8 Simple Rules to Survive and Thrive Your First Sundance

Going to Sundance this year? Keep these tips in mind.

So you’re a filmmaker going to Sundance. What an opportunity to network, mingle with the stars, and brag to your friends about movies that you’ll be the first to lay eyes on! Unfortunately, none of that’s going to happen if you’re sick in bed, stuck on a bus, or in line limbo, and chances are, if this is your first Sundance, you’ll be experiencing one of those phenomena at least three times. 

There are are many Sundance Survival Guides out there. Hell, we wrote one just a few years ago. While most of them tend to focus on taking advantage of networking opportunities and getting your name out there, we thought it may be more helpful to learn how to simply stay healthy and at your best so that when the time does finally come to put yourself out there, you won’t, be a frozen, slobbering mess.

Here are the most important things you oughta know before attending your first Sundance.

1. Find a condo to stay in that’s off a major Shuttle line

This first one is a multi-parter and a big one. The lay of the land at Sundance is pretty large. Venues are spaced out around the city and even go as far out as Salt Lake City itself. The good news is Sundance has a pretty amazing shuttle system for movie-goers and it’s something you’ll absolutely need to familiarize yourself with before going out on the streets of Park City. Get to know which bus lines and loops that will take you to the theaters you need to get to. Most likely it will be the Theater Loop, which moves between Main Street and the bigger venues.

A true pro will plan ahead and find an Air BnB to stay in that is right by a shuttle stop, especially if you can’t afford to stay right by Main Street. It may take a little longer, but as long as you’re by a shuttle, you will get where you need to go.

2. Avoid screenings in Salt Lake City and Redstone if you can

If you’re based in Salt Lake City, then going to a screening in Salt Lake City makes a lot of sense. If you’re staying in Park City, don’t do it. The trip is at least an hour and can be much longer if the weather is poor. You’re wasting valuable movie-going time with that kind of transportation. 

Redstone is another trek. While many of the other Park City venues are generally in the same location, this one is at a mall that’s about a half hour outside Main Street (again depending on weather). If you absolutely have to go see a screening at Redstone, then we highly recommend avoiding the shuttle and just breaking the bank for rideshare.

“I like to give myself at least an hour window between screenings.”

3. Make yourself a schedule

The sheer multitude of options for things to do at Sundance is overwhelming. On top of that, the environment can throw many a hitch into even the best laid of plans. So just like any other aspect of being a filmmaker, it’s best to be prepared. The easiest way to do that is to put some time in beforehand and do some research as to how you will spend your days (and nights). 

If you’re like me and prioritize seeing movies at these things than this can be achieved by following a few simple steps: Look through the roster of films, choose a movie, find the time it’s playing, buy a ticket, repeat. Make sure you give yourself enough time between screenings to get from one theater to the next, and also take in account the fact that many of these screenings will have Q+As that tack on another 15-20 minutes after the film is over. I like to give myself at least an hour window between screenings. If you don’t have a ticket and want to try for the waitlist, you’re going to have to get there a lot earlier.

If you know you’ll be going to a party or have some sort of an event one night, don’t buy tickets to a screening the next morning. You will be tired. It will not be enjoyable. The same goes for if you’re seeing a midnight movie.

On that note…

4. Go to some Midnight Movies

While Sundance isn’t necessarily known for their genre programming, there have been some true gems there in the past. Last year, two of the years best horror flicks premiered at the festival, Mandy and Hereditary. The screenings are a blast, as you won’t find a more engaged audience in any other section of the festival, and perhaps most importantly, it gives you a night off from partying while still doing something awesome (though many of these screenings also often feature a booze cart).

5. Try not to party too hard

Guess what? Park City, Utah in the middle of January is a harsh environment for human beings. The elevation can bring on altitude sickness, fatigue, and bouts of dizziness. Alcohol will go to your head faster than that person who decided to wear heels will slip and fall on black ice. Hangovers are more intense. So just try and take it easy. If you’re going to a party, be sure to hydrate and not drink too much. You’ll feel like garbage the rest of the next day, which will surely be packed with even more screenings and events to go to.

“At least one member of our team has gotten some sort of stomach ailment every year we’ve gone.”

6. Bring a medicine cabinet

I feel like your mom right now, but this is important. These cold temperatures are no joke and even if you have a strong immune system, chances are that someone around you in the theater, on the bus, or at the party, doesn’t. The fact is everyone at Sundance is cold and running on very little sleep 100% of the time. It’s a breeding ground for sickness. So much so that insiders kindly refer to it as “Flu Dance.” 

At least one member of our team has gotten some sort of stomach ailment every year we’ve gone. So bring along an army of medicinal supplies to combat it and be proactive. Start drinking water a week before you get there, bring a water bottle and put Emergen-C into every bottle you drink, and if you do end up getting sick, stock up on Tylenol, Advil, Dramamine, etc.

7. Eat food

It’s really easy to forget that food exists when you spend the majority of your day either waiting in line, running around the cold, or inside a movie theater. There is very little time to actually seek out and find a real meal, so if you do find yourself with some precious moments to spare, take a minute and do it. Most theaters will have a snack stand inside, but prices are very expensive and the packaged food is not very good.

Another option is to stake out the branded houses that give away free finger foods and coffee. It’s more likely that you’ll just need to snack. Hit up a grocery store first thing once you arrive (there’s a great one called Fresh Market right by Main Street) and buy plenty of deli meats so you can pack sandwiches for lunch on the go, you’re more than welcome to break them out during a screening, while there is security that searches backpacks, they will never take away any food or liquid. Get Cliff or other energy bars for the mornings and in between screenings. You’ll be very happy you did.

8. Prioritize movies that don’t already have a distributor

One of the biggest things I’ve learned traveling the festival circuit over the past four years is to be adventurous in your screening selections. As an attendee of Sundance, you’re able to check out some flicks that may never see the light of day anywhere else, so why not take advantage? It’s easy to be tempted by the big names, but chances are you’ll be able to see a lot of those films in theaters only a few months down the road.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here