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Sundance 101: Navigating the film festival

Sundance 101: Navigating the film festival

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Every January in Utah, thousands of people from around the world flock to the streets and screening sites in and around Park City for the annual Sundance Film Festival. Many festivalgoers come to see premieres of independent films; some slog through slush and snow with the hopes of seeing their favorite star (or any actor, for that matter); others are just curious about all the fuss.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a festival veteran, it’s good to go into a Sundance experience with some survival tips to share or take heed.

Wardrobe: Function over fashion

That means choosing appropriate footwear. If you come in high heels or flats with no grip, prepare to be miserable. And, guys, that goes for you too — don’t wear your favorite pair of canvas shoes lest your toes go numb as you walk around Park City. Think insulated boots with sturdy outsoles! There’s a very good chance it will snow (sometimes a lot) during the Festival and that it will be very cold some or most of the time. Dress in layers and you’ll be in good shape.

Some Sundance advice givers often say to wear black to look like you “fit in.” Bleh. If you want to wear that fuchsia blouse with the mustard-colored box pleated skirt, paired with the edgy black moto boots, topped with that 1920s turquoise cloche hat, then we say, “Go for it!” Just remember your layers.

Consider free transportation

Park City has an excellent free bus system that stops at every venue and throughout the town. During the Festival, the city adds buses, expands the schedule and number of stops to accommodate the extra visitors. Find a parking place somewhere away from downtown and use those shuttles — you won’t spend forever searching for a spot, you won’t clog up the streets and it’s better for the environment.

Tickets? Lines? Patience!

Every event, whether it’s a screening, panel discussion, exhibit or party, there are always lines. With tickets, it’s best to buy ahead of time to avoid the long waitlist lines, which don’t always reward patience with entry into a film.

If you’ve run out of tolerance and persistence with trying to get tickets to the bigger premieres, check out the Festival’s many documentaries and blocks of short films — you might like them better than the movies boasting star power.

For panels and parties, you just need to arrive early, prepare to wait and, when you finally get to the entrance, smile at and be nice to the hosts and bouncers. Don’t forget to use Sundance’s eWaitlist system and phone app — less time in lines!

Sundance away from Park City

Festival films are screened at locations in Salt Lake City and at the Sundance Mountain Resort, nestled high in a snowy canyon with a ski resort right there. While Park City has the venue-specific Eccles Theatre Pass, Salt Lake City also has the Locals SLC Pass and the Grand Theatre Pass for screenings on weekends inside a historic theatre located on the South City Campus of Salt Lake Community College.

In all, Salt Lake City has five different venues for screenings. And there are several pass options for those who plan on seeing more than one or two films.

Eating, etcetera during Sundance

Park City and Salt Lake City are home to many fine dining and high-end food options that require planning ahead and around the waitlists and private parties during Sundance that take up part or all of some restaurants. But there are also several quick-service locations on and off of Main Street in Park City and throughout town that are reasonably priced and quite good. Many of the screening venues also offer surprisingly good food options and places to sit and eat.

If you’re not into actually seeing films during the Festival, you can visit the Festival Base Camp, Festival Co-op, Filmmaker Lodge (stand in line for panel discussions), New Frontier (features innovative art), Sundance ASCAP Music Café (stand in line for concerts), Salt Lake City Festival Café and the Merchandise Store.

Salt Lake Community College

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