As Sundance Film Festival attendees walk Main Street in Park City, Utah, familiar brands to the entertainment industry—YouTube, The Hollywood Reporter, WME | IMG and more—reside in temporary homes between quaint homeware stores and snow sport shops. One pop-up venue in particular played host to everything from powerful programming to late-night soirées—affirming its commitment to the annual event. Here, at the Stella Artois Filmmaker Lounge, a charitable organize held the spotlight, women in film were given a platform to speak and independent films found a home to celebrate the start of their success. As snow fell uninterrupted during Sundance’s first weekend, the Mosaic-designed venue became a cozy hideaway with coffee, beer and couches a plenty. Below, we touch upon some of the programming and speak with Arielle Swanson of Mosaic to best understand how they built out Stella’s home, knowing that the brand had been partnering with the festival for over a decade.
It’s important to mention that, unlike cultural events like Art Basel or SXSW, Sundance creates a more authentic sensation even when brands are involved. Even when the mission is brand reinforcement, there’s something more: in this instance, charity. Mosaic has been working with the Stella for over a decade. Finding a space in the small patch of central Main Street always becomes the first step. Swanson tells us, “The great part about Sundance, really, is that you get to make it your own. Having eyes for the brand, we looked at several venues—probably over 30—to make sure we were in a space that allowed us to do what we needed to do. On any other day, this is Elegante Interiors, where you can buy bed-frames, knick-knacks and decor—but it had that industrial, beautiful, studio-esque vibe that we wanted to bring to life.” There is plenty of competition for space on Main Street but the Institute helps guide people starting back in May or June. Inside, she asks: “Does the space measure up to all the engagements we want our consumers to enjoy.” From a virtual reality set-up to panels and brunches, decor needed to match everything. Regarding the metal tables, seating nooks and even the cafe, the items within are “a mix-and-match from what we want to custom fabricate and what we want to bring in for the weekend only.”
A main touchpoint of Stella’s involvement at Sundance hinges on their partnership with Gary White and Matt Damon’s Water.org. Through their “Buy A Lady A Drink” campaign, every Stella Artois chalice sold translates to five years of clean drinking water for someone in a developing nation. With Damon and White on the premises to address advancements, the venue reflected this dialogue. “This year is the first year we’ve ever been able to sell chalices directly on site,” Swanson continues. “You help the cause. You walk away with a chalice. That one-to-one personal connection is definitely intensified this year. We wanted to make a statement this year at Sundance and I think we’ve been able to do that.” It’s necessary to mention that Stella expanded their charitable mission this year—with every six- or 12-bottle pack of Stella sold translating to six or 12 months of clean water for a person, and every pint or bottle of beer sold in bars and restaurants providing one month of clean water for one person.
One of Sundance’s opening weekend standouts happens to be Stella’s “Women in Film” panel, before which the space shifted into a lounge-like amphitheater arrangement. The event addressed five female success stories within a male-dominated industry, but also the insights the filmmakers shared touched on extended far beyond gender imbalance. “The Wolfpack” director Crystal Moselle (who was commissioned by Stella to make a documentary on the world water crisis), Cathy Shulman (President of the Board of Directors of Women in Film), Daniela Lundberg (Producer of “Beasts of No Nation”, and this year’s Sundance film “Patti Cakes”), Rachel Shane (Producer of Oscar nominated “Hell or High Water”) and Christine Vachon (Producer of “Boy’s Don’t Cry,” “Still Alice” and “Carol”) addressed everything from project format versus platform in the age of Netflix and Amazon to the notion of “eventized films” being more than just superhero movies. This wasn’t a conversation just aimed at plucking up some of the females in the business, its goal was to enlighten guests on movements in film and the power of a commercially viable project with teeth.
Living in the age of social media, there are many moments to the space beyond the faces of those in attendance. “Honestly, when we fabricate that’s something we are thinking about from the start—from what we display on the screens to how we display our branding in both subtle and premium ways,” says Swanson. She believes that chalice shop, by far, represents their most important moment. “Not only for the ‘Buy a Lady a Drink’ cause but also just amplifying our designs and artwork.” Everything is in the details. “From our laser-cut coasters with the eight-point star to lighting fixtures, it might not say Stella Artois but the angles and shapes we are bringing in—and the color palette and premium materials—make you want to capture its spirit.” Sundance has managed to defy brand over-saturation for years and destinations like the Stella Artois Filmmaker Lounge excel by focusing on film first.
Images courtesy of Getty