A Good, Slow [Sun]dance

1/16/2014 | Amy Tibbals


Yes, we’ve heard you and we know you're out there. You hate the Sundance Film Festival – there’s too much traffic, too many people from all over the land, and they're all wearing black and acting holier-than-thou. You can’t get into your favorite restaurant, and the liquor store shelves have been pilfered of your most coveted spirits. In retaliation, you've reverted to a slightly younger and less mature version of yourself and "banned" this world-renowned event, vowing never to participate in the midst of a tiny, adult tantrum. This may even be a more common attitude for those living in Park City. The Salt Lake naysayers just can’t be bothered much of the time. If you fall into either of these categories, listen up. This one’s for you. Goddess of Sundance, Sarah Pearce, acquiesced to our request for a quick chat this week [just prior to the launch of the fest] to divulge details on an easy-breezy way to get your film festival feet wet [in SLC]. We took a seat in the back of a bar, and got down to business in the interest of opening up your mind to release that little grudge you’ve been clutching onto for years.

Said Sarah, "I can't believe I'm doing this interview without my press department here…"


Tell me about your gig...and feelings about the festival. You have one of the largest jobs with the festival [next to Bob] and have been involved for more than a dozen years. I’m a local. I grew up in Utah and want people to know that. I love this state, and both my roots and this job are very important and dear to me.

There are naysayers out there. I don’t understand them – but they're around. What do you say to those who have dug their heels in to be at odds with Sundance? Sundance isn’t for everyone. But many recognize it as the cultural event of the year – and I would encourage people to take a step back and see what is coming to our door from around the globe. Truly, the world comes to Utah for 10 days – it’s perhaps the most affordable around-the-world ticket you can get. To see the creativity that is being produced from countries near and far. Is there traffic? Yes. Are there inconveniences? Yes. And crowds. But I would bet that the experiences that this festival creates would override those fears and/or complaints.

Give our Salt Lake readers basic, easy advice to their first Sundance experience. An easy way to “try it out”: Go to the festival box office at Trolley Square (across from Williams-Sonoma) to get a program – or peruse the offerings online. There are four screening venues in Salt Lake alone. Go to Trolley Square at 8am any morning during the festival to pick up a ticket for a previously sold-out screening. Every morning Sundance releases additional tickets when possible. For the first time ever, we have an online wait list program. So, from the convenience of your living room -- or bed for that matter -- you can get in line for seats that may come open to films you really want to see. Also, download our app: Sundance Film Festival 2014. You can get connected with the online wait list program with this link.

What’s new this year for SLC? We have the new Salt Lake City Festival Café – we have partnered with Visit Salt Lake to make this cool hangout for festival-goers in between films and events. It’s at Sicilia Pizza Kitchen at 35 W. Broadway. Plus we are screening films from our new youth film category: Sundance Kids at the Salt Lake City Library. You can find info for that here.

What is the festival's goal for Salt Lake City? The audience in SLC is so sophisticated when it comes to independent film (specifically when compared to other US cities of comparable size) -- the festival wants to cater to this already-seasoned audience, and to deliver the best it has to offer. The commitment is to continue to build the SLC following and to give them more options and conveniences to seeing creative, innovative filmmaking.

You've been in this game for a while...give us a juicy experience you've had from festivals gone by. Several years ago (in 2008 or 2009), we had our first 3D movie (U2 3D), and Bono and the band were flying in for the premier and wanted to do a tech run of the film. So a group of us waited (literally) on the floor of the Eccles Center lobby for them to get there at midnight. They came in, tried on the 3D glasses, checked the sound, etc. When they were done, the film’s producer wanted to introduce me, explaining my role with the festival. Bono got down on one knee, kissed my hand, thanked me – and then returned his 3D glasses knowing that they were an expensive investment for us – and we feared people would walk off with many during the course of the festival. I said, “You can keep those, really.” He refused, saying, “lead by example.” It’s always refreshing to meet successful artists who are still grounded and kind. That was a nice surprise.


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