By Whitney Pastorek
Updated January 19, 2007 at 09:07 PM EST
Dakota Fanning, Robin Wright, ...

Hello, PopWatchers, and greetings from Sundance! It is 2 a.m. Park City time, and I’m finally settled in at the hotel after a long day of traveling, stressing, organizing, unpacking, and a little more stressing.

Today was really just about getting here and figuring out the lay of the land at this, my first film festival; all the screenings and interviews and whatnot start tomorrow. But I’ve already learned perhaps the most important lesson of all, and it is this:

Film festivals ain’t easy.

No, seriously.

Here, I’ll respond to that so you don’t have to: “Oh, Whitney, quit whining. You have a totally cush job, especially considering the fact that you are a no-talent loser. What’s so hard about hanging out at a ski resort and watching movies? You suck. I don’t want to be in your pocket anymore.”

And you’re completely right. This should be a totally cush job, and I really am completely devoid of any worthwhile qualities as a human being. But that doesn’t change the fact that on Day One of Sundance 2007, I didn’t really do much of anything except freak out.

See, I think film festivals might be kinda like life: You show up,and you get dealt a certain hand. Some hands are better than others,but it’s up to you how hard you work with what you’ve got, or where youplace your priorities, and what you want to get out of it all in theend. And when it’s over, it’s over… and most of what you did probablydoesn’t matter a whole hell of a lot, anyway.

All of that is basically a dopey, overly melodramatic way to saythat when I picked up my credentials today at Sundance headquarters — aseries of conference rooms and ballrooms at the Park City Marriott thatare slathered in orange banners and teeming with producer-lookin’ typesin black fleece — I was given a “general” press pass. My moreexperienced co-workers were given “express” press passes. What doesthis mean? As far as I can tell, they just don’t have to plan ahead asmuch, because they don’t need tickets to things and can cut in line.Whereas I have to call the publicist or stop by the press office fortickets to get into any of the public screenings, which means I need toknow where I’m going and what I’m doing about two days ahead of time. Ihave decided to think of this as the Sundance meritocracy. My coworkershave been here before, therefore they have the credential equivalent ofa trust fund. And as usual, I’m doing manual labor in Arkansas.

Okay, so this analogy has issues. But you get my point, PopWatchers:I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. There are something like 65 movies incompetition here this year, plus about another 50 being shown out ofthe running for awards. There is no way I can see them all… but yet Ifeel pressured to try. I also feel pressured to visit the swag suites,the sponsored lounges, the music venues, the other musicvenues, the panel discussions, the premiere parties, the DJ sessions,the fancy restaurants, and the ski slopes. I have been obsessivelyplanning my days, using different colored pens and highlighters to keeptrack of my schedule, cross-referencing with my Sundance guide and the75 press releases I printed out back at the office. I spent an hourtonight just going over the press screening schedule and crossing outthe things I already know I can’t attend, trying to narrow things downa bit. I was listening to some Talking Heads to fend off theOCD-induced insanity and fell into such a scheduling trance that iTunesplayed me half of the Taylor Hicks album before I noticed what I waslistening to and turned it off in horror.

The big decision seems to be whether I am going to blow this puppy out and totally over-exert myself to do everything and see everything and be everywhere…or if I’m going to try to derive quality enjoyment from a more limitednumber of experiences, and run the risk of missing something big. Ihave no idea which option I’ll choose. And I can’t say that I feel realconfident about my mental stability over the next 10 days, given thatit is now 3 a.m. here in Park City and I’m still trying toarticulate my innermost thoughts to a bunch of strangers, half of whomaren’t going to read this far along anyway.

Here’s my biggest concern: I think this blog thing was intended tobe an insightful look at the Sundance Film Festival from an insider’sperspective. I think what you’re going to get instead is one woman’sdescent into madness. So if I disappear into the forest, never to beseen again — try to get my life story made into an episode of Bones or something, ‘k? Thankz a mil.

In the meantime, if you want to use the comment space to let me knowwhat movies you’re most interested in, I can try to be sure to checkthose out. And yes, “That Dakota Fanning Rape Movie” is already on mylist. (It’s called HoundDog and stars Robin Wright Penn and Fanning, pictured. You’ll be hearing a lot about it in the next few days, no doubt.)