a general excitement filling the room as you’re often sharing the space with the filmmakers’ friends, family and supporters – or people just excited that they got into a Sundance screening. Through my work I receive a few public screening tickets and it’s fun to share in that experience too. There is nothing like catching a premiere at Sundance. The anticipation in the room is palpable and emotions run high. The environment you see a screening can influence your approach and perception of a film, so it is something to keep in mind when hearing opinions on the film from others.

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2017 Press & Industry schedule with my hope-to-see highlights. And yes, there are days where more than one film at a time is highlighted. It’ll be a roll of the dice.

One thing I’ve learned from my many years of attending Sundance is putting together the puzzle of your personal schedule. If you’ve ever attended a festival at all you know this struggle. For Sundance, this becomes ten fold. You must figure in your travel time (it’s ALWAYS slower to get somewhere on Friday or Saturday night of first weekend – be ready to walk in those snowboots). Industry often camp out at the industry-specific theaters all day, so it’s possible you’ll catch a movie in the middle of the day only because it is easier than going to another location. Industry receive the screening times a month before the festival in order to plan. The trick during planning a schedule is leaving room for surprises and spontaneity. Once on the ground, the schedule may go out the window. One day you want to end on a “good note” so you decide to call it and meet up with friends. Or your dinner party goes later than planned. You may end up at a party that someone gets you in or are given an extra ticket to a public screening from a buddy. You may over sleep that 8:30am screening (because catching a shuttle at 7:15am feels so early when you went to bed five hours before). The whole day shifts as you fill in the gaps and see a buzzed-about movie. All of that is part of the fun. It allows for discovery, new friends and memories.

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Sundance 2009: walking in the snow, on the way to/from a house party, around 2:00am. I seem to have a LOT of blurry photos from past Sundances…

As for fitting food into that schedule, that can also be tricky. The food in Park City is not exactly…amazing. Ok, so it mostly sucks unless you can spend real cash (read: not on a non-profit org budget). The key is grocery shopping upon arrival and making whatever quick meals you can make in the condo. My go-to meals include:

  • ravioli with pesto
  • salads (a few grocery-premade ones which are not the best, but again, you take what you can get)
  • cereal (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
  • salami or deli meat, crackers & cheese

There are a few good spots for dining (and drinking) in Park City too:

  • Davanza’s – the best little dive restaurant in my opinion. Tacos, pizza and hamburgers for the win. I probably eat here too often.
  • High West Distillery & Saloon – one of my favorite places to grab a drink with friend (if it’s not taken over by a party).
  • Riverhorse on Main – This is $$$$, but totally worth a real, sit down meal when you need to take a time out.
  • Butcher’s Chop Shop – Another one on the expensive side, but a decent bar and cozy place to unwind.
  • Flanagan’s – An Irish pub that has very basic food. If you’re uphill on Main Street, you could do worse.
  • El Chubasco – Another cheap Mexican option. I always see someone I know in here. Close to HQ, Eccles, Prospector theater.

I’m looking forward to what this eleventh experience will bring, seeing a few old friends and discovering new filmmakers. I’ll post a few of the (shareable)stories next week!

Will I see you in Park City? What tips do you have for making a festival schedule? Any favorite restaurants in Park City you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

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Films & Food: New Orleans Film Festival

The New Orleans Film Festival kicks off its 27th annual event this week, running from October 12 to 20, 2016. I was privileged to attend this festival three years ago as a Juror and had a blast. The NOFS team, led by Executive Director Jolene Pinder, knows how to put on a show and treat filmmakers well. Between the creative and very New Orleans-based parties, the community of filmmakers and the many local film fans this is a wonderful, festive atmosphere to eat, drink and happily sink into film screenings for a week.

If you are lucky enough to attend NOFF this year, here’s a few of the programs I recommend checking out:

  • Opening Night & LBJ: Coming off its premiere at TIFF, Rob Reiner’s latest film about President Lyndon Johnson (played by Woody Harrelson) will kick off the festival. NOFF had by far one of the best Opening Night events I have attended. They fully embraced and celebrated the local scene, having a second line parade from the film to the party, where live jazz and brass band continue to play throughout the evening.
  • FARMER/VETERAN: I was honored to host the world premiere of this intimate documentary at DIFF earlier this year. It follows Alex Sutton, an Iraq vet with PTSD, as he attempts to rebuild a life and family by creating a farm at home. It’s a haunting and honest portrait of a soldier.
  • WHITE GIRL: Filmmaker Elizabeth Wood is a force. She’s definitely one to watch and this feature is proof.

