Have you ever thought about going to Sundance? Well, we went this last year and learned that it’s a very in depth experience. This is a guide for people who are interested in the Sundance Film Festival and have questions about how to get the most out of their experience. This is geared for all those out-of-towners like ourselves, who may be intimidated by the whole experience like we were.
If you can afford it, buy an Express Pass A! Not an Express Pass B. An Express Pass A gives you total access to the first half of the festival when all the premieres take place. Express Pass B gives you full access to the last half of the festival. Either of the Express passes gives you first come, first serve admittance to any of the films. So if you can afford that price, it’s worth it.
Can’t afford $2500? Neither could we.
The next best option is to try to Volunteer. They are very picky with whom they choose, but it is worth submitting the free application.
Volunteer perks: For every 4 hours you volunteer, you get a free volunteer voucher for any screening. The minimum volunteer requirement is 24 hours so that means you would get at least 6 vouchers out of your time. The only drawback is that a voucher is not a ticket, and there are only 15 volunteer tickets available for each screening. So get there early! Seriously early. There are over 1,000 volunteers each year.
We also bought a ticket package so that we were guaranteed tickets to the screenings of our choice. But make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to each film, otherwise your tickets will be given away to waitlist customers. Every film has a waitlist line. You can risk it and go and try to get tickets on the spot to any film. More often than not you will be placed on the waitlist. You will be given a number and asked to line up according to these numbers. The higher your waitlist number is, the lower your chance to get an actual ticket is. You have to pay in cash if you do this, so make sure to visit your neighborhood ATM ahead of time! We noticed that almost every screening admitted some waitlist customers, so it is often worth the wait. For big films, and premieres…forget it! You can wait up to 2 hours with no avail. Trust us!
If you decide to purchase a ticket package you must go on the website and choose the films you want to see and when. They give you a half-hour time block on one day only, to do this on-line or by phone. Be prepared ahead of time. This was quite overwhelming for us at first, but don’t get discouraged. The online Film Guide has a list of times, locations, and screenings for the entire festival. Any film you decide to see outside of Park City you have a better chance of getting in to. Salt Lake City is only 20 minutes from Park City.
If you are buying tickets: When you are deciding what you want to see, make sure you read through the entire film guide first, and really know what is playing, and what you would be interested in seeing. We found that you get a better understanding of what will be really popular once you get there, and it is hard to predict what will do well. Just do your best.
All of the premiers screen at the beginning of the week, so try to schedule as soon as possible to get first dibs. The premiers usually have the entire cast and crew there to answer questions and share insight into their creative process. It was one of the best parts of Sundance for us. Towards the end of the week, more often than not, the crew was not there for the Q & A and it was not as impactful.
The public shuttles are the best way to get around. They are so convenient! If you have to drive into Park City, park in a parking lot (The Yard, preferably because it is the closest to the entrance to the city). From there, or anywhere, you can take the numerous shuttles to any venue in the festival. We were never waiting very long and the shuttle drivers were very helpful and friendly.
Some of the ticket packages and passes include tickets to the awards night party. If you have a chance, it is a fun experience. Many of the filmmakers and cast attend and it is a good chance to walk around and do your “stalking”. The food is good, although you were only able to get 3 drinks per guest. Get there early because the line to get in gets pretty lengthy.
Other things to occupy your time: There are plenty of other activities going on throughout Park City. There are music cafes, lodges, and film art galleries displaying interesting work. They are worth checking out, only once though.
Park City is an extremely charming and almost magical town. If you are a skier, this is your paradise! Bring your gear, or prepare to pay a lot of money to rent. Lift tickets are ski-hill-rape.
To wrap it up, we are definitely going back next year. It was a completely worthwhile experience. Anyone who has questions, feel free to e-mail us.