Another year, another action-packed Sundance Film Festival.
This year's event was littered with big-name music stars (Taylor Swift, Post Malone and Mark Ronson were a few of the Top 40 mainstays involved this year), politicians (hello, Hillary Clinton!) and A-list actors like Mila Kunis, Will Ferrell, Kerry Washington, Anne Hathaway and more, and there were plenty of parties and events where festival goers could spot their recognizable faces.
I returned to Sundance this year, marking my fourth consecutive time attending the film festival in Park City, Utah. Chase Sapphire hosted me during the first weekend, where I experienced the festival through the lens of cardmember, getting access to a slew of exclusive panels and parties at Chase Sapphire on Main, as well as take advantage of the brand's new dining and travel partnerships with DoorDash and Lyft to enhance the experience.
Throughout the weekend, I took note of every event I went to and every celebrity that I saw at those star-studded events. Take a peek at my Sundance 2020 diary below:
This year's festival kicked off with an action-packed Thursday night: If you weren't lucky enough to nab a ticket to the highly-anticipated premiere of Taylor Swift's Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, at Eccles Theater, there was another exclusive event happening on Main Street: Newly-minted Chase Sapphire Creator Mark Ronson introduced an acoustic performance from collaborator and up-and-coming singer, Yebba, at Chase Sapphire on Main just for Chase cardmembers.
Ahead of his introduction, Mark told me that he enjoys working with new talent, as they provide him with the inspiration he needs to continue on two decades into his own career.
"There’s something about working with someone from the beginning. They’re so excited, there’s this unlimited potential of where they can go and, whereas I might become more jaded or experienced, every time you go on a ride with these people on their first record, it’s infectious. I get to constantly get to keep drinking from this musical fountain of youth by working with these young artists," Ronson explained. "There’s always something that’s a little more of a thrill in making something that hits with somebody who has never done it before."
After Yebba's intimate performance, guests headed over to Tao Park City, where Ronson played an hour-long set as part of the Chase Sound Check series. The lively event was also exclusively for cardmembers, and there were a slew of famous faces in the house: Post Malone turned heads in VIP, while Succession actor Nicholas Braun hung out with friends in the crowd.
On Friday morning, the hottest ticket in town was still Miss Americana, which held two morning-after screenings at 9 a.m., one of which I was able to attend: The Netflix documentary is a must-watch for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of Swift's personal journey to political wokeness, as well as why she shied away from public view for several years. Following the screening, director Lana Wilson and the film's (all-female!) producers took the stage to answer some questions from the audience.
One of the best moments of #MissAmericana is when Taylor is running through double-standards put on women and then she instinctively apologizes.
Sarcastically, she says: “Am I being too loud in my house, that I bought, with my money, from the songs that I wrote, about my life?”
— Gibson Johns (@gibsonoma) January 24, 2020
Right before Taylor Swift posts the all-important Instagram post where she breaks her political silence in #MissAmericana, her publicist says that “the president could come after you” and Taylor goes, “Yeah, fuck that.”
The crowd at #Sundance2020 then ERUPTED into cheers.
— Gibson Johns (@gibsonoma) January 24, 2020
Next on the agenda was a panel for Worth at Chase Sapphire on Main, featuring the likes of Stanley Tucci, Tate Donovan and Laura Benanti. The film tells the true story of attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Next was a Sundance detour to the High West Distillery with newly-announced Chase travel partner, Lyft, which is now giving Sapphire Reserve cardmembers 10x points every time they use their card for the ride-sharing service, among other benefits.
That evening, I headed back to Main Street for Our Stories to Tell, a three-day popup experience thrown by HBO, TNT and TBS in celebration of the networks' commitment to multicultural storytelling and creators. The Friday night HERstory dinner was honoring Black women conquering the entertainment industry, with the likes of Insecure stars Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, Kerry Washington, Robin Thede and Elaine Welteroth in attendance. Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and Wilmer Valderrama also stopped by the dinner, where they chatted and took selfies with Washington and others.
The rest of the night was about party hopping: First back to Chase Sapphire on Main for the Ironbark premiere party, where I saw Rachel Brosnahan and her husband, Jason Ralph, mingling with the cast and crew of Brosnahan's film; next was the WarnerMedia welcome party, which "Vanderpump Rules" stars Katie Maloney and Lala Kent (and her fiancé, film producer Randall Emmett) were leaving as I walked in before seeing Wilmer Valderrama again, this time hanging out outside with some friends. To cap off the night, I headed back to Tao Park City, where the likes of 13 Reasons Why actor Ross Butler and Post Malone partied as The Hills star Brody Jenner DJ'd for a packed house.
— Gibson Johns (@gibsonoma) January 25, 2020
One final tidbit from Friday night? I had my second "Cousin Greg" from Succession sighting, when I shared an elevator with Nicholas Braun back at my hotel.
I woke up early on Saturday morning to head to the Barry's Park City popup, which offered free classes to Barry's regulars and exclusive merch just for the weekend. Drag queen Shangela was one of the people in that morning's class.
Up next was the Four Good Days panel back at Chase Sapphire on Main, where co-stars Glenn Close and Mila Kunis opened up about their film, in which Close plays a mother tasked with keeping her heroine-addicted daughter (Kunis) sober for four days.
During the panel, Kunis opened up about taking up fewer acting roles since becoming a mother.
"I went for a very long time in my career doing certain kinds of movies and then I had kids and a family and took a minute off," Kunis explained. "I realized that for me to go and do work like this that encompasses your life, it has to be worth leaving your children [for], because I don't see my family [during filming]. My kids are little."
