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Sundance sparks entrepreneurial spirit

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Jessica Donovan, left, Mariana Mio and Raha Borhani hand out coconut water on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Spread love, not germs.

That was the message from two people on a transit bus as they handed out bottles of hand sanitizer. A little something to keep the swine flu from spreading throughout the Sundance Film Festival, one of them said.

That was just one item among many the average Joe can get for free on the street here during the annual 10 days of Sundance.

There's also the people who show up each year at this time to rent out local businesses along Main Street to advertise a product or service that has nothing to do with any of the independent films being featured during Sundance.

Festival founder Robert Redford has a name or two for those types of people, who each year crop up to advertise their products and services on Main Street.

Redford calls some of them "ambush marketers."

He lumps others into a group with the Paris Hiltons of the world, the posers (not Redford's word), albeit famous and recognizable, who only detract from the festival's original intent of focusing on independent filmmaking.

These people, the ambush marketers, posers and celebrity gifting suite organizers, are not necessarily doing anything illegal.

They're not necessarily connected to the festival in any way, either, unlike the 18 sponsors who support Sundance Institute and the festival — including official sponsors Honda, bing, YouTube, Brita and Blockbuster.

In fact, that sideshow of people operating on the Sundance periphery is not necessarily even wanted or needed at the festival, according to Redford. In some respects, he'd be glad if they just went away and let the focus be only on film.

"I don't have much regard for that," Redford said. "There's nothing I can do about it. I don't like it … but it's a free country."

But the festival has grown over the years. And Redford appreciates and welcomes the growth.

Sundance is far more popular than it was when Redford signed on in the 1980s. An estimated 40,000 people now attend Sundance screenings and events in Park City and other Utah cities with festival venues.

That many people are bound to attract an entrepreneurial element.

Hand sanitizer manufacturers need to sell their product. Gifting suite organizers want celebrities to be seen with the swag they hand out.

Some places, like The Shop Yoga Studio in Park City, genuinely want to give back during the festival, even thought they're renting out their space. Shop Yoga is an official Sundance provider this year, something that studio owner Sandy Geldhof is proud of. The 6,000 square-foot studio will be the site for an official Sundance party on Wednesday.

Geldhof wishes more businesses would give back in some way to the festival that has given so much to Park City — but she knows some only see dollar signs.

"They're making a lot of money on the festival, too," she said. "And I'd really like to see more of them give back to the (Sundance) Institute."

But it's a free country.

And some companies like SwaggMedia, renting a space on Main Street during the festival, see an opportunity to find a place on an international stage.

In the case of SwaggMedia, spokesman Jason Benavidez said their intent is to use that stage to promote peace, consciousness, acceptance and tolerance through music.

"Although we're here to raise awareness of the company, we're really here for the Music 4 Peace Tour," Benavidez said. "We're launching that because Sundance is a very visible place. We can get immediate attention (at Sundance) that we can't get elsewhere."

For more information on what SwaggMedia is up to during the festival, visit their Web site at www.swaggmedia.com.

e-mail: saspeckman@yahoo.com

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