The panels at the Sundance TV Headquarters have a variety of sponsors and the venue is open to the public during the day and hosts private events in the evenings. There is an espresso bar and snacks from various vendors available for consumption all day long as well as the abundance of delicious cold brewed teas by Pure Leaf. It's an enjoyable place to take a break, chill, and hang out before, during or after any of the scheduled events.
I was scheduled to attend an hour-long panel titled "Growing the Story"—which invited directors to have a candid conversation about the process of bringing a story to life, from its inception to the big screen.
I arrive a little early just to hang out, have a coffee and find a comfortable place to sit and drop my heavy backpack. While I was relaxing a nice lady approached me asked if she could sit next to me. Of course, I offered her the free space to land. We began to chit-chat and I found out that I was in the company of a very prestigious tech guru working for one of the big social media groups in California. She was at the festival on assignment representing her company as well as enjoying some down time to take in some of the outdoor sports the local mountains have to offer- skiing and snowboarding. She was such an interesting person to chat with and I felt honored to be in her presence. Much to my surprise she was just as interested in my line of work as a film journalist covering the festival.
Just before the panel was to begin, this lady mentioned that she would be leaving the panel early to catch her flight back to California but had a hard ticket for a film she would not be able to use and asked if I would like to have it. I jumped at the chance to take it and thanked her very much for offering it to me. When I looked at the ticket I was so excited because it was for a film at the largest theater (always harder to get tickets to this venue) and to a film I had tried to secure a ticket for but it was sold out. I felt really special! She was also happy that I could use it due to the expense of the tickets.
The panel sponsored by Pure Leaf Cold Brew Iced Tea began and we listened intently to the host and directors whose films were selected to screen at this year's festival and also garnered a lot of buzz around their projects. One in particular was the director Jerry Rothwell with his film The Reason I Jump based on a book written by Naoki Higashida when he was just thirteen-years-old about non-verbal autistic people. A discovery takes place where their differences, they find what is meaningful to them about who they are and why they act the way they do. Rothwell takes Higashida's insights and follows five remarkable young people to showcase Higashida's core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is not her to say.
Thirty minutes in, this very nice lady motioned to me she'd need to be on her way; we hugged, smiled and waved good-bye as she quietly slipped out toward the entrance. I sat there thinking how fascinating surprise encounters can be when we are simply open to making conversation with people we do not know.