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If you haven’t been to Sundance Independent Film Festival in Utah I highly recommend it. The experience can be summed up by Utah’s motto: ‘Life Elevated’. If you enjoy movies, good food and drinks, skiing and an amazing landscape it’s for you. Start planning your trip. To help with that you’ll find a few tips below.
While Sundance can double as a liberal meetup it’s somewhat elist. Elist in that half the experience is who you know. Brands like Adobe, YouTube, and Amazon actually take over entire bars in Park City complete with guest list only access and exterior re-branding. Not a film insider? Good luck getting in. Don’t have a friend at Oculus? Prepare to pay hefty cover charges at the ‘open’ bars.
If one half is the festival and parties the other half is movies. Locals get ticket priorty initially. The website isn’t the best so you might hear frustrations related to that. Movies sell out frequently so heed the next tip. By the way, each movie is $20 (a little more online with the processing fee).
There’s a ‘waitlist’ feature with the mobile app. This allows you to score last minute tickets. The key is to enter the wait list as early as possible, usually an hour before start time, and arrive in line up to 30-60 minutes before time. These movies are completely full. The better your waitlist number the better your odds of getting in. We initially had trouble registering with Sundance and staying logged in to the app. Get comfortable with the app. We saw ~3 movies using the waitlist. Movies shown during the work day will give you better odds.
Sundance is technically in three cities: Park City (PC), Salt Lake City (SLC) and Provo. The festival is almostly completely in Park City. I recommend staying in Park City for a few reasons: parking, proximity to theaters, and attractions. The weather in 2017 was rough so if you don’t stay in PC you might have trouble driving up the canyon (80 West). Parking is also a nightmare. I read that 45,000 people visit for Sundance. I’m going to check out Airbnb for 2018. I saw hotels in PC last minute going for $1800 a room. $1800. That’s elite.
I didn’t ski much but when I did it was Alta. Amazing experience. Go check it out. Ski-only, no frills resort. Not exactly close to PC but worth the trip. Not sure about the other resorts. I did learn that skiing in SLC is a lot easier logistically than Denver. Airport to skiing is only about 30 minutes. Denver is a lot longer, then add traffic.
My favorite part about sundance was the Q&A after the film. At some showings the director, and sometimes the actors, would do a Q&A. It was really interactive and insightful. Awesome experience. Make it a goal to ask a question. I walked away with a new perspective of movies. And I learned a lot.
My personal experience was that the movies are very emotionally heavy. Lot’s of documentaries and dramas. Light on action and comedy. You’ll see bad movies and really awesome ones. If it’s a ‘balloted’ film and being judged by the audience you’ll get to vote at the end (1-4 stars).
Go check out sundance. Even if you don’t ski. Dress warm. Very warm. It’s a great experience.