Indie cred: The cast of Parks and Recreation

So many Parks and Recreation cast members have films at Sundance ’12 you’d think the Pawnee Parks Department was holding a winter company retreat in Park City. Ann, April, Ben, and the great Ron Swanson all appear in Sundance selections this January, though if you bump into any of them walking down Main Street they probably would appreciate it if you referred to them by their real names.

We already told you about Adam Scott’s (Ben’s) film this week — that’s the hedonistic romantic comedy BACHELORETTE starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan. Rashida Jones (Ann) not only stars in CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, she also co-wrote and executive produced this story of two high school sweethearts who married young but now decide to get a divorce. You’ll find Aubrey Plaza (April) over in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, where she stars with Mark Duplass in SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, which is based on a real classified ad in which an anonymous man sought a partner for a time travel trip (“Must bring your own weapons,” the ad hilariously warned). One of the films up against SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED in the U.S. Dramatic Competition is SMASHED, the story of a woman struggling with alcoholism and coping with the strain her newfound sobriety has put on her marriage. That one co-stars Ron Swans– we mean Nick Offerman (who, we might add, also happens to appear in an episode of Sundance’s THE MORTIFIED SESSIONS reairing tomorrow at 11:30am).

The ties between Parks and Recreation and the indie film world have existed from the beginning of the series, which was created in 2009 by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur as a spiritual spinoff to the American version of The Office. Before star and producer Amy Poehler broke out on Saturday Night Live, she made a hilarious appearance in David Wain’s cult comedy WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, which premiered at Sundance all the way back in 2001. Former Parks and Rec cast member Paul Schneider cut his teeth in the early indie films of David Gordon Green — GEORGE WASHINGTON and ALL THE REAL GIRLS — before moving on to such art house hits as THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and LARS AND THE REAL GIRL. Plaza previously came to Sundance with MYSTERY TEAM, Scott with THE VICIOUS KIND, which, in a bit of coincidence, was directed by Lee Toland Krieger, the director of Jones’ CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER. Even Chris Pratt, who’s more known as a television actor, made a Park City pop-in in STRANGERS WITH CANDY (Sundance ’05).

Even the Parks and Recreation guest stars are indie film favorites: when the show returned for its fourth season last fall, it featured Indie Film Hall of Famer Patricia Clarkson as Ron Swanson’s first wife Tammy. The indie connections extend behind the camera as well; episodes of the series have been directed by filmmakers like Seth Gordon (THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS) and Nicole Holofcener (PLEASE GIVE). The Indie Film Hall of Fame, by the way, is a small wing of my apartment, and public tours are offered every Thursday after 1:00pm.

With that kind of cinematic pedigree, it’s no wonder the show has garnered a reputation for charmingly complicated characters, sharp writing, and brilliantly observed humor. It’s good to know if Indiana (or NBC) shuts down the Pawnee Parks Department again, the gang we love will have some other work to fall back on.