If you asked me a month or two ago where the Sundance Film Festival was held, I probably would have guessed somewhere in Colorado instead of where it's actually held: Park City, Utah. Don't get me wrong, I knew plenty about the festival and its pedigree. I just thought it was held in that ski town from 'Dumb and Dumber.'
In other words, I possessed zero notion that I'd ever actually get a chance to go, much less have any idea what it would actually be like. Hollywood moves fast, though, and before I knew it the 8-bit animated music video that my girlfriend worked on was in the festival and we had tickets to go.
Since arriving here on Saturday, I've been running around watching dramas, documentaries, shorts, premieres -- pretty much anything I could get a ticket to. It's been an absolute blast. I've learned a ton about what it's like to be here and thought I would share a few pearls of wisdom I gained from my first Sundance experience.
Boots! Yeah, they're a pain to take through airport security, but in Park City they're essential. If you're going to be in town for more than a day or two, there's a good chance that it will be snowing at some point. So unless you want to sit through a two-hour feature with wet feet, you have to pack boots. With all the walking around you will end up doing, you'd be silly not to. I fortunately got a pair over the holidays and they've been life-savers.
Main Street is a constant hum of energy and the center of activity at Sundance, especially early on in the festival when there is a big party going on pretty much every night. And there's only one theater off Main Street: The Egyptian (above). So, if you want to see movies but stay close to the hustle and bustle of Sundance, look into getting tickets for what's playing at The Egyptian.
Prior to arriving, my idea of Sundance was more or less a place where everything was within walking distance. Park City isn't big, by any means. But you definitely can't walk everywhere. Some theaters screening films are very far away (there's even some in Salt Lake City), and you pretty much have to take some wheels. You can try to drive if you want, but parking is a nightmare. You'd think more parking lots around town would take the opportunity to make some extra cash, but there were plenty of "No Festival Parking" signs all over. Really the best option is to ...
Get on the Bus
The best way to get around is to take advantage of the great bussing system around Park City. They turbo charge it for the festival, so I rarely found myself having to wait longer than five minutes for a bus to arrive. And if you actually take the time to study the bus map before you get on one (something I should have done), you'll avoid missing your stops and learning the hard way as you loop around your destination and almost miss your screening.
See a Doc
Indie dramas and shorts at Sundance can sometimes be hit or miss (I definitely saw a stinker or two), but for whatever reason, the documentaries I screened were all terrific. I'm not saying that docs will automatically be good, but I feel like your chances of satisfaction are higher and there's less chance of you walking out if you're watching a doc covering interesting subject matter. Plus, it didn't really feel like I was at a film festival until I watched a documentary.
One of the coolest things that Sundance offers is that at almost every screening, there will be someone from the film there to talk about it in a Q&A afterward. After one particular screening at a small theater, the whole cast was standing in a line outside to greet viewers as they exited. It was surreal seeing people up close after you just spent 100 minutes watching giant, projected versions of them in the dark.
He was nowhere to be seen. Though rumor has it that he monitors everything at once from a secret mountain control room filled with live video feeds.
Ben Worcester is an editor at City's Best. He likes funk music, and his favorite Robert Redford movie is 'Downhill Racer.' He wrote for City's Best about Das Racist's short film and 'Kaboom,' both at Sundance.