Sundance Basics: 9 Tips for an Awesome Festival

This is Part III of North Point Lodge's Sundance Film Festival basis series.  Part I discusses the basics facts about the Sundance Film Festival.  Part II discusses attending the Sundance Film Festival on a budget. Part III discusses my favorite tips and secrets for making the Sundance Film Festival a memorable experience.  

For anyone remotely interested in film, attending the Sundance Film Festival may be one of the most memorable experiences of his or her life. There are a few things that you can do and bring to make the experience more enjoyable, smooth and stress-free.  Here are my top Sundance Film Festival tips and secrets. 

Book Early

Accommodations in Park City are limited and fill up quickly.  Book your hotel or vacation rental early so that you're sure to have a place to sleep! 

Have a Ticket Plan

In recent years, Sundance has revamped its ticketing process from top to bottom.  There are a few ways of securing tickets. First, you can simply purchase a festival pass (no tickets needed and priority admission line) or a ticket package beginning in October, but these passes and packages can be quite expensive.  Alternatively, you can buy individual tickets online beginning in mid-January for only $20 each. "Day of Show" tickets can only be purchased in person each morning beginning at 8 a.m. at the Main Box Office for $20. Tickets for each theater's first screening of the day are released at 8:00 a.m. the day before. These tickets are limited, so you might consider showing up early. Finally, waitlist tickets are also available for $20.  You queue electronically via the web or mobile app for a chance to get last minute tickets to films. All you need to do is register your account, choose a film, receive a waitlist number and arrive at the theater no later than 30 minutes before the screening for a chance to get a ticket.

As you think about the schedule, make sure you have a plan.  Prioritize the films you want to see. Remember that everyone wants to see the film with A-list Hollywood celebrities and that such films will likely be distributed at a later point. Some of Sundance's best films come from unknown artists. And don't forget about the documentaries--they never get as much love as they should! 

Leave yourself plenty of time between screenings for food breaks and travel time between theaters. Also consider getting tickets for the first screening of the day, which are in less demand.   

Catch a Morning Screening

The afterparties at Sundance extend to the wee hours of the morning.  While everyone else is sleeping, consider attending a morning screening.  These start as early as 8 a.m. and you won't have to compete for tickets like you do for the afternoon and evening screenings.  After catching a screening, you'll have plenty of time to hit the slopes in the afternoon while everyone else is at the theaters.

Don't Forget About the Extra Panels and Off-Screen Events

Sundance film screenings are usually followed by a Q&A with the actors, directors and/or producers of the film.  These are fantastic presentations and are one of my favorite parts of attending the Sundance Film Festival.  What many don't know, however, is that there are many other panels, discussions and workshops that are held during Sundance that aren't preceded by a film screening. The Sundance Institute publishes a guide to many of these off-screen events. You'll need a "credential" to attend the larger panels, which costs about $200 if you didn't purchase a ticket package or pass. There are also smaller, more informal panels that are free to the public. 

Hit the Slopes

While the out-of-towners are at the movies and the locals are keeping away, consider hitting the slopes.  It's a little known fact that you'll practically have them to yourself during Sundance. Park City Mountain Resort's Town Lift will even carry you from Main Street straight to the slopes. 

Use the Free Transit System

We've written about this before, but ditch your car and take the free public buses and shuttles around Park City.  Park City parking is extremely limited during the festival. It's also expensive and on a first-come-first-served basis.  If you ditch your care and use the free buses and shuttles, you won't have to deal with the hassles of traffic or parking.

Bring Your Cell Phone Accessories

Sundance venues provide a number of areas and outlets to charge your phone, but with the amount of time you will spend outside, including waiting in lines, you won't regret bringing a cell phone battery backup pack. As far as hand attire goes, consider buying touchscreen friendly gloves.  You'll thank me when you're waiting in line, surfing the web or texting friends with warm hands. 

Layer Your Clothing

One key to Sundance bliss is layering your clothing.  You'll spend a significant amount of time alternating begin freezing outdoor spaces and heated indoor spaces. Being able to peal away a few layers will save you a lot of hassle. Also consider bringing a warm but compact coat.  Otherwise, you'll be wrestling with that enormous, fluffy coat on your lap during the entire screening. 

Ask the Volunteers

The Sundance film festival employs an small army of volunteers to help make your festival experience enjoyable.  Feel free to ask them questions, such as the location of the nearest shuttle stop or which shuttle to take. They're a pretty sharp group.