5 Pro Tips You Need to Make the Most of Sundance Film Festival

Article by: emily ward|@_drawylime

Wed January 17, 2018 | 11:45 AM

Yep, film lovers, it’s that time of the year again. The recovery period from your holiday benders is over; it’s time for the Sundance Film Festival . A snowy-glam filmmaker extravaganza, the Sundance Film Festival has a lot going on. Besides a range of fantastic movies, there’s also live music, VR booths, art galleries, skiing, red carpet premieres and more free swag than you could ever need.

Over 50,000 film lovers all over the world have descended upon Park City, Utah, already, and many for the first time. Plan on drinking in Park City? See what happens when you order a beer. Think you can just walk up to the theater and buy a ticket a few hours before the show? Nope. Forgot that Park City during winter is a cold, cold place? Branded sponsors have your back with free winter gear. Sundance virgins may not be privy to the festival’s quirks, but you don't need to learn things the hard way. We’ve got your tips to land in the know ahead of time.

Cash is King in The Rush Line

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Photo by: Amanda K. McHugh

Getting tickets to Sundance screenings can be a stressful experience. If you missed last month's window to pre-select and purchase tickets online to the films you thought you'd want to see, there are still options. One, you can buy an unlimited access pass for the 10-day festival, which tops a wild $3,000. Two, you can go to the theaters' box offices and see what they have. More popular screenings and special showcases have long filled. Want to get into that popular showing? Have a pocketful of cash and sturdy shoes? Here's your third choice: the rush line.

Named for the last 90 seconds of the experience, the rush line can be super fun. Devotees of the film festival circuit know that getting into buzzy screenings is a game of patience and planning, and Sundance producers have gone to great lengths to make the experience decent. Heated tents and enthusiastic volunteers keep you company as you wait. Sundance is a game of endurance, and people will strike up conversations about your respective experiences. Make friends with your fellow film nerds, compare the numbers of films you've seen and share notes on what's "can't-miss." Minutes before the screening starts, ushers pace the aisles and count individual open seats. If you're one of the lucky ones, a ticket-taker will collect your cash, urge you to sprint into the theater to the nearest usher with a flashlight, and get your butt in that seat. Everyone should try to experience at least one rush line victory. It's thrilling.

What to Do: Screenings run from 8 am - 2 am each day in any of the festival's seven venues. Your best bets for getting into these screenings are in the early mornings. Sun hasn't come up yet? Odds are on your side.

Booze Comes with Rules

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Photo by: Amanda K. McHugh

Every rose has its thorn, and every party's got a buzzkill. Utah's liquor laws are funky, and not the fun kind of funky. I f you plan on drinking, there are a few things to consider. Bars close at 1 am, liquor stores are closed on Sundays, beer that is above 3.2% ABV can't be sold in grocery stores, draft beer in restaurants and clubs taps out at 4% (beers with higher ABVs have to be in bottles), stores don't sell nips , you must order food to be served alcohol in restaurants...the list goes on.

According to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, "Beer and other malt beverage products that exceed 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4.0% by volume are considered "liquor," and beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% or less is defined as "beer." Planning is the name of the game at Sundance, and nothing will stand in your way of liquids with a kick if you plan ahead.

What to Do: Before you arrive, invest in a nice flask. Hit up the Park City liquor stores, and stock up. Leave room in that mug to add a little somethin' later (...we hear Bailey's pairs well with coffee...). Be prepared to shell out for more drinks to get that buzz on. Be nice to your bartenders and servers, it's not their fault.

Baby Won't You Ride the Bus?

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Photo by: Amanda K. McHugh

Despite the ubiquity of curbside chauffeurs Uber and Lyft (and enterprising locals willing to bypass formal taxi licensing), many still opt for the bus. It's free, it's warm, and you are 100% guaranteed to meet interesting people. Buses circle around Park City every 15 minutes and drop you right at the doorsteps of New Frontier, Main Street's Egyptian Theater, and The Yarrow. Park City is a generous host, and riding public transit completes the community experience.

What to Do: Bypass those rideshare apps and open Google Maps. (Get a charger to juice up your phone on-the-go). For traditionalists, grab a copy of the transit map in theater lobbies and map your route the fun way. Bring handwarmers for the times you'll have to wait.

Don't Leave When the Lights Come Up

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Photo by: Amanda K. McHugh

The credits roll, the lights come up, and the creators of the film you just watched are standing a few feet away. How cool is that? For filmmakers, Sundance is a press whirlwind, and they've come ready. Directors and producers are joined by star-studded casts to answer your burning questions. Get the inside scoop on a film's technique, craft, and inspiration. Seated 50 rows back in the Eccles and missed your chance at the mic? Don't be surprised to see filmmakers milling around in the theater or lobby when the formal Q&A is over. It's not impossible to catch them on the bus either, you just may enter the Sundance fourth dimension.

What to Do: Don't be a mic hog. Everyone wants to ask seven questions, but you need to pick your favorite then let someone else have a turn. Leave yourself time between screenings to catch these Q&As. If you really need to jet once the credits roll, grab an end seat so you don't disturb others.

Leave the Heels, Take the Boots

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Photo by: Amanda K. McHugh

You'll do a lot of walking in Park City. You'll inevitably wait in an outdoor line for something. Even if it's not actively snowing in Park City, salt and storm remnants on the ground will still find its way to your feet. Bring a knee-length warm coat with a hood, or at least a hat.

What to Do: Forgot your mittens? Head to Sundance swag stations at the Festival Village for the hookup. But don't forget the mittens.

Happy Sundance-ing!