I’ve been attending the Sundance Film Festival since 2011 and it truly is one of the most magical times of the year for movie fans. There’s something special about seeing a brand new film at a festival and feeling that swell of buzz on your way out of the theater when you’re lucky enough to catch the first screening of a Fruitvale or a Whiplash or a Manchester by the Sea. To me, it doesn’t get much better than walking home from a midnight movie under the Utah sky where the stars look so close you can reach out and touch them. Those are the moments you savor at Sundance.
That said, you have to understand that Sundance is its own little ecosystem, and there are rules to follow if you want to make the most of your investment and survive the festival with your health and dignity intact. So take some friendly advice from a Sundance veteran who has lived both the highs and lows of the festival — there are plenty of Do’s and Don’ts in Park City. Take a look and feel free to leave your own words of wisdom in the comments section below.
1. DON’T tweet about a movie unless you sat through the whole thing, aka, the Swiss Army Man rule. I learned this one the hard way when I walked out of the Daniels’ directorial debut around the halfway mark and took some cheap shots at the film’s scatalogical humor, which I certainly regret. My scooper’s instinct to weigh in First! took over, which isn’t a good look for a film critic, and everyone involved in the making of that movie had the right to be disappointed in my rush to judgment. Consider this my mea culpa. Hundreds of people spend thousands of hours working their asses off to make movies for our entertainment, so the least we can do is watch the entirety of their vision before we judge it. Maybe even wait a few minutes after the lights come up to properly digest a film before sending that tweet. Trust me, it can’t hurt.
2. DO pack appropriate clothing. Park City is not Los Angeles. Jeans and a t-shirt won’t cut it, bro. There’s no shame in wearing long underwear beneath your jeans, or two pairs of socks for that matter. You should obviously pack a stylish scarf and hat, but gloves are for the weak, unless they’re fingerless gloves, which are for hipsters. If you really want to make a fashion statement, wear hot pink! I may have walked out of The Greasy Strangler last year (clearly I had no patience), but I’ll be damned if the team behind that film weren’t the coolest-looking people in Park City with their hot pink hats. With everyone bundled up in mostly drab colors against the dreary grey backdrop of Utah, it’s hard to stand out at Sundance, but flashing a little pink gets the job done. As David Spade might say, it draws the eye. And isn’t that what everyone in Hollywood wants — to be seen?
3. DON’T use Uber. Nothing against Uber, which saves lives every night in Los Angeles, but in Park City, it’s dangerous in a different way. Exhibit A is THR editor-in-chief Janice Min’s $75 receipt for a 1-minute Uber ride.
Saturday night at Sundance, where a 1-minute ride in an Uber cost $75 pic.twitter.com/tOBqWioqwK
— Janice Min (@janicemin) January 25, 2015
$75 dollars, folks! That is capital-O Outrageous. Uber should’ve been arrested for theft that night. So unless you want your boss to have an aneurysm when you file your expense report, call Diana at FASTAXI at 435-783-8294. She’s the guardian angel of Park City, having saved my ass so many times after midnight movies (when there are fewer cabs) that I’ve lost count.
4. DO go grocery shopping as soon as you get to Park City. In fact, bring your own from LA! I fly with two boxes of peanut butter crackers, which are the perfect snack to carry in the pockets of your parka. People are so crazy busy at Sundance making the most of their trip that food is often treated as a luxury. In all my time attending the festival, I’ve never been able to eat more than one nice meal at a restaurant each year. Savor that meal, and remember, no matter what anyone tells you, don’t eat yellow snow.
5. DO bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go. Half of these “horror movie makes viewer pass out” news stories you read at every festival are about people who are just dehydrated. The altitude in Park City makes it harder to breathe and you’re going to be walking a lot, so don’t leave your condo in the morning without a water bottle. There’s a reason the festival hands them out to press and industry each year.
6. DON’T go to Tao. Never go to Tao. Just ask Emile Hirsch. (Couldn’t resist, but I still love you, Emile!) It just dawned on me that this may get me blacklisted from Tao… sigh. No, if you really want to rub elbows with industry insiders, the WME Lounge is the coolest place to be at 2 a.m., unless you’re at a house party in the mountains. That said, the UTA party on Sunday night is my favorite annual festivity, and not just because I met “Dan” Radcliffe there and he was cool as hell. Just remember to RSVP to everything, because The List is king at Sundance and if you’re not on it, you’re not getting in (especially if you’re a group of guys). If you’re looking for fun things to do beyond screenings, look no further than our exclusive party grid, which has over 175 events.
7. DO be sure to thank the volunteers, who stand outside in the cold all day long helping people out of the kindness of their hearts. I used to volunteer at the Tribeca Film Festival and let me tell you, it isn’t exactly a glamorous job. The least you can do is show them some appreciation.
8. DO communicate with other festival goers on Twitter. Which buses are running late? How long is the line at the Eccles? Is your friend hung over, leaving you with an extra ticket to The Big Sick? What will be this year’s secret screening? Listen, I turned my back on Twitter the past two months, but there’s no denying it’s a helpful tool amid the chaos of Sundance, when you’re blinded by your own festival goggles.
9. DON’T yell “ARGHHHH” during the piracy warning before each movie. I mean, how long can this festival tradition continue? Yes, it’s harmless and can be funny at times, but for the most part, this is beyond annoying. Don’t be that guy… or girl.
10. DO see movies. It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how many people flock to Park City to hit the slopes and party all night rather than see movies. Feel free to take advantage of the free food and drinks, but remember that Sundance is a film festival, dammit! Party when you’re back in LA. Besides, if you stay out late every night, it means you’re missing the midnight movies, which are perfectly programmed by Trevor Groth and his team of genre-loving hooligans.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief