Two Days At Sundance (and last day for necklace giveaway:)

I first met Scott Kraus shortly after I published my first novel. He was working as a journalist for a newspaper in Jamestown, North Dakota near where I grew up and came to the bookstore to interview me.  For years after that, he would show up when I signed there, allowing me to feel important for whole minutes at a time while we laughed about the book industry, people, and the world at large. Currently, he works for the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, Idaho where he makes me green with envy when he talks about doing cool assignments like visiting the Sundance Film Festival. Please welcome Scott Kraus.

Two Days At Sundance

Where can you see a comic books legend, then get into a women-in-film gathering (with a VIP pass no less) and finish by talking to a street singer who once Rollerbladed from New York to Miami?

And that’s just in two days at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The indie films showcase, which ran from Jan.19-29, collects a huge array of film industry folks, musicians, celebrity watchers and movie buffs. It’s a prime location for anyone who seeks an eclectic experience. (Or seeks a good reason to use the word “eclectic.”)

My first day started with Stan Lee, the groundbreaking comic books writer who co-created Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men and other characters. The still vigorous 89-year-old cracked jokes nearly non-stop for the crowd during a session to highlight the documentary – “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” – done on his life and career. (This film, however, was officially part of Slamdance, a smaller festival held at the same time as Sundance.)

In between quips, Lee offered bon mots on plot and characters. He said he has trouble naming a favorite character. But possibly the Silver Surfer has a bit of an edge because he offered Lee a chance to speak to humankind’s sometimes self-destructive nature. (Which may explain my attraction to large bags of potato chips).

Then I went across the street, plunked onto a couch in the Sundance Channel lounge and started talking to the other person on the couch, who just happened to have the ability to get me into the “Women in Film in Park City” luncheon, just down the street. It’s a function of the Women in Film group of Los Angeles, which works to further opportunities for women in the industry. That’s according to a woman I met after I got in, Christina Kotlar of the Women in Film and Television International group, which is an umbrella organization for chapters in L.A. and other cities.

A new report had provided mixed news for women who work behind the scenes in movies. Females comprised 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors for the top 250 grossing U.S. films in 2011. That’s 2 percentage points more than in 2010 and 1 percentage point more than in 1998, said “The Celluloid Ceiling,” a report by professor Martha Lauzen at San Diego State University.

On the other hand, (and isn’t there always the other hand?) that’s still just 1 percentage point more than in 1998, which is 13 years ago.

An attendee also spoke about the first female film director, Alice Guy-Blache. Guy-Blache created her first film in 1896, was the first to use narrative storylines in film, experimented with split-screens and special effects, was the first to put African-American actors in films and made hundreds of movies, Kotlar said.

But have you ever heard of Guy-Blache? Neither had I. (I’ll leave this space open for your own guess as to why ——).

At any rate, after the meeting ended I walked out and promptly got offered a couple “swag bags” full of free designer stuff. (If you’ve never had a VIP pass before, you should really try one. They’re great). But I politely declined. (How much designer cologne can one guy wear anyway?)

The next day, while standing in line to see a movie with a bunch of film critics, I talked to one  who’d reviewed “Saw V.” (I forget what he said was the first line of his review, I just remember it wasn’t gushingly favorable). At any rate, I mentioned that I saw some slasher flicks in high school and they didn’t really bother me. But now they’re a bit much. “You’ve experienced loss,” he said. Hmm, interesting perspective. Still, I’d rather he’d said that he couldn’t believe that I was already out of high school.

And that night, I got to interview a “busker,” or street singer, named Natalie Gelman, whose background is eclectic. (I told you it’s a good place for those who like “eclectic”).

The 26-year-old musician has a degree in opera singing, but decided she preferred to play guitar and write and sing her own ballads. In fact, she once Roller-bladed more than 1,300 miles from her former home in New York to Miami, stopping periodically to perform. (She was also stopped periodically by the police, who wondered why she was Rollerblading down the highway.)

At any rate, she met her current beau last year while street singing at the Sundance festival, and, as musicians do, wrote a song about it. (“Sundance in Your Eyes.” It’s on YouTube).

She now lives with him in California and is working on a new album. I look forward to it. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Alex Tsimonidis, of Phoenix, who was listening to her sing, said: “We were driving and we heard her – stopped us dead in our tracks.”

That’s Sundance for you.

Scott has graciously agreed to field questions regarding everything you ever wanted to know about the Sundance Film Festival and the most intimate details of his life (I added that last part 🙂 ) so please feel free to chime in. As you can see, he’s got a wickedly delightful sense of humor, looks like he couldn’t possibly have graduated from high school yet :), and has written an ebook on humorous columns, Humorish at

(Today’s commenters will automatically be eligible to win the Valentine’s Day jewelry–winner to be announced later today.)

