This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Last year I experienced the Sundance Film Festival for the first time, a new Utah resident who had always wondered why anything frequently held in freezing temperatures could ever be branded "festive." I didn't buy advance tickets to anything, couldn't take advantage of the special Utahns-only sale date since I still had my California driver license, and didn't even look at the film schedule until the day before it began.
Yet I managed to hit up eight films in 10 days, a shocking record run for me, since I think at least 80 percent of all movies are intellect-sucking twaddle. That's why I spent seven years as a full-time rock critic, an artistic field where a mere 75 percent of all that's produced is essentially eardrum toxin.
Somehow, I actually had a great time and learned a few essential tips to pass on to anyone else looking to lose their Sundance virginity.
Tip #1: Do not go to Sundance.
Meaning Park City, hub of all the action, with its mix of celebrity selfie-stalkers, traffic nightmares and companies trying to sell you stuff you don't need (or give you free stuff you also don't need). Instead, catch all your screenings in Salt Lake City, where pretty much every film you'll want to see is playing at least once.
Tip #2: If you absolutely must go to Park City, do not drive there.
How does $25 (and up) to plant your car sound? Not only does Hollywood come to Park City each year, it brings its parking rates too. Also, Highway 224 from the Interstate 80 exit into town becomes a barely moving Hieronymus Bosch painting of tourists, movie industry people and Uber drivers hoping for that surge-pricing score, especially that first weekend. As I also found out, if you have a California plate on your car, you will earn at least one middle-finger flip for no discernible reason other than you somehow symbolize the reason that Park City local suddenly can't get to Smith's in a sufficient amount of time.
Tip #3: Keep on shuttlin'.
Instead, park at Kimball Junction, just off I-80, and take the free shuttle buses that go into town. They may take a while to get there, but they'll drop you off at the Old Town Transportation Center on Swede Alley, in the heart of the hubbub. Parking and shuttling in from the Deer Valley resort is another, closer option, but if you don't get there early enough, the lot will fill up and you'll have to schlep all the way back to Kimball Junction. By that time, if you planned to hit up a screening, your frustrations will be so elevated that you'll say, "Screw this, I can just stream it on Netflix in a couple months anyway."
Tip #4: Use the eWaitlist app, because it is the Greatest Thing Ever.
Download the Sundance waitlist phone app, which will come in handy when the films you want to see the most inevitably sell out before you land a ticket. When you tap it to get a priority number and it turns green with a message saying, "You have a likely chance of entry," it's an almost magical moment, like you've snuck in a secret back door, boosting your superiority complex for a couple minutes at least until the movie starts and you realize, um, it's kind of terrible. But hey, you got in and can now warn all your friends about it when it wide-releases in the fall!
Tip #5: Hone your acting skills by looking sad, lonely and depressed. It pays off.
The first two Sundance films I saw last year were "Author: The JT Leroy Story" and "Swiss Army Man." Both were sold out in advance, so I did the eWaitlist and stood by to see if I'd get in. I must have had a look on my face that resembled a puppy from a Sarah McLachlan dog rescue commercial, because both times, complete strangers ambled up to me and offered to sell their extra ticket for the $20 face. Going alone also helps, because people with extras usually need to get rid of one ticket, not two. And you're not going to be obnoxiously conversing with your significant film-loving other during the movie anyway, right? RIGHT?
Tip #6: If you really, really want to see celebrities, they will come to you.
Again, avoid going to Park City and stay in Salt Lake for all your screenings. The Sundance celebs are in full-on marketing mode, and they will show up at the back wall of a Maverik station if the film they're pushing is showing there. Which is why A-listers frequently come down the mountain and appear after Salt Lake screenings as well. The nerdgasms (and smartphone cameras) that broke out last year at Salt Lake Community College's Grand Theatre when Harry Potter and Aragorn er, Daniel Radcliffe and Viggo Mortensen stepped out onstage after the showings of "Swiss Army Man" and "Captain Fantastic" had to be heard to be believed.
How to Sundance
When • Jan. 19-29
Where • Park City and at venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.
Passes and ticket packages • On sale at sundance.org/festivals. Many are sold out, but some are still available.
Individual tickets • Tickets are $25 for the first half of the festival in Park City (Jan. 19-24), $20 for Salt Lake City screenings and for the second half in Park City (Jan. 25-29).
Information • sundance.org/festivals