Notes from the Underground: Beyond Sundance

By Morrow, Stephan | The Humanist, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

Notes from the Underground: Beyond Sundance


Morrow, Stephan, The Humanist


Ah, Sun! Searing, glorious, light my brain ... Dance! Lunge, leap, pour vision into my veins: Sundance! The very name conjures glory. Vital perfect moments ... oh, well, joke's on me. Ho. Ho. Ho.

Consider me naive, wrapped up in my own little world, scribbling away in my cave, my mind of late inhabiting the environs of a farm in the Catskills of upstate New York because of a novel I was just completing. So know that my knowledge of things going on around me is sometimes spotty at best.

My fantasies, from what smatterings I had heard about Sundance, leaned toward an idyllic, snowy, one-street town that "originally, and not so long ago, had been a mining town." I mean, I had everything but sleighs with bells in this scenario. From things like this, I ask you, how could I have possibly been prepared for the phantasmagorically gentrified--urban, suburban, or ultra-urban--development of Park City, Utah; the place spreading for miles, dripping with the endless gray and beige clapboard charm of the manor, or manors, infinite in number, as the blocks of condominiums seemed? CEO suddenly had new meaning for me; I didn't know just how much of a starving artist I was until I hit Main Street and saw four-by-fours parked in lines so long they extended into the sunset. So this is where all that stock market wealth of the last decade had been planted. What an epiphany, right there on Main Street, in front of the Zoom Restaurant. But more of this later.

When the eleventh-hour call came in, offering a floor-space share in a condo at the mecca of independent filmmaking, the Sundance Film Festival, I at first refused. For one thing, my favorite of the feral cats living in the back plot of our group-house had developed some mysterious kind of mange and had demanded some attention which I was in the middle of tending to, and the other was I couldn't afford the several hundred dollars for a plane ticket. Couldn't I find someone who would want to drive with me? in their car? Clarabelle, my own Toyota, though certainly loyal enough and well meaning, was a little long in the tooth for the Utah mountains--so I knew better than to ask that of her. Well, after much late night phoning around, finally my good buddy Shelley seriously offered to drive us there in his Geo Metro, (No problem, let's go. If we have to, we can buy snow chains on the road anywhere along the way. There were places as common as McDonalds for this, he had heard.) Anyway, by the following morning he had come to his senses and what had seemed like a terrific adventure in the expansiveness of the wee hours seemed less so in the harsh, sober glare of day. So there I was, at a loss to join the more maverick of my filmmaking colleagues at this wondrous gathering of the tribe of true artists of celluloid, under the stewardship of the illustrious Robert Redford. Then I got the idea: the Greyhound Adventure. Of course!

Why there must be dozens of budget-minded, scruffy filmmaker types traveling with the gray dog. I was sure of it. We would gather, hardy band that we were, in true proletarian fashion, picking up new members as we went, from the nooks of bus stops and the crannies of cafes the bus stopped at in the middle of nowhere, hanging out in the back seats, singing our way up to the mountains where true art on celluloid was being conjured.

Well, let this noble dream end now, state of grace though it might be, and plunge into the suds of harsh reality. Apparently, out of the alleged TEN THOUSAND or so independently inclined souls who gathered up there at the mountaintops this past January, I saw no one, and heard of no one besides myself, who rode the bus--certainly no one who would admit to doing anything so low-rent. When I was being introduced around to my condo-mates by the erstwhile colleague who had invited me, he announced incredulously. "Man, you actually took the bus???!!! Stephan took the bus here? Wow. Dude, he took the bus! …

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