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31 Responses to Two Days At Sundance (and last day for necklace giveaway:)

  1. Susan Shay says:

    Oh, man! How fun is that! (Envy! Envy!)
    So . . . did you get to chat with Robert Redford? 🙂

    • Scott Kraus says:

      Hey Susan,
      Nope, didn’t get to talk with Bob, as he’s informally known by the officials at Sundance. But last year I did get to the opening news conference he does every year. He covers a lot of ground about indie films in general and answers a lot of questions from journalists. That was fun. Doesn’t really seem like he’s in his 70s.
      Afterward, I talked to two guys who traveled all over the world to make a film on the impacts of global warming. (One scene really got me when they talked to a Muslim woman with big expressive eyes whose baby was ripped out of her arms and lost in a raging flash flood. And they said they too had to stop filming for about 10 minutes to regain their composure).
      At any rate, these filmmakers talked to Redford at an event he holds for the filmmakers. And he said their film, which brings attention to key issues, was one of the big purposes of Sundance.
      (Sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I work pretty late, so this is like the crack of dawn for me anymore.)

      • Susan Shay says:

        Sounds like he’s an interesting guy. I’d probably enjoy a one-on-one chat with ‘Bob’ even more, but that would be better than nothing. 🙂
        Thanks for taking us along with you. It’s as close as I’ll ever get.

  2. loisgreiman says:

    Yeah, Scott, tell us some Redford stories. He’s my personal hero. (Feel free to fictionalize here. 🙂

  3. Ellie says:

    What an amazing experience. Sundance sounds incredible and fascinating. What characters and lives.

  4. loisgreiman says:

    Don’t you love the pic of Natalie. She is just belting out that song

  5. Quilt Lady says:

    Oh sounds like such fun would have love to been there.

    • Scott Kraus says:

      It is a lot of fun. Kind of overwhelming actually. There’s so much to do you can’t hardly take in but a fraction of it in one visit. The event is definitely open to anyone who wants to go. The first couple years I just went for fun and didn’t get a press pass. You basically hop on buses, which run free practically around the clock, and ride to one of a bunch of theaters where they show films. (They provide film guides and times) Then you either buy a ticket from someone who has an extra and is selling it, or get on the “wait list.” But usually you get in. I’ve only not gotten in to one film I wanted to see. And you meet lots of interesting folks on the buses – people from all over, movie producers, movie critics and the like. I once talked to a movie reviewer for Entertainment Weekly when I by chance sat next to him at the sushi restaurant. I mentioned how much I liked a review of the original “Toy Story” and didn’t realize he wrote it. That was interesting. And there are lots of live bands everywhere you turn. Pretty fun. (But I stay in a Motel 6 near Salt Lake City for $45 a night, rather than stay nearer Park City for $300 a night.)

  6. Welcome, Scott!
    What a terrific post. I’ve always loved Redford for a long list of reasons. Attending the Sundance Film Festival is high on my bucket list.

    Guys and gals, slide over to YouTube and listen to Natalie’s Sundance song. What a sweet voice. Love her headgear in that video!

    But wait a minute, Scott. You turned down free stuff? Must be a guy thing.

    • Scott Kraus says:

      Hey Kathleen,
      With my luck I would get a bunch of designer cologne. (I just looked up the definition. It’s “perfumed toilet water.” That would definitely be my luck for you.).

  7. loisgreiman says:

    Is Sundance open to the public? Maybe Scott can get us all in. 🙂

    • Scott Kraus says:

      Hey Lois,
      More than 50,000 typically attend every year. (Park’s City’s population is about 8,000). It’s generally most crowded during the first week of the two-week run. Sidewalks are packed and you have to go on the street sometimes to get around logjams. (And the main drag slopes up steeply and the elevation is above 7,000 feet. So you may start to notice it on long walks.) Fortunately there’re lots of interesting shops where you can stop and rest. Er, look around. For instance, a photographer with a store there uses a really old camera to shoot huge photos of the desert Southwest with neon colors that will make you go “wow.” At any rate, the first week is generally when most of the big names and producers and whatnot are there. The second week is usually more relaxed with fewer people. It’s easier to get into the movies. Also, parking rates drop from $20 to $10 a day. And you’ll want to get a paid parking spot, for sure during the first week. Traffic is bad and parking’s at a premium. (One year I bypassed my usual parking garage, only to spend about two hours in heavy traffic looking for a spot elsewhere. Just when I was about to get one, someone else would snag it. It was fun). So I now always park at the China Bridge parking garage, which is right off the main drag. It always has a spot. (No quid pro quo was involved in this endorsement).

