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An Insider’s View: Reflecting on the Best Events and Parties at Sundance

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10 days of frenzied premieres, 46,000 people, 117 films and 400 parties, just concluded in the snow-capped town of Park City. The winners have been announced, but lets take a look at some of the winning events.

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ChefDance definitely tops my list. The themed dinner parties started in 2004. Founder Kenny Griswold and wife Mimi Kim, have been very involved since inception. Several courses were prepared over five nights, including seven chefs, all in one kitchen. Specialty cocktails were crafted and paired for each night’s menu by El Tesoro Tequila and SUJA Juice. This year, United Airlines graciously flew in all of the Chefs who participated.

On “Day 2” of Chefdance, the cast of the festival’s film “War Story,” came together to dine and celebrated their film with food prepared by Chef Angelo Sosa (Bravo’s “Top Chef All Stars”) and Chef Kevin Sbraga (Bravo’s “Top Chef” Winner). Celebrity guests including Joe Mangianello and Katherine Keener, who enjoyed the four-course formal dinner. Founder Mimi Kim, celebrated a milestone birthday on night two and drinks were clinking hard. Wrapping up the evening, Ryan Innes from NBC’s The Voice, sang a live rendition of “Hallelujah.”

Other film stars that attended throughout the 5 evenings were Kristen Stewart, Adrian Grenier, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Elijah Wood, Elisabeth Moss, Anna Kendrick, Morgan Saylor, Noah Silver, among others.

The annual MPIC Celebrity Poker Tournament was presented by Ketel One Vodka at Sundance Headquarters. Sixty guests played poker while the other 350 mingled over cocktails dancing to the tunes of DJ Eric Sharp. Other sponsors included LaMiss, Inc. and Peerless Group with prizes from Samsung, Beats, Ketel One and Tumi.

Village at the Lift wrapped its 12th successful weekend at the film festival in Park City with various activations. Breakfast and lunch were offered at the Stella Artois Café featuring the chefs and cuisine from popular Los Angeles restaurant, Animal. The WireImage Portrait Studio, sponsored by McCafé, served guests warm freshly brewed signature blend coffee and espresso-based beverages. The CNN Films Lounge was the network’s home base for the weekend conducting interviews and broadcasting live from the venue. The Los Angeles Times held on-camera interviews and portraits in their space presented by Columbia, while Sabra Grab n’ Go Café treated guests to convenient snacks and assorted dips and chips.

The infamous TAO Group returned to recreate an underground club, with an impossible line every night, including special performances / appearances by Rick Ross, Lil Jon, Jonny Lennon, DJ Sinatra, Jesse Marco, Theory, Julian Calvin, DJ Vice and DJ Politik.

Speaking of nightlife, the Grey Goose Blue Door had the best location located in the center of Park City on Main Street, decorated in a bespoke theme especially created to fit the venue. For the third year the Grey Goose Blue Door has played host to the Festival’s top film casts and served as one of its prime hubs, holding press junkets and welcoming the In Style Photo Studio for the last two Festivals. The cocktail parties supporting select films, swelled to capacity nearly every night in the two-story space, filled with celebrities and some of the most interesting people out at Sundance.

Celebrated master mixologists created unique specialty cocktails in honor of the films. The vodka infused warm apple cider upon was a warm welcome in the cold weather. Bespoke cocktails such as the Cherry Noir Rudderless Ale and the Cherry Noir Song Spice were also amazing. I couldn’t believe my eyes when suddenly I was engaging in a conversation of Ann Hathaway “Song One” and her husband. All seven evenings at this cozy lounge were special and unique. A-list celebrity guests included Selena Gomez, Luke Wilson, Billy Crudup, Glenn Close, Anthony Keidis, Ryan Reynolds, Kate Hudson, Felicity Huffman and more.

Lindsay Lohan surprised the media on Monday afternoon, with a press gathering at The Social Film Loft, announcing that she will star in a new indie film in the making called “Inconceivable.” The psychological thriller will be produced/financed by Randall Emmett and George Furla, of Oasis Films. The 6MM film will be distributed by Grindstone/Lionsgate Films.

Lohan portrays the lead, Katie, a young woman on a journey to reclaim something that she's lost. This marks Lohan's highly anticipated return to the big screen. Lohan sourced the script and is acting as Producer on the film. Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb will executive produce. More casting news will be announced later this month. Lindsay looked healthy, radiant and loved her long red locks.

Later that evening at the Social Film Loft, hosted by SoundCity and House of Minerva, several live bands took the stage, with Silent Sleep headlining, in from the UK. Treats were served from the local Butcher’s Bunches with handmade Sangria and Tequila Sunrises. The laid back vibe made for a great start to the evening.

The best “chameleon” of a venue was Rock n’ Reilly’s. One evening the venue was transformed into an Italian Soccer Pub for the occasion - a chic and elegant dinner party. Globetrotting industrialist Lapo Elkann, the Fiat heir and Agnelli scion, played host along with NYC based filmmakers Marco & Mauro La Villa in honor of their documentary “Black and White Stripes: The Juventus Story”, a feature film that will make its debut this year about the famed soccer team from Turin that Elkann’s family has owned and supported for close to a century.

Guests like artist Tom Sachs, Elkann’s sister Ginevra, Relativity Media exec Joshua Pollack, and nightlife queen Amy Sacco (who also hosted Bungalow 8 World over the weekend) dined on burrata & beet salad, lamb chops, and grilled fish with quinoa while viewing behind-the-scenes video and a never-before–seen trailer for the film.

The following evening, It was a night of stars, sushi and sake as The Light Group, LORE Group and celebrity Chef Akira Back (a former snowboarder) presented a decadent sneak preview tasting of Yellowtail Sunset Strip at Rock & Reilly's which is set to open in LA early summer. The star-studded event was hosted by Geoff Stults and actress Krysten Ritter. The menu of signature dishes included big eye tuna pizza, lobster carpaccio, yuzu salmon, braised kobe beef short ribs and baked crab hand rolls in camo.

Even YouTube had a presence during the festival, featuring the official Sundance Film Festival Daily Live Show, DJ sets, panels and morning yoga. The abundance of film, music, arts and media, not to mention the skiing makes Sundance one of the best festivals of the year and worth a return.

This article is also available at Janine Just's blog in New York: http://janinejust.com/2014/01/30/an-insiders-view-reflecting-on-the-best...

Nichole Wright is a Celebrity and Corporate Event Producer based in Los Angeles, but New Yorker by heart. She also writes and photographs for various media outlets, including the LA Examiner, New York Woman Around Town and Guest of a Guest. Read more on her Blog at: http://www.yourbonvivant.com.

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