Another highlight of the panel? Glenn Close's epic sweater.
— Gibson Johns (@gibsonoma) January 25, 2020
Between events, a friend and I hit up the Kia Supper Suite, one of the several celebrity gifting suites at the festival. Essentially, top talent from Sundance stop by to get their photos taken with products that they then get to keep, like mou boots and ic! berlin sunglasses. While we were there, Alec Baldwin was also perusing!
While headed up Main Street, we spotted Mila Kunis again, this time swarmed by security, paparazzi and fans as she walked into the Variety Studio at the WarnerMedia Lodge. We also saw Jonathan Bennett, the actor who memorably played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, walking on Main Street with his team.
Back at Chase Sapphire on Main, the latest winner of Bravo's Top Chef, Brooke Williamson, was prepping for a food demonstration for cardmembers and festival goers a like. In front of a live audience, Williamson whipped up fresh biscuits with a lobster broth that smelled and tasted amazing.
After the cooking demo, I chatted with Williamson about taking part in the first weekend's programming.
"I hope it just enhances their experience at the festival and that it's something they remember," she said of the cooking demo. "The whole purpose of Chase Sapphire on Main is to enhance their Sundance experience, and if I can add to that and give people a little more excitement in their day, they I'd say it was a success."
Before heading back to my hotel for a quick pre-evening nap, I stopped by another celebrity gifting suite, Debbie Durkin's EcoLuxe Lounge, where I spotted Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband, Justin Mikita, walking through the space with Laura Benanti. Afterwards, while waiting for my Lyft, I spotted Lena Waithe having an intense conversation on her phone.
Back out for the night, I grabbed a drink at the Shirley premiere party at Chase Sapphire on Main, where Elisabeth Moss was all smiles celebrating her latest film, as was Logan Lerman, who embraced Sundance with his style, rocking a shearling-lined denim jacket perfect for the snowy weather.
For dinner that evening, I attended the second night of ChefDance, where Martha Stewart was honored for being a "legend" in the food world. During the three-course meal cooked by Melissa Perello, guests like Ross Butler and other famous faces listened to back-to-back speeches, including one from Stewart, during which she said, "I don't want to be known as a legend yet, because legends, to me, are gone."
She also managed to get in a zing about President Trump while discussing different generations supporting one another: "Even though Donald Trump is aging, he doesn't realize that, and he doesn't give a hoot about the older generation."
After dinner, we jumped over to the Four Good Days premiere party at Acura Festival Village, where Mila Kunis was unexpectedly joined by her husband, Ashton Kutcher. The A-list couple rarely makes pubic appearances together, so it was nice to see Ashton support his wife during her big night. They were cuddling up in the roped-off VIP area for about 45 minutes before heading out to much fanfare from the rest of the party goers.
That night at Tao Park City, we spotted "Riverdale" actress Camila Mendes getting cozy with a mystery man while obscured at a corner table next to the stage.
On Sunday morning, before heading to a screening of Four Good Days, I had my third Nicholas Braun spotting of the weekend, this time at our hotel's breakfast buffet. I found out that the whole cast of Zola, which he's in, was staying at our hotel, making all of the sightings make a bit more sense.
Cousin Greg from #Succession is staying at my hotel in Park City, and a true highlight of #Sundance2020 has been seeing him roll solo into breakfast every morning. #SuccessionHBOpic.twitter.com/cgKBLGmVjx
— Gibson Johns (@gibsonoma) January 26, 2020
While Four Good Days allows for both Close and Kunis to put their incredible acting abilities on display, the movie itself is far from perfect. That being said, judging by conversations I overheard while leaving Eccles Theater, it definitely sparked some worthwhile conversations around addiction and recovery, which was certainly part of the film's aim.
Ahead of the Palm Springs panel at Chase Sapphire on Main featuring stars Camila Mendes and Andy Samberg, I chatted with Chase executive Matt Nassau, where he explained the different ways that the brand has "elevated the Sundance experience for both cardmembers and the general public."
"This year marks our tenth year at Sundance, and we've done a couple of things: We unveiled our new brand campaign, where we brought our new music supervisor Mark Ronson, which was terrific. He did a Sound Check with Yebba. We also activated in-house with new partners Lyft and DoorDash to talk about the great new benefits across Sapphire. We're happy to be here."
Right as the lively Palm Springs panel wrapped up, the mood in Park City and around the world changed when news of Kobe Bryant's fatal helicopter crash started to make the rounds. While at lunch at the Jon & Vinny's popup inside the WarnerMedia Lodge, it was all anyone was talking about as new details continued to emerge about the unthinkable tragedy.
Stars at the popup included Kerry Washington, Julia Garner, Wilmer Valderrama, Diane Guerrero and Moisés Arias.
After lunch, traffic literally stopped as Hillary Clinton, flanked by security guards and Huma Abedin, made her way into the Variety Studio as passersby took videos and screamed her name. She was at the festival to promote her new Hulu docuseries, Hillary.
That afternoon, I attended the premiere screening of The Nest at Eccles Theater, where star Carrie Coon caused a frenzy with fans as she entered and signed a slew of autographs. After the excellent, slow-burn family drama, Coon took the stage alongside her co-stars, including Jude Law, to discuss the film.
Exhausted from the weekend, I opted to stay back my hotel that evening to watch the 2020 Grammy Awards, get some work done and order some delivery for dinner using DoorDash, another one of Chase Sapphire's exciting new partners. By ordering from DoorDash using my Chase card, I earned 3x points on my purchase. Talk about going out on a high note!