  8. Autumnwind says:

    How fun! Sundance sounds amazing and I would love to meet Stan Lee.

    • Scott Kraus says:

      Stan Lee is hilarious. He cracked jokes practically nonstop, with a few more serious observations. He kept everyone there in stitches. The biographical film about him is interesting. At one point he almost quit comics when the ratings system got stifling. But his wife, who also seems like one of kind, talked him into taking one more crack at it and writing them like he wanted. I later talked to a special effects/makeup artist at the session who’s a big fan of Lee. She managed to catch up with him later between his events. She said he stopped to sign a small poster of the film for her even though the scheduler he was with didn’t want to take the time. Pretty nice.

  9. leannebanks says:

    Welcome Scott! I googled Sundance In Your Eyes. Natalie has a great voice! I hope someone will make her music available to all of us!:) Were you personally star struck by anyone you met? It sounds like a fascinating event!

    • Scott Kraus says:

      Natalie’s fun to listen to. She always draws a crowd when she sings. She says she really tries to put her heart into her songs.
      Also, I don’t know as I’ve ever been star-struck per se. You get to meet lots of interesting folks in journalism. (From a 104-year-old woman who remembers when all the church services in her North Dakota town were in German to movie actors.) But it was fun to briefly interview Eva Green (Bond’s love interest in “Casino Royale”) at a “red carpet” event for an indie movie she was in at Sundance last year. Earlier I’d talked to a female movie magazine editor who’d interviewed Green. The editor said she was thinking to herself, “My God, this is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” At the same time, Green says in her IMDb listing that she doesn’t like it when people say she’s beautiful. It makes her feel shallow and she wants to be taken seriously, if you can imagine. She most recently played Morgan le Fay in “Camelot.”

  10. Cindy Gerard says:

    Welcome Scott. thanks for riding along today. Sundance sounds amazing. A lot of fun, a little intimidating, a whole bunch of rubber necking :o) I so admire people who just indulge in their creative urges and attend events like this. I want to go. I’m with Lois. Can you get us there? LOL
    And what are the chances of attending and pitching a book to a producer to garner interest for a movie option? Hey … a girl can dream, right?

    • Scott Kraus says:

      There are certainly a lot of Hollywood types there looking for films. I suppose it doesn’t hurt to shoot the breeze.

    • Can I come too, Scott? I live in Florida but wouldn’t mind a little snow in my eyes…for a little while. Also Lois, Cindy and I shared a hotel room in San Francisco once and no one got hurt, no police were called and all had good bathroom habits. But back to your post – during an interview have you ever asked, “What one question have you never been asked that you’d like to hear? And what would your answer be?”

      • Scott Kraus says:

        I tried a real similar question once, actually. But it’s sort of hit and miss. I think it’s hard to find questions they haven’t, at some point, already been asked. At least, not after as many interviews as they do during Sundance. And as far as the snow, it doesn’t just get in your eyes. During that one day of heavy snow , it fell so fast and was so wet it actually piled atop people’s heads as they walked along the sidewalk. That presented drawbacks. One actress was all dolled up for an event and was using an umbrella to keep the snow off while she waited in line. But she slipped or something, and all the snow piled atop the umbrella fell on her. Ouch. But she was a pretty good sport about it.

  11. catslady says:

    I would love to have seen Robert (Bob) lol. All in all was it very expensive? Did you see any other stars. What was the weather like lol. Any great places to eat? Inquiring minds want to know lol.

    • Scott Kraus says:

      It’s not very expensive if you stay in the Motel 6 at Salt Lake City. That’s the biggest cost. Movie tickets are like $15 each. But the restaurants and music is pretty reasonable.


    • Scott Kraus says:

      I should probably also mention, the weather can get real snowy. One day I was there I twice cleaned off my car. And each time it had about 6 inches of snow on it. Then I had to drive the 30 miles to Salt Lake on icy roads in stop and go traffic on the interstate. Took about two hours. So that’s the one drawback to staying in Salt Lake.

  12. loisgreiman says:

    How long does the entire festival last?

  13. Kylie Brant says:

    Welcome, Scott! Your job makes me wonder yet again what i was doing on Career Day in school!

    • Scott Kraus says:

      Thanks. It’s interesting. If a person could get interesting and lucrative, that would be ideal. But I’m happy with interesting.

  14. loisgreiman says:

    Scott, I love your humor columns.
    Riders, you should grab his ‘humorish’ book. It’s a chuckle a line and only $2.99. (And that rhymes.) You can’t buy a bag of potato chips for that. Can you, Scott?

  15. Scott Kraus says:

    Well, you can. But you have to know where to look. Not that I’m saying I’ve done a lot of scouting.

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