Beer, Bags and Brushing Elbows with Filmmakers: Sundance 2011

So I never got around to my sparkler story over Christmas.  It’s still to come.  Instead I ate and drank my way (in moderation, of course) through the Sundance Film Festival.  I was lucky enough to have paid for only one meal the entire Festival, a quiet, pre-Sundance riot sushi evening with a client at Oishi in Park City.  We got a table without a wait, had terrific Aji sashimi, and didn’t talk about film at all…

As the paroxysm of branding and celebrities drew to a close after the Sundance Film Festival’s opening weekend, the Stella Café presented by Food & Wine and Sorel at the Galaxy Tab Lift quickly earned a reputation as the hub of casual, low-pressure industry networking and social activity at the Festival.   Oh, and Stella Artois beer was, as you can imagine, everywhere.  Stella has a terrific flavor in their signature chalice at very low temperatures and high altitudes.  The combination makes is smooth, flavorful, not fizzy, and very thirst-quenching, with a citrus acidity and very mild bitterness.  And 5% alcohol carries a respectable kick at altitude.


The Stella girls with Olympic speed skater Allison Baver at the Lift (photo credit: Philip Hooghuis)

During the day, industry swells and press held meetings and filed stories while chefs including Michael Voltaggio (best known for winning Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 6) and Fig’s Ray Garcia prepared delicacies like a Serrano ham huevos rancheros and chicken shawarma.  By night, The Stella Café offered invitation-only hosted receptions and dinners (Koji Tacos for the first time outside of LA) of a different sort than the high-pressure, door-policy venues further up Main Street. Rather, the Stella receptions, for independent films and groups with lesser-known casts, harkened back to an earlier time when the Festival was less about hoopla and branding and more about movies.  Festival Program Director Trevor Groth, who visited the café several times, remarked, “We DID notice, and we appreciated it.”

Friday, January 21st, Stella hosted the Film Society of Lincoln Center, invigorated by new staffers Rose Kuo, Eugene Hernandez, and Courtney Ott.  Guests included FSLINC board member Peter Herbst;  festival execs Graham Leggat (San Francisco), Alec Jhangiani (Lone Star), Britta Erickson (Denver), James Faust (DALLAS), Janet Pierson (SXSW) and Sundance’s Keri Putnam, John Cooper, Trevor Groth and Basil Tsiokos; and film executives Phil Engelhorn and Peter Raisler (Cinereach), Howard Cohen (Roadshow Attractions), Ira Deutchman (Emerging Pictures), Mark Urman (Oscilloscope), and Ryan Werner (IFC Films); and some of the top journalists covering the Festival.

Later that evening, the Café hosted the post-screening reception for writer/director/actress Miranda July’s long-awaited second feature THE FUTURE.  Guests included July; cast members Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres and Joe Putterlik; and producers Gina Kwon, Roman Paul and Gerhard Meixner.

Saturday, January 22nd brought the Café ON THE ICE, with writer/director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean and cast members Josiah Patkotak, Frank Qutuq Irelan, Teddy Kyle Smith, Adamina Kerr, Sierra Jade Sampson, John Miller and Rosabelle Kunnanna Rexford in attendance.  Cast members Patkotak and Sierra Samson sported the “Twitten,” the curious and silly two-handed mitten for couples making the rounds of the Festival.

Sunday, January 23rd, media property Hammer to Nail ( hosted a reception honoring all low budget American Independents in festival.  Guests included Trevor Groth, Ted Hope, Lynette Howell, Mike Plante, Mike Ryan, Christine Vachon and Hammer to Nail editor Michael Tully (who also directed and starred in midnight feature SEPTIEN).  The party also drew directors, casts and crews from The Catechism Cataclysm; Co-Dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same; Kinyarwanda; Lord Byron; Martha Marcy May Marlene; The Off Hours; On The Ice; The Oregonian; Septien; Terri; and The Woods.

To close out the café Monday, January 24th, Stella hosted the post-premiere party for ANOTHER EARTH, with co-writer and director Mike Cahill and co-writer/producer/actress Brit Marling and cast member William Mapother in attendance.  The film sold to Fox Searchlight about 24 hours after the event.

Meanwhile, downstairs at the House of Swagg, Thule ( renowned Swedish vehicle rack maker, is getting into the luggage business with stylish, rugged gear, tried out its new luggage line on numerous celebrities from America Ferrera and Emily Mortimer and Susan Sarandon to Danny Glover, Emile Hirsch, Li’l Jon (both pictured) and Scott Wolff—and even Real Housewives of Hollywood’s Adrienne Malouf.   And because a bag is no fun without a place to go to with it, Thule tucked a night’s stay at the new BLVD Boutique Hotel and Spa in Studio City inside, along with what Interview Magazine called “a swag highlight,” the “Twitten”—the silly, goofy, FUN and warm two-handed mitten for couples to hold hands inside

And finally, everywhere at the Galaxy Tab Lift, guests could sample IZZE Sparkling Juice  Kim at the Stella Café originated a spectacular new recipe for IZZE for the Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Awards, the IZZE Spotlight, consisting of IZZE Clementine, Patron Citronge, and POM.  Delicious!

Wine was nowhere to be found.  Turning Leaf, a former Festival sponsor, left the fold several years back and last year’s sponsor, David Johndrow sat this year out so no sponsored plonk plied Festival guests.  One friend at the Spotlight Awards lamented, “Oh, if I could JUST have something that wasn’t served cold or over ice!”

I DID have a very nice glass or two or three of Nicolas Feuilatte’s NV Brut Reserve Particulaires champagne at Livestyle’s supper club dinners   I have always felt Nicolas Feuilatte was an underrated champagne house.  I think this is a superb champagne, fruity, light on the tongue, with a hint of not-unpleasant pear-like sweetness.  I like toasty, yeasty champagne but this had a supple quality I’d associate more with a rose. Long ago, when Details Magazine was printed on pulp paper and still had Steve Saban’s column in it, they had a very cool ad campaign called “Sips and Spills” that was the among the first branded editorial—actual editorial of their parties in the magazine that looked just like regular editorial. I wrote one of them once.

Meanwhile, up at the RealTVFilms Social Media Lodge,, guests eagerly consumed Root and Snap, two extraordinary new liqueurs actually concocted by a Pennsylvania advertising agency called Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.  Both certified organic, Root derives from Root Tea, a colonial-era spirit.  It precedes the invention of Root Beer—an alcohol-free variant developed during the Temperance movement of the late 1800’s.   While incredibly fun, complex and mixable, most of the guests at ReaTVFIlm’s four Lodge parties—one each for the Jewlicious pre-Shabbat reception, Scenechronize, IndieGogo and Technicolor—drank Root and its ginger and molasses-distilled cousin Snap, straight.  The also gobbled up everything else in the house–from Popchips, Pirate’s Booty and Pretzel Crisps to Mighty Leaf Tea, IZZE, Stella and Hoegarden beer.


2 responses to “Beer, Bags and Brushing Elbows with Filmmakers: Sundance 2011

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