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Limo drivers stay revved about Sundance

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 27 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

A driver who did not wish to be identified opens the door of a limo as fans and photographers press around a star in Park City Monday.

T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

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PARK CITY — Sometimes it may be a CEO. Other times it may be an A-list celebrity.

There are times it's nonstop action and others times it's nothing but sitting … and waiting.

All in a day's work for the drivers of Miderra, the official event and lifestyle management provider for the Sundance Film Festival.

"We work 24 hours a day and operate with over 100 vehicles on the road during Sundance," said Miderra owner Andrew Larson, who talked on the phone during another trip up the canyon.

Planning for Sundance, Larson's seventh and the company's fifth, begins around November. "I do breathe a sigh of relief when it's over, but I breathe a big sigh when it starts — that means the ball is in motion and we're 10 days away."

The non-stop action of the festival, and its participants, keeps the drivers hopping and coming back for more.

"It's not just celebrities, it's corporate," he said, "Fortune 500 companies, everyone is wining and dining and entertaining. Some drivers may never see a celebrity."

"Sure there is favoritism to certain drivers," he said when asked how carefully he makes assignments, "but it's more on a level of professionalism since you never really know who you're going to get.

"They operate with aliases," he added. "Often times a celebrity will book the car under another name and suddenly an A-list celebrity will jump in the back of your car.

"You can tell right off how chatty they'll be," he said. "You may have a private lunch with an A-list celebrity or never speak a word."

But when pressed to spill the beans on who's been naughty and nice, "We're not allowed to say," Larson said. His drivers must all undergo training and sign a non-disclosure statement. "We do share the stories internally and everyone gets a kick out of it," he admitted.

"The drivers do spend a lot of time waiting, but it's a good balance because they get into the different parties and they get to hang out with the people and experience the crazy side, too."

Of course, some of the rich and famous have been behind the wheel of limos at earlier times in their career as well. They include actor Aaron Eckhart and director Neil LaBute, who worked as drivers for the Sundance Film Festival while they were attending Brigham Young University back in the early 1990s.

Both men later made their show business debuts at the 1997 festival, with the darkly comic thriller "In the Company of Men."

Eckhart called the driver experience "valuable fun" and said it was "something to get my foot in the door in the industry."

LaBute recalls being told not to offer any of his manuscripts to filmmakers and actors while he was driving.

"It was hard, because I was also told not to try to further my show-business aspirations. And I was told not to be too chatty. But that was virtually impossible because anyone who's met me knows how chatty I can be," LaBute chuckled.

Larson says that many of his drivers have been invited behind the ropes. "A lot of the celebrities give their swag to the drivers. They get to hang out and hobnob, they're part of the entourage."

But, he points out, sometimes the clients can get too attached. "I've lost people because they've gone on to work for someone full-time. It's exciting."

As for the rest of the year, Larson's company keeps busy with private clients and other corporate events.

But when it comes to Sundance, "we have more workers than we know what to do with," he said. "We have a waiting list of 300 people. Our people plan their whole year around it and take their vacation time from their regular jobs.

"It's a lot of fun seeing things that happen at Sundance with celebrities behaving badly as well as celebrities being ultra-human and ultra-cool and really fun. Everyone has a good time with both sides of that equation."

e-mail: ehansen@desnews.com. Contributing: Jeff Vice

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