Alpine Yurt Dinners, Anyone? Sundance Veterans Reveal How to Survive That Hectic First Weekend in Park City

7:15 AM 1/25/2019

by Sharon Swart

While carving out downtime is rare for those who are actually working during the festival, some pros have perfected the art of disappearing long enough to recharge before heading back into the fray. Execs, dealmakers and filmmakers reveal their favorite off-the-beaten-path spots (a cemetery? a Viking yurt?) to escape the madness.

Courtesy of Subject; Courtesy of VXLA/Flickr Creative Commons; Natalie Cass/Getty; Courtesy of Subject/Estabrook Photography

  • A Pilgrimage to the Mecca of Mole

    VXLA/Flickr Creative Commons

    New York-based attorney Victoria Cook, who has more than a half-dozen clients with films at Sundance this year (including the Steve Bannon doc The Brink), says she tries to work in a pilgrimage to The Red Iguana (736 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City) near Salt Lake City airport, for "the best mole." Cook first heard about the spot through insiders at the festival, and now says you'll see other biz folk at the establishment. "The food is super legit, like you are in Texas or California," she says. Cook usually orders vegetarian and goes with "the spiciest mole." Neon founder-CEO Tom Quinn calls Red Iguana his "favorite Mexican meal all year long." When he and his co-workers "have to trek out to Salt Lake for an evening screening," they try to stop in for the "kickass moles" — six different kinds.

  • Graveyard Shift

    Google Maps Screen Shot

    For some, a walk in a nearby quiet zone is a way to reset between screenings. Fox Searchlight chairman Nancy Utley likes it dead quiet. "This may sound weird," says Utley, who is one of the most high-profile film buyers at Sundance, "but I like to take a few moments to sneak off to Park City Cemetery. It's on Kearns Boulevard not far from the Eccles Theater and the graves date back to the 1800s. I like to take a moment to think about how Park City was when it was a horse-and-buggy mining town, to breathe a little and regain some perspective."

  • Blow Off Some Steam — Literally

    EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

    Josh Braun, whose sales shop Submarine has eight documentaries on its Sundance slate this year, says that when the pressure mounts he heads to the Homestead Crater (700 Homestead Drive, Midway), about a 30-minute drive from Park City. In addition to a hot spring, visitors can enjoy snorkeling, paddle yoga and even scuba diving. "A quick trip to the volcanic crater in Midway is a great way to clear your head," says Braun, who admits he avoids the crater's warm waters. "I use the time to stare into the sky."

  • Yurt in for a Treat

    Courtesy Photo/Estabrook Photography

    Tom Quinn, whose Neon has Apollo 11 and Biggest Little Farm at Sundance this year, also will take his team "way up into the back hills of Park City, only accessible by a snowcat," to a yurt, for a "Norwegian-inspired Viking dinner, shot-skis and live piano," he says. The yurt is located at 8,700 feet and seats some 40 guests a night for a six-course dinner (pricing at around $250 a head, without booze). "We've done team dinners there throughout the years," Quinn says. "Truly one of the more unique experiences at Sundance."

  • A Great Place to Let Your Hair Down

    Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

    Producer Effie Brown, who has had seven films at Sundance over the years (including Dear White People), says her preferred hideaway is Blackhouse (804 Main St.). "It's a great place to let your hair down," she says, noting that Blackhouse, established at Sundance in 2007 for filmmakers of color to congregate, "has since blown up." This year, OWN is the venue's main sponsor, and Michael B. Jordan and Moonlight writer Tarell Alvin McCraney are among those participating in conversations Jan. 25 to Jan. 28. "Ten years ago there were maybe a few of us around," she says. "Now, it's beautiful — us vets get to look across the room at the new generation coming out of the cold."

  • One for the Books

    Courtesy of Subject

    Producer Christine Vachon's secret escape spot is Dolly's Books & Gifts (510 Main St.). She became a Dolly's habitué after doing a book signing there in 1999 for her tome Shooting to Kill. "Bookstores are always a refuge," she says from the set of Todd Haynes' new film Dry Run in Cincinnati. "Now if someone cancels a meeting on Main Street, I'm always secretly thrilled because I can duck in there instead."

  • Temple and Tacos

    Natalie Cass/Getty; Google Maps Screen Shot

    Matt Brodlie, Netflix's co-head of indie film, says his escape plan actually involves more screenings — and some bad Mexican food. "I go to the Temple Theatre (a converted synagogue about 4 miles from downtown Park City; 3700 N. Brookside Court) because they show a lot of documentaries," he says. "It's no-pressure viewing for me because my department doesn't buy docs." In addition to being quiet and having a snack bar, it comes with one other distinct benefit for Brodlie: "I can tell my parents I went to temple." When his acquisitions team is between screenings, they always end up at El Chubasco (1890 Bonanza Drive), a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall. "It's fairly crappy Mexican food, but you feel like you got out of Park City for a little while." Despite the lack of glamour, the spot has become popular among the acquisition teams at other companies as well, Brodlie says, adding, "You try to sit far enough away so you can have your own conversation."

    This story first appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.