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Movies


Singer Lyle Lovett walks among a crowd all dressed in black at the Sundance Film Festival

From Tylenol to black clothes, how to survive at Sundance

Web posted on:
Friday, January 29, 1999 5:55:14 PM EST

From Correspondent Paul Clinton

PARK CITY, Utah (CNN) -- If you live in Los Angeles, work in the film industry and want to get away from it all, Park City, Utah at the end of January would not be your destination of choice.

Every January, like salmon swimming upstream to spawn and die, Hollywood glitterati descend upon this tiny ski town en masse. Wall-to-wall agents, publicists, actors and actresses, studio executives, media types and -- of course -- hopeful filmmakers swarm like biblical locusts, all looking for a deal, a party, a financial backer or just a place to crash.

 ALSO:
'Three Seasons' takes two top awards at Sundance

It's all for the annual Sundance Film Festival where, to quote Gypsy Rose Lee, "you've gotta have a gimmick." Just like the population of the naked city, everyone has a story. At this time of year in Park City, there are about 12,000 tales.

Actor William H. Macy, best known for his role in the independent film "Fargo," is currently in town with his new movie "Happy, Texas," just sold to Miramax Films in a multimillion-dollar distribution deal. "Usually, what I do," he says, "is try to spend three or four days here and I pretend that I'm going to screenings, but actually I ski all day and crash parties at night."

Macy

Ride coattails

Parties, parties and more parties, every single night of this 10-day event, are a major part of the Sundance experience -- not only for the sheer fun of it all, not just to meet members of the opposite sex, not even for the free food and drink (although that is a big motivation) -- but for the purpose of that great Hollywood tradition, networking and schmoozing.

Macy's gimmick for getting into parties anytime and anyplace is also a great Hollywood tradition: attach yourself to a star. "The best way is to see some movie star who gives great face, and you just sort of grab his, or her, belt and you get pushed right in there," he says.

Illeana Douglas, who co-stars with Macy in "Happy, Texas," agrees. "Look like you're important," she says, "and people will think you're important."

Helen Mirren in Sundance feature "The Passion of Ayn Rand"

Dress right, bring Tylenol

The right clothing is also key to making it at Sundance. Warmth is essential, but the correct look is important, too. Black garb is so typical that the locals in Park City refer to the festivalgoers as "PIB," people in black.

British actress Helen Mirren, at Sundance to support her new film "The Passion of Ayn Rand," says, "I'd been here before and I'd forgotten what you wear and what you do, so I came thinking I was going to a sort of cold Paris -- I came in stilletto-heeled shoes and feather boas.

"I walked in and thought, 'Oh my God.' Of course, they all dress like mountain men here. I forgot that altogether. So I've been sort of wafting around looking like Euro-trash. It's very embarrassing." For the record, she was tastefully attired in a long navy coat and red scarf.

Ally Sheedy, who recently resurrected her career with the film "High Art," comes from New York City, so producing black, warm clothing was no problem for her. While promoting "Sugar Town," which also stars Rosanne Arquette, she had some simple survival advice to offer. "Remember to breathe," she says, "drink a lot of water, and bring Tylenol with you."

She needed the Tylenol. She got lost on her way to Park City from Salt Lake City, where the nearest airport is located, and what should have been a 40-minute drive turned into three hours. Then she parked her car in a supermarket parking lot -- one for store patrons only -- and her car was towed. "I was so tired, I thought it had disappeared" she says. "It wasn't until the next day that I figured out what happened."

Stoltz in "The Passion of Ayn Rand"

Talk your way in

Indie producer Jason McHugh is a long-time Sundance attender. His advice to young filmmakers is straightforward: "Be a good scammer and figure out ways to beat the system," he says.

"When we first showed up, no one was inviting us to parties or anything like that, so we had to go to the lengths of stealing press passes, and laminating our own pictures in there, then wearing them around and posing as press people. That's how we got into all the parties."

As for getting your movie seen, he has more ideas. "I think the best way to get people to see your movie," he says, smiling, "is to lie in any form that you can. I'd say any form of dishonesty would work for you up there."

Eric Stoltz, starring in "The Passion of Ayn Rand," kids that "what's great about a festival like Sundance is that it's a very elite club, oddly enough. It's the only club I know of whose sole membership requirement is lack of funds. The less you have at Sundance, the cooler you are."

He adds, "It's a little-known fact that Sundance is an old American Indian word that means, 'actors get laid' -- few people know that." He laughs. "I probably shouldn't have said that," he adds. "I'm kidding."

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