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10 Tips For Sundance Film Festival Attendees

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Sundance |

For those of you who missed it, I had the chance to travel to Park City last month with Sarah to cover the Sundance Film Festival. And we had a blast!

We soaked in the beauty of Utah, met all sorts of great people, ate some (mostly) great food, and saw lots and lots of movies. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for links to our daily coverage of the festival and films.)  But as first timers, we also ran into a handful of unexpected surprises and learned some valuable lessons about how to best navigate the festival.

So today I’m sharing our 10 tips for Sundance. The tips apply to attendees in general, and then there’s a section at the end specifically for the press. If you have tips to share as well, leave them in the comments because we plan to go back next year and would love to hear ’em!

10 Tips For Sundance Film Festival Attendees

1. Download The Sundance App

One of the best things we did was download the Sundance Film Festival app. It is a “must” for anyone attending the festival, and includes everything from a real-time film guide and schedule (searchable by title, category, date or location), shuttle and map information, up-to-the-minute coverage and blog posts, and social media sharing options and links galore. But the (arguably) best part about the app is the online wait-list.

2014 was Sundance’s first time experimenting with the online wait-list to get movie tickets, and we experienced both total elation and frustration with it in our attempts to get last-minute tickets. (With 10,000+ people competing for tickets, you win some and you “lose” some.)  But the wait-list is a great option nonetheless. So download that app and pop it on your home screen for the fest, because you’re going to use it!

2. Dress Warm, Not Up

Sarah and I had heard beforehand that dress for the festival was primarily casual. But it turned out that it was pretty much completely casual. If anything, a warm coat was everyone’s — including the movie stars’ — primary accessory.

So bring lots of layers, wool socks, and sunglasses, and leave those heels at home. But even more importantly, wear comfortable boots, because there is more than likely to be snow on the ground. And since driving anywhere during the festival is pretty much impossible, plan to park and walk everywhere.

3. If You Have A Car, Plan To Pay For Parking

On that note, be sure to factor parking into your festival budget if you are not staying in town. We found a lot (by The Yard) that was $15/day. And since it almost always had open spaces and was within walking distance to everything, we ended up parking there each day.

And also on the subject of transportation, factor in lots of extra time in your shuttle routes for traffic. We missed a movie the first day (along with the rest of our shuttle) when we got stuck in a traffic jam. So factor that into your scheduling!

4. Book Housing Early (& In Town, If Possible)

If you want to cut down on parking costs, be sure to book housing early and try to find a place in town within walking distance of the festival. So many places in Park City are available to be rented during the festival, but reservations fill up fast. So book early and also check out sites like Air B&B for alternative housing rentals.

5. Talk To Strangers

…on the shuttles, while waiting in lines, at the restaurants, on the street, over social media, anywhere!  The fun of Sundance is that the majority of people roaming around town are there for the festival. And we found the people there to be overwhelmingly friendly and eager to chat about what they have experienced. So if you’re looking for great tips on what movies to see, places to eat, how to get around town, etc., get up your courage and talk to the people around you. (Especially the volunteers — now those folks are really in the know!)

If you’re on social media, be sure to also follow the #sundance hashtag and updates from your favorite movies, actors, directors, etc. People are posting galore for the event, and there is some great info to be learned there as well.

6. Bring Snacks, Or Plan For Long Restaurant Lines

Those are pretty much your two options for eating in Park City during the festival, since a zillion people are descending upon a small town with limited restaurants. But I will point out that we ate at a fantastic Mexican restaurant twice, with next to no wait time, and it was amazing. So if you end up going to Sundance, pop that place on your list and enjoy their camarones a la diablo.

7. Bring A Water Bottle

Of course, anytime you visit a place with high altitude, you need to plan on drinking extra water. But water fountains and places that serve or sell water are not always most convenient. So pack a water bottle and bring it with you everywhere you go.

8. Ski If You Have A Chance

Now if you’re attending Sundance to see As Many Films As Possible, disregard this one. But if you can take a day off and love to ski or snowboard, you should totally go!! The slopes are basically deserted during Sundance, since the majority of lodging in the city is filled up with festival goers. I went skiing one morning with my friend Kelley and enjoyed ever second of it. The snow was great, the views were gorgeous, and the mountain was wonderfully empty. (Although as a heads up to all of you snowboarders — some of the mountains are for skiers only, so check before you go!)

9. Make A Plan, But Be Flexible

This was probably our biggest lesson of the festival. We arrived with a detailed plan of what movies to see and where to go, but ended up having to completely rework things based on the availability of tickets for different movies.

So go to the festival with an idea of what you want to see, but be ready to switch it up! The wait-list, especially, can be a blessing and a curse. But remember that while you may not get into the movie you wanted to see, you may get into a movie you never imagined you’d love.

10. Have A Blast!

Most importantly, have a fantastic time!!! I mean, you’re getting to attend an iconic film festival in a gorgeous location with thousands of other people who love movies! So even if surprises come up that change your plans, hold everything loosely and remember that you’re pretty darn lucky to be there. So enjoy it for the movie lovers everywhere who are living vicariously through you. ;)

5 Tips For Press Attendees

1. Learn The Ins & Outs Of Your Press Pass

There are different levels of press passes, all with different levels of access to films. So be sure to read up on all of that beforehand, and plan your schedule accordingly.

2. Be persistent.

Keep e-mailing and calling the publicists for the films you want to see and people you want to interview. Sarah watched another reporter just show up to a screening and ask the publicist for an extra ticket. It totally worked. We might try that next year.

3. Have a plan, a back-up plan, and a make-it-on-the-fly plan.

Especially for first year press, like us, who couldn’t bank on getting into what we wanted. Be flexible and see what’s open. You’ll be surprised!

4. Post regularly and link to social media.

The films want to see your reviews ASAP. Many will RT and favorite your posts.

5. Learn something every day, then use it the next.

By the end of the festival, we totally knew what we were doing! Just don’t expect to at first. Ask questions, be ready to fail (miss films you wanted to see, get lost, look uncool), and you’ll learn faster.

More Links:

Here are some links to our Gimme Some press coverage for Sundance 2014:

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One comment on “10 Tips For Sundance Film Festival Attendees”

  1. This is so awesome. I’ve never been but just reading these tips made me feel like I was there!