KZYR’s Digital Content Manager, Bri Hoy-Skubik went to Park City Utah last weekend for Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals. This is the first installment of her blog about it. Picture above is of Bri (right) with her Sundance partner-in-crime Olivia (left).
There seemed to be three main categories of people I met wandering around Park City at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (my first): filmmakers, Utah locals interested in film/filmmaking, and teenage superfans of Harry Styles and Kristen Stewart. K-Stew was there for her new film Camp X-Ray, and young Mr. Styles made an appearance because, well, I’m not sure exactly. Maybe because Zach Braff tweeted @ him to come see his movie. Possibly because Lil Wayne and Two Chains were also in attendance and Harry didn’t want them stealing any followers from One Direction. Regardless, he was there and his fankids (most of whom were likely also obsessed with Twilight – the double whammy!) followed. Poor Har-Bear had to put something over his face and stage being an unruly drunk getting kicked out of The Egyptian so no one would know it was him leaving a screening.
Braff and Styles, BFFs
Personally, I don’t really fall into any of those three categories of festival-goers. I may have considered myself a filmmaker in college and still love that whole world, but my life is in radio now. I belong to a fourth category, one that I am surprised is not bigger because it could (and should) be: people who are interested in/appreciate music. The music scene at Sundance is, in a word, phenomenal; it was just as good a reason to attend the festival as the films.
Music and film have gone hand-in-hand since the early days of silent movies. Viewing a silent movie was never a silent experience, as they were accompanied by musical scores, often performed live in theaters. To this day, composers and musical artists are honored at the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes. Soundtracks can make or break a film. And the soundtrack of a successful film can push blossoming artists to the top. As Slamdance founders Paul Rachman and Dan Mirvish mentioned in a panel held in a 50+ person hot tub (because Slamdance, which turned 20 this year, is basically Sundance’s totally awesome younger sibling, and 20-year-old younger siblings love their hot tubs. I know this to be true because I have one. A hot tub and a brother of that age), directors and producers love having musician friends and working with lesser-known artists because they will usually work even harder to make a soundtrack shine than their bigger-name counterparts, as well as allow a film to spend less of their budget on well-known pop songs and more on things like explosions.
The hot tub summit, billed as the “wettest panel discussion on the festival circuit.”
But the excellent soundtracks aiding many of this year’s best films in their greatness are only a tiny piece of the fully awesome music scene in Park City right now. Live music is EVERYWHERE! Not only are there countless permanent and semi-permanent music venues (from the Live Lounge to Park City Live to the Music Cafe), but every bar in town hosts live musicians every night of the festival as well. Street artists also line the sidewalks; the typical guitar players and vocalists are joined by more creative ensembles: string quartets, men in white suits playing instruments made from old skis (oh, how I wished for a phone battery that wasn’t dead when I saw them!), and a pre-teen troubadour player who invited us to his performances on twitter. Adding to the musical madness this year was a free OAR concert on the mountain last Saturday, celebrating the naming of the US Olympic freestyle team.
One of probably hundreds of live music spots around town. This one was in Flannigans Irish Pub, home of the inexperienced bartender who charged $9 for a Long Island Iced Tea even though it was supposed to only be $7.
And then there are the films themselves. A surprising amount of this year’s Sundance selections were centered around musicians, real and fictional. The first film we made it into, Frank (check back soon for a full review. Spoiler alert: I loved it), was about a psych rock band, the conflicting personalities of the band members, the gray area between madness and creativity, and a fateful trip to play at SXSW. One of the films with the best reviews at the festival was Whiplash, the story of a young drummer and the lengths to which his music instructor pushed him in an attempt to achieve greatness. Other films of musical interested included 20,000 Days on Earth (a documentary about film and musical mastermind Nick Cave), Finding Fela (the most recent documentary about Fela Kuti), Low Down (a dramatic film about jazz pianist Joe Albany), Memphis (the creatively told story of Willis Earl Beal), My Prairie Home (a documentary about Canadian transgender singer/songwriter Rae Spoon), Under the Electric Sky (3-D behind-the-scenes look at the 2013 Electric Daisy Carnival), and Lambert and Stamp (a documentary look at the two filmmakers, who – in search for film subjects – wound up becoming the managers of The Who). One of the worst parts of my trip to Sundance was not having time to see them all. That and my car dying forever, but at least I got to go see Robert Redford talk about creative success coming from failure after the car trouble happened (more about the #freefail panel soon!).
Sundance and Slamdance are billed as film festivals, but that is far from all that they are. The festivals would be better defined as “full immersion artistic and cultural experiences” in which music plays a major role. Maybe this would help increase the size of the music category of festivalgoers. Plus, a title like that might scare some of the K-Stew and 1D fans away…