This year’s Sundance Film Festival
ends Sunday — but for the powerful Creative Artists Agency, it may not be soon enough.
Amid a crowded slate of brand activities in Park City, Utah, CAA threw a party that the venerable film festival will not likely soon forget, featuring
“lingerie-clad women pretending to snort prop cocaine, erotic dancers outfitted with sex toys and an "Alice in Wonderland" look-alike performing a simulated sex act on a man in a rabbit costume,” the Los Angeles Times
"I said to my agent, 'Is this how you want to brand yourself? Pole dancers? Really?'" Oscar-nominated writer-director Naomi Foner, who was at the festival with the film "Very Good Girls," told the newspaper.
Performers at the Sunday night bash were part of Act LV, a Las Vegas troupe hired by the Mint Agency, CAA's party planner. Jordan Fogle, chief executive of the Mint Agency, said the "slutty, trashy image" was "the antithesis" of what CAA stood for as a brand and said its executives were "a little bit concerned."
CAA's client roster includes A-listers Will Smith, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg, and counts Coca-Cola and Mattel among its corporate clients. In a statement, it called the performance "more explicit than intended" and said it regretted "if this created an uncomfortable setting for any of our guests."
Meanwhile Sundance, known as the United States' preeminent showcase of independent film, put on a more upscale, high-end face on its own offerings this year. In 2012, founder Robert Redford said the festival was for the “99 percenters.” But if you purchased a ticket for a screening at this year's festival, you could be seen as a “one percenter.”
A top-tier, $3,000 All Access package, which sold out, requires holders to arrive at theaters at least 30 minutes prior to start time to exercise their priority, and be seated 15 minutes prior to guarantee their seats. Fine print on Sundance’s website states that “quantities are limited” and that they “do not guarantee ticket availability for any participants.”
“It is perhaps a reaction to the financial pressures, and the need to maintain sponsorship at a high level," Mark Joseph, an independent movie producer, told Fox News. "But they should remember their independent spirit and balance the needs of individuals versus corporations.”
Dan Gainor, VP of the Media Research Center, told Fox News that "there is no doubt that the big names of the cinema rule the show” at the festival. “Celebrity visits, movie sessions and star-watching dominate the program. It is still indie, but it has become part of the Hollywood establishment."
While CAA dealt with its own off-brand catastrophe, other brands were present and behaving themselves.
Third-time Sundance sponsor Acura hosted its “Studio Master Class Series,” featuring five days panels of industry insiders, filmmakers and rising stars. The series showcased vehicle displays of the high-performance NSX Concept and the 2014 RLX, Acura’s all-new luxury flagship sedan.
“Sundance is a great opportunity for film lovers to become immersed in the Acura brand experience, while celebrating the achievements of visionary filmmakers and independent film,” said Gary Robinson, Manager of Acura Advertising and Brand in a release
As for high-end accommodations while in Park City, The Resorts West House of Luxury “might represent the ne plus ultra of the current trend,” the L.A. Times said.
“Renting for $16,500 a night (one-week minimum stay required), the nearly 14,000-foot residence features six bedrooms, 10 baths, 15 fireplaces, two wine cellars, a spiral staircase made from African mahogany, a “Chill Room” with a DJ booth and dance floor and a heated garage equipped with a car wash bay and dog spa.”
“We’re not giving away bags of swag,” said Bradford Rand, president of Rand Luxury and the venue's organizer. “It’s about the experience, not the cheesy gifting suites where you walk out with bags of garbage. It is a luxury retreat.”
Also offered at the venue: test drives of the Rolls-Royce $300,000 Ghost, demos of the $6,000 Lunar camera by Hasselblad, tastings of the 100-point 2008 La Muse from Vérité Wines ($450 a bottle), ski demos on Zai Skis with Zeal Optics' GPS-enabled goggles or a spa treatment at the TIGI Hair Lounge.
“It’s brand awareness, brand exposure and the right audience,” Rand said. “It’s not wannabe celebrities who go from gifting suite to gifting suite to get a bunch of free stuff.”