As Sundance comes roaring back to life with its first in-person festival since 2020, IndieWire once again honored the indie film world’s top actors, artisans, and filmmakers at its annual chili party on Thursday night.
In her opening remarks, IndieWire editor-in-chief Dana Harris-Bridson recalled the humble beginnings of IndieWire’s annual gathering for filmmakers, and expressed delight to see the party continuing to thrive as a more formal endeavor.
“We were the last house party standing in Park City. Everyone was smarter than we were — they stopped much sooner,” Harris-Bridson said. “We had about this many people in your average, ordinary Park City condo with no insurance and no bouncer and I made all the chili. And it was awesome, but it got to be too much and we had to take a hiatus. And I am so thrilled to have the chili party back.”
This year’s party, held at The Cabin and presented by Stanley and SAG-AFTRA, was hosted by actor, comedian, and indie filmmaker Jordan Firstman. Addressing the crowd, Firstman reflected on the role that IndieWire and Sundance played in introducing him to the films that went on to shape his creative worldview.
“IndieWire has shepherded so many eras of indie film, and I think it’s gonna continue to do so,” Firstman said. “That’s why this festival and IndieWire are so important. Because I think there’s this thirst from audiences to see movies that challenge us. And that is really only happening in indie film right now. And as film people, it’s our responsibility to lead the charge.”
SAG-AFTRA executive vice president Ben Whitehair also stressed the importance of creative independence, explaining that the entire acting community benefits when indie film thrives.
“On behalf of SAG-AFTRA, I just want to say how much we love the indie filmmaking community,” Whitehair said. “As an actor, pretty much all of my fellow performers say this is the community we love, who we want to work with. As we know, people around the globe have stories that need to be told, and we want to help tell that.”
A Stanley mug with a spoon on the side is a perfect way to eat chili, as Harris-Bridson noted at the beginning of the party. But that wasn’t the only reason that Stanley was an ideal fit to sponsor the event. In his remarks, Stanley president Terence Reilly took the audience down memory lane as he recalled the many classic films that have featured a Stanley mug.
“Do you remember ‘Better Call Saul’? ‘Seinfeld’? ‘Star Wars?’ Every one of those shows, and hundreds more, have had Stanley in them,” Reilly said. “Liam Neeson himself has snuck a Stanley bottle into a ‘Star Wars’ film. That is a fact.”
You can watch the video of Firstman’s remarks below. Keep reading for a selection of photos from the event and on-the-scene video of what it was like to be there.