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Sundance has become part of pop culture

Published January 26, 2012 8:55 pm

Film festival • It's been in "The Simpsons," "South Park," even "One Tree Hill."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Park City • To say that Dylan O'Brien was excited about coming to Sundance this year would be an understatement after watching the 20-year-old star of "The First Time" dancing on the red carpet before his film premiered on Jan. 21.

"This is amazing!" he said. "I can't believe it. All the cool people come here. Yeah, even the Simpsons have been here."

Yes, those Simpsons. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie made their way to Park City — well, an animated Park City — in the 2008 episode "Any Given Sundance."

That episode was filled with film-festival clichés, from the exclusive parties to the penchant for dark films.

"I think everybody knows what Sundance is about," said "Simpsons" executive producer Al Jean. "I don't think jokes in that episode were too inside or anything. We've taken the Simpsons to just about every country in the world, it seems like. We had to take them to Sundance."

You do have to wonder, though, if some of the jokes went over viewers' heads. When the Simpsons arrive, there's a sign proclaiming, "Sundance Film Festival: Where Parker Posey meet Parka-ed Posers."

This year, not only is Posey — the so-called queen of indie films — back in Park City to promote another film, "Price Check," but she's hosting the awards ceremony on Saturday.

"I think a lot of the kids who watch my show know about Sundance," said Victoria Justice, star of the Nickelodeon series "Victorious" and co-star of "The First Time."

"Napoleon Dynamite" co-directors Jared and Jerusha Hess didn't really know what they were getting into when their film premiered at the festival back in 2004.

"We knew about Sundance, of course, but we didn't realize what a big deal it was," Jerusha Hess said. "If you're part of it, you're sort of part of the culture."

Part of pop culture, certainly. And not just in the documentary sense, but in the fictional sense as well. The film festival has been a plot point in several TV series:

• "South Park" — Robert Redford decides to move the festival from Park City to South Park, Colo.

• "Entourage" — Vince's (Adrian Grenier) indie movie premieres at the festival.

• "One Tree Hill" — The gang heads to Utah for the premiere of Julian's (Austin Nichols) film.

In "One Tree Hill," the fictional characters went to a semifictional film festival in nonfiction Utah. The cast and crew filmed in Park City, and it was clearly supposed to be Sundance — but it was called the Wasatch Valley Film Festival. That was a function of time, according to executive producer Mark Schwahn.

"I think the folks at Sundance probably would have worked with us, considering my history," said Schwan, who not only had a film in the festival ("35 Miles from Nowhere" in 1997) but had his first job in the entertainment industry answering phones at the Sundance offices.

"But sometimes we're writing scripts with our hair on fire, so there's not much time to get clearances and all that," Schwan said. "So I was like, 'We'll just fictionalize it and call it something else.' But I think everybody knows what Sundance is. It's so much a part of the industry now. People still call it that Sundance episode."

spierce@sltrib.com; facebook.com/nowsaltlake —

Live from Park City, it's the 2012 Sundance Film Awards Ceremony

I Follow the awards announcements on Twitter with Tribune film critic Sean P. Means @moviecricket. He'll be live tweeting from Park City's Basin Recreation Field House during the 7 p.m. event Saturday, Jan. 28. Parker Posey — who has appeared in more than a dozen Sundance films, including this year's "Price Check," which is screening this year in the out-of-competition Premieres section — is the host. Awards for short films were announced at a separate ceremony on Jan. 24. Check blogs.sltrib.com/sundance for updates.