Author: Arla Bowers, WIFV Member
As the memory of Sundance 2013 begins to fade, many of you who have yet to attend might be thinking about going next year…to Sundance 2014.
My mistakes and my experiences might just provide the push you need to make your decision (one way or the other).
I’m going to start with the two words I myself tend to forget when traveling to the Sundance Film Festival: HIGH and DRY. Our bodies needs a bit of adjustment to both the altitude and to the lack of humidity, so drink LOTS of water, slab on the skin moisturizer (around your nostrils, too), and breathe deeply when walking up Park City’s Main Street incline those first few days. Be sure to wear layers of clothes and comfortable boots accessorized with removable ice grippers.
Sundance can be a bit overwhelming if you show up without advanced preparation. The festival is in a number of locations, including Ogden, Salt Lake CIty, and Park CIty. In Park City alone, there are twelve different theaters. The festival theater bus loop offers free transportation from the downtown Park City bus terminal. Study the movie schedule to make sure there is enough time to get to your chosen venue. If you value your time, stay in town. I stayed in Silver Lake and the city bus ride to the bus terminal took an extra half-hour each way.
Selecting your top choices from the vast number of Sundance films is best done online ahead of time. To purchase individual tickets, a fall season registration process is required and involves 1) your request to purchase 2) being assigned a date and time to purchase 3) trying to purchase within your assigned 20-minute window. Your choices can often be sold out before your assigned time, which leaves you with at least a few other options: Craig’s List, the “two-hour prior to the film” waiting line, or flagging folks who get out of taxis on site to see if they have extra tickets. All three of these have worked in the past, but this year….call me crazy…. I opted for the Adrenalin Pass. The Adrenalin Pass guarantees entry to any movie starting before 11:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m. as long as you show up a half-hour before the start time. The movies I chose started pretty early, so each morning two hours before my films’ screening times, I waited at the top of the mountain in the dark (brrrr) for the city bus. Sounds dreary, but when fate is on your side, these experiences could be some of your best times! On one bus ride I chatted with the only other rider…the director of “THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DICK CHENEY.” On another day, as I waited for the bus, a van stopped and offered a ride to town. There was only one person already in the van….Jane Campion’s co-director of her mini-series TOP OF THE LAKE.
There are lots of parties and a unique Sundance class system for these parties. Some are held in secret places for which you need a secret meeting location and passwords. Others are in plain view and as you walk up and down Main Street, you see folks holding clipboards or iPads with their lists of guest names for the various venues Some parties are a bit more welcoming, but beware…It might be that they are peddling their filmmaking wares and wooing potential customers.
There are numerous panel discussions. My favorite is the panel at the Women in Film luncheon. Female filmmakers discuss their Sundance films. I highly recommend attending this one!
There is LOTS of good music at Sundance. ASCAP has a lounge at the base of Main Street where they provide a rotation of performers all day long. The hotels and resorts have terrific folks playing in their lounges. And celeb musicians show up and perform where you least expect. I just missed seeing Cyndi Lauper who performed a stone’s throw from the Silver Lake condo!
The swag at Sundance is outrageous. Those who need it the least get the most. The best of the gifts at the exclusive gift suites included leather bomber jackets and top of the line boots. There are booths where you can have your hair styled and your nails manicured. There are sample foods and sample tech products. If free stuff is your thing and you have a way into these gifting events, bring an extra suitcase or ship a box or two back home.
Q & A’s
After watching a film, stay in your seat for the wonderful Q & A’s. Directors and actors are gracious and candid. They often reveal behind-the-scenes information you would not learn elsewhere. And if you are bold, you might manage a one-on-one with some of these filmmakers after the Q & A. This year I was able to speak with the amazing director of NO. In past years, I was able to speak briefly to Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, and Adrian Grenier.
I highly recommend three of the films that I saw at Sundance:
1) NO, nominated for the best foreign film Oscar. An incredible retelling of Pinochet’s loss of power in Chile in 1988 due to a brilliant advertising campaign.
2) DON JON’S ADDICTION, a skillfully designed comedy about a young man who learns the true meaning of love. Interesting spin (for sure!) on the genre.
3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS, an intriguing drama about Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac at Columbia University and the start of the Beat Generation.
I also saw a good film at Slamdance, the “alternative film festival” housed in an old hotel at the top of the Main Street hill. BETWEEN US stars Julia Styles and Taye Diggs. Julia Styles skyped in afterward from her kitchen!
The Stars on the Street
There wasn’t much swarming by the paparazzi this year. My first year at Sundance I was most fortunate to have a private exchange on Main Street with Robert Redford himself. This year the most unexpected event was a guy riding a camel on Main Street . It seems he was protesting his film not being included in the festival. The police quickly shut him down as he forgot to get a camel permit!
Bringing this article to a close, I realize that something else unexpected has happened right here and now…I have succeeded in influencing my own decision about attending Sundance 2014… See ya there! 🙂
About the Author: Arla Bowers, WIFV Member
Arla Bowers is an educator, producer, and writer who created positive impact with the “Lights, Camera, Literacy!” middle school courses for Montgomery County Pubic Schools. Arla directed and produced: MARY PICKFORD’S GIFT TO A NEW GENERATION; wrote, directed and produced: FACING THE FIRST; and completed dialogue/structural revisions for THE LOST STALLIONS. An active member of The Alliance of Women Directors, Arla is also a Cine’ Golden Eagle Winner, Nicholl Quarterfinalist, and has showcased two scripts at the 2009 International Family Film Festival.