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    Contemporary Color
  • CONTEMPORARY COLOR: The Ross brothers’ latest captures a rare and unique live event with performances by David Byrne, Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, Ira Glass, tUne-yArds and others.
  • Short films: Short films are always a treat and important as I’ve mentioned before. NOFF has a great lineup of shorts this year. While I haven’t seen it yet, I must highlight THE NEW ORLEANS SAZERAC in the “Louisiana Stories: Act Three” block. I am so intrigued and love the synopsis (and the cocktail)!

In between films and festival parties, be sure to check out a few of my favorite spots for a taste of New Orleans. (Plus, there are things to do beyond Bourbon Street y’all.)

  • Treat yo’self to an amazing meal at Cochon or Herbsaint. You won’t regret it. I’m drooling just thinking about it. (Reservations encouraged.)
  • Speaking of Sazeracs, sip one at the beautiful Sazerac Bar inside The Roosevelt. #NewOrleansClassyDrinking #Adulting
  • If you can manage to get a seat, take a spin on the Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone and order a Vieux Carre.
  • Don’t miss the amazing fried chicken at Willie Mae’s.
  • If near the French Quarter or Central Business District, you can’t go wrong with brunch at Palace Cafe or Mother’s.
  • Looking for a dive? Try a frozen irish coffee at Molly’s at the Market.
  • Po’boys and beignets (and cash). That’s really all you need in life.

Congratulations to Clint Bowie and the programming team on a great lineup! And best wishes to Jolene as she moves on to new and exciting work after this year’s festival. It will be strange not to see her at the helm of NOFS, but I’m looking forward to what the future holds for her and the film society.

Have you attended NOFF before? Are you excited to see any films in their lineup? What’s your favorite restaurant in New Orleans? Tell me in the comments below.

 

Festival Diet 101

Have you ever attended a film festival before? If not, I highly recommend it. And not just because I work for them. Film festivals are a great way to interact with a local film community, meet filmmakers and new people. You make new friends (yes, it’s even how I met my husband). You’re able to engage in conversations and interesting discussions about films that you love (or sometimes hate) and topics that are important to you. You’re supporting the arts. I mean, what’s not to love about it?

Film festivals are held throughout the year, but there are three basic “seasons” to festing: January to May, May to August and September to late November. Sundance kicks things off in January, Cannes bookmarks the year in May and Telluride/Toronto/Venice benchmark the crazy third act in September. And then there’s all the thousands of other great film festivals that fall somewhere in between them.

In this series of post, I’ll share some of my favorite restaurants while attending a film festival. But first, let’s go over some basics of the “Festival Diet”.

Any fest vet will tell you the festival diet is real. And by diet I mean, if you don’t plan the time to eat, you may not eat anything at all. All day. It can be dangerous. People – like me and almost everyone else I’ve ever known – get hangry when they don’t eat. No one likes a hangry festival attendee (or staffer), so here are some tips and expert advice.

  1. When attending a film festival, snacks are your best friend. Always have a snack in a bag or pocket. Trust me. I’ve never eaten so many granola bars in my life than when I have worked during a film festival. Another good option: a small pack of almonds or trail mix. String cheese is good, but only if you eat it right away. No one likes limp, warm string cheese. Ew. When you want to see back-to-back movies and that involves standing in a line for 30 minutes too, you will need a snack. And there is only so much popcorn you can eat. Which leads me to…
  2. The festival diet sometimes only consists of concession stand popcorn. Corn is in almost everything we eat already. There is only so much popcorn you can eat before you feel like a walking goop of butter and corn. I speak from experience.
  3. Sometimes you need to miss a movie in order to eat dinner. (From a programmer, that’s hard to admit because I want your butt in a seat!) Even if that dinner is you only sitting down for 30 minutes, you must do it. If you’re lucky enough to sit down with friends for a true 90 minute meal, then bravo! You have it all. It is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. And sometimes it is actually better than whatever film you might have gone to. (Your hangry friends will tell you later.)
  4. If you’re working or volunteering at a fest, sometimes you need to remind your colleagues to eat. Or your intern/co-worker needs to remind you to eat, oh so gently. (Claire, you were always the best intern/coordinator because you GOT this.)
  5. Hydrate. And not with all that free Stella Artois in the festival lounge. Festing takes a toll on your body. The late nights, the sponsored alcohol, the dark auditoriums. (It really is amazing that any of us survive this work/lifestyle.) Bring a reusable water bottle and refill often. I’ve always thought the best in-kind sponsorship was Sundance’s partnership with Brita. We have at least a dozen green Brita/Sundance-branded water bottles in our house thanks to them and use them all year round. #NeverEndingImpressions. You’re welcome Sponsorship Dept.
  6. If you’re not a local, ask the staff or volunteers for restaurant recommendations near the venue. The locals take pride in their city and those working the festival often want to show off the best of what their city can offer. Then GO EAT.

Stay tuned for highlights from great restaurants, bars and other must-stop sites from my film festival travels.

What tips do you have for staying full while testing? Let me know in the comments below!