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Ankler Hot Seat: The Paris Hilton Era of Sundance

Ankler Hot Seat: The Paris Hilton Era of Sundance

Swag, brands and celebrity photo-ops overran independent film in the aughts
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Welcome to another episode in The Ankler Hot Seat’s special Sundance series. Please follow us at Apple Podcasts and on Twitter.

This episode we revisit that moment in the early 00’s when Sundance lost its mind; when the glitz and luxury around it exploded out of the box and the festival became the most unlikely showplace for Hollywood excess, with independent filmmaking almost getting drowned out in the hoopla.

This is the episode Robert Redford doesn’t want you to hear, as we look back at the phenomenon that Sundance does not want to be known for, but, like it or not, for better or worse, is an important part of the festival’s history.

When Sundance became the world’s premiere launching pad for independent filmmaking, it drew in not just small-town dreamers with a story to tell, but major stars looking for more serious awards-bait acting opportunities. And where the stars go the hype machine will soon follow, in this case bringing with it the entire array of VIP lounges, swag suites and paparazzi stops that soon had Park City’s bucolic old-west themed Main Street looking like the Cahuenga Strip on a Friday night.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The contradiction between a festival acknowledging small intimate low budget film and the Hollywood hype machine was something the festival always tried to hold an uneasy line on, but at some point in the early aughts, the line collapsed and the swag, the reality stars, and the famous-for-being-famous poured in and seemed to bury everything.


Our panel today were all at Sundance during this time of excess and looks back on how it happened, what it was like, and where it went all went.

Joining Hot Seat hosts Richard Rushfield and Ankler Editor at Large Tatiana Siegel is special guest from New York Magazine, veteran Sundance reporter Chris Lee.

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