Sundance 2000: Calm Before the Storm

And so this is Sundance. Sort of.

There’s no snow. No crowds. No film crews. The locals promise that a storm will hit Friday, and while it’d be clever to argue they’re a day off — that the real storm arrives Thursday in the form of Robert Redford‘s film festival cum schmoozefest (running through Jan. 30) — they’re not.

There’s nobody stinkin’ here.

There aren’t even any films — stinkin’ or otherwise — until 7:30 p.m. Thursday when the Thanksgiving-themed ensemble drama “What’s Cooking?” (with outward-bound “ER” star Julianna Margulies) unspools at Sundance’s opening-night gala premiere event in nearby Salt Lake City.

So how best to kill the hours (days?) waiting for something Sundance-ian to happen? (Or for the NC-17 branded “American Psycho” to premiere on Friday night — whichever comes first?)

Here’s what you do: You walk the streets (well, street), count the Southwestern restaurants and seek answers to this thing called our nation’s leading film festival:

SO, HOW MANY REPORTERS DOES IT TAKE TO COVER ONE OF THESE THINGS ANYWAY? According to Sundance rep R.J. Millard, more than 700. At least that’s how many media types have been credentialed. But don’t think that means no room at the (figurative) inn. Scores of other brave, non-paperworked types show up here, too, in search of hot stars, hot directors, hot films — and just maybe, free food.

WHAT ARE THE FRINGE BENEFITS OF BEING A SUNDANCE-ANOINTED FILMMAKER? Kind of the same as being a fan at the ballpark on give-away day. Based on sneak peeks at the goodie bags being prepped at the Shadow Ridge Lodge (local festival headquarters) on Wednesday afternoon, each movie type is to receive one free Sundance TV shirt and one free Sundance baseball cap. Don’t wear it all in one place.

HAVE YOU SEEN ROBERT REDFORD YET? Nope. But his restaurant, Zoom, located on Main Street (the main drag of Park City) is hiding in plain sight. At Zoom, you can dine on pasta, grilled things and cookies. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive. According to, the restaurant is named after zoom lenses, lest you think Mr. Redford has a thing for old 1970s PBS kids’ shows.

HAS SUNDANCE GONE TOO COMMERCIAL? No. The Main Street gift shop — stocked with the aforementioned Sundance TV shirts and baseball caps — does not open before the festival does.

WHY ISN’T THERE ANY SNOW? Because it rained on Tuesday, and as a local businessman says, Park City is enduring a “mid-January heat wave.”

HOW WARM IS IT? A couple was spotted walking down Main Street … with matching ice-cream cones.

SO, WHAT’S TODAY’S NEW “BLAIR WITCH PROJECT”? “The Convent.” It premieres Friday night (or actually first thing Saturday morning) as part of Sundance’s Park City at Midnight program. For the uninitiated, that’s the same slot that “The Blair Witch Project” got last year en route to becoming a Top 10 box-office grosser. “The Convent” star Joanna Canton, speaking by phone in Los Angeles today, said she understands the “Blair Witch” connections, even if her flick really isn’t like that flick. (“It’s more like ‘Evil Dead‘ meets ‘Fright Night.'”) “The Convent” is about spooky things going on down at, yes, a convent. Adrienne Barbeau (of “Maude” and “Swamp Thing” fame) ups the flick’s cool factor (and further distinguishes it from “Blair Witch“). But what if audiences insist on piling on “Blair Witch“-style buzz on “The Convent“? Says Canton: “I don’t think anyone would mind that.”

HOW MUCH DOES SUNDANCE CHAMPION THE UN-CHAMPIONED? According to today’s edition of the local newspaper, the Park Record, only 45 Sundance 2000 filmmakers are Sundance virgins. That represents far fewer than half of the more than 170 features, docs and shorts that will be screened here.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU LEARN BY READING THE LOCAL PAPER? That the Office of Capital Management and Budget will discuss the local transit center at Thursday’s City Council meeting. (Tickets still available.)

HEY, WHAT’S UP WITH CHARLIE SHEEN? His career, apparently. A Hollywood manager (not Sheen‘s) swore to us today that “Rated X,” the upcoming HBO biopic about the brothers who made the infamous porno flick “Behind the Green Door,” will be the oft-troubled Sheen‘s comeback vehicle. No word on what’ll do for his co-star and oft-overlooked brother, Emilio Estevez. “Rated X” premieres here on Tuesday.

WHAT CAN’T YOU DO IN PARK CITY? Hand out fliers, ask for doubles at nightclubs, walk more than 30 steps without dialing up someone on your cell phone.