The Sundance Film Festival has grown over the past 35 years, in part because of the free gifts given to celebs. Some are even now calling the festival “Swagdance.” The Park City, Utah festival has gifting suites celebs are ushered to and after their picture is taken, they can walk away with thousands of dollars worth of free clothes, food, and electronics. This gifting frenzy has gone on since the ’90s, but has recently started to bother the festival’s founder, Robert Redford. He commented on the free-for-all, saying the festival is “not as much fun,” because of all the celebrity freeloaders. “There are too many people who come to the festival to leverage their own self-interest.” he said. In return for the freebies, hundreds of wealthy stars grant each brand with a low-grade product endorsement. “It’s the typical trade-off, taking a picture in exchange for gifting.” says one p.r. girl who asked not to be named.
“Sundance has grown exponentially, and there are a lot more celebrities coming into town more for the parties and the swag than for the actual films,” confirms Rachel Lafranconi, who works the agency that helps produce Sundance’s suites and parties. This extreme gifting is exactly what is upsetting to many people. “Swagging is a huge part of Sundance, but it’s ironic because the only people getting the really good swag are the celebrities who can already afford it.” (No kidding. The rest of us poor saps have to pay for it!)
“There are some celebrities that are blacklisted,” admits Kari Feinstein, a p.r. maven . “There are a few actors that come up to Sundance that I would say are not high-caliber celebrities, and they literally fly out every year to be gifted, and have not worked on anything for 10 years.” One of the worst offenders is unsurprisingly Paris Hilton. “I’ve seen her at various things,” says Sundance gatekeeper Ryan, who is in charge of the VIP list. “She’s a little tacky on that end. She doesn’t grab one thing. She says, ‘I want six of those, five of those.’ I don’t know where the hell she stores this stuff.”
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