Experience Sundance 2012: TSA Run-Ins, Robots, and Pizza with Erin McCarthy

By  · Published on January 22nd, 2012

Day one. Well, day three for everyone else, but day one for us. Weeks ago, I thought the worst thing about this day would be waking up at 3:30AM to catch a 6:20AM flight to Salt Lake City. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. The worst thing about this day would be getting to the American Airlines desk, ready to check my bag, only to realize that I am without my Driver’s License. And worse yet, I have no idea where it is. None.

Jump cut to me standing in front of the TSA, begging, mewling, pouring out the contents of my wallet. They let me through. How, why, I don’t know, but I took it. Only to find myself (and interpid Allison Loring) in what surely must have been the set of a cheapo horror flick – a temporary “departure lounge” with walls rattling thanks to bizarrely howling wind and rain in Los Angeles. It was little comfort to hop onto our tiny plane – 3 seats across, 16 rows back, drinks service but a gentle dream. Was this The Grey? Was this a test? Would we even live?

We lived! We lived! Barely, but we lived. Arriving an hour late into Salt Lake City, we hit Park City just before noon. The snow was coming town and traffic was at a crawl. Would things ever turn around for us? They did! Checked in, refreshed with coffee, we hit the glamorous Sundance HQ, a jumping hotbed of activity where Britta water bottles are given out like free candy and our press badges awaited our arrival with as much glee as things made out of plastic and paper could muster.

It would be boring to name everyone we saw before we even saw a film – Sundance publicist Brandon Rohwer, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, /Film’s Germain Lussier, Wizard World’s Kevin Kelly, Film.com and MSN Movies’ William Goss, GeekTyrant’s Ben Pearson, filmmaker Bobby Miller, Moviefone’s Mike Ryan and Mike Hogan, various demands of hugs and greetings via “the Twitter,” so many friends, so little time. Meanwhile, Twitter was exploding with talk of a Compliance Q&A gone wild.

But it’s movies you want, right? My first film screening of the festival, Robot and Frank, took place at Sundance favorite, the Eccles Theatre, a festival mainstay and home of most big premieres and first showings. The film, from director Jake Schreier, stars Frank Langella as an aging man in “the near future” who comes into possession of a robot caretaker who changes his life. Turns out, Frank is a former cat burglar, and his nimble-handed robot pal didn’t come with any sense of morals or laws pre-programmed into his mainframe. The film is mostly charming and gracefully straddles different genres – buddy flick, heist film, emotional tale about aging, exceedingly dry humor – and was a generally solid crowdpleaser. It was a solid start to Sundance, and a review will most certainly be forthcoming.

Post-Robot, it was straight to the Holiday Village Cinema to kick it in the fabled press tent, a warmish, drippy, cattle pen-like enclosure where Sundance’s press huddle as they wait for their next P&I (press and industry screening). I was there to see Detropia, a documentary about the crumbling communities and economy of Detroit. A beautifully shot film, Detropia has a big story to tell, but it never fully came to be for me. After Detropia, I made a quick trip to the Fresh Market (Park City’s only grocery story) with James Rocchi to pick up a new toothbrush (another essential item I neglected to pack).

You want food? You got food! It seemed wise to end the day with a real meal before diving headfirst into churning out fresh and original Sundance content for Film School Rejects. Real meals are served at Main Street Pizza and Noodle, amid the glitterati of Sundance (relatively speaking). And there is no one better to eat Pizza Noodle with than Popular Mechanics’ own Erin McCarthy (hi, Erin!). A quiet dinner between McCarthy, Loring, and Erbland turned into a mini-event, with cameos from Rohwer, Film.com’s Eric D. Snider, The Film Stage’s Dan Mecca, Rudie Obias, and Collider’s Matt Goldberg. And then I blacked out because I ate too much pizza and was already having anxiety about penning something fun for you to read.

I end the day, typing away at this missive from our lovely condo at the bottom of Main St., diligently tapping out words while in the company of Loring, Mecca, and Obias. Tomorrow is another day – one that will hopefully have no need for any sort of proof of age. I am still young, Sundance. For now.

Tomorrow: Arbitrage, Wrong, Red Lights, The House I Live In, and a special event featuring The Civil Wars.

— –

Snuggle up with the rest of our Sundance 2012 coverage

Related Topics: