PARK CITY - When the guy next to you on the bus is a struggling documentary filmmaker from London, you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Being in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival, which wraps up Jan. 25, is like stepping into a whole new world. Accents from seemingly every state and country fill the streets, companies dole out free goodies, and industry talk is always the major topic of conversation.
This year, some of that talk focused on countering the assertion of some national news media that Sundance was less successful because its films didn’t make as much money in the box office last year.
“Our job is to be a platform to bring new ways of seeing to the world,” said Robert Redford at the opening press conference. “We’re non-profit, which means we’re not interested in the money. That’s someone else’s job.”
For those of us not worried about Hollywood, however, having fun at Sundance is a much simpler prospect. If you’re thinking about venturing up the mountain for the first time, here are some tips for making the most out of the experience.
Use the shuttle
If you’re lucky enough to find a parking space in Park City, you’re going to want to hold onto it for the rest of the day. The smartest way to get down to the various Sundance venues is by shuttle, all of which are conveniently free. Maps are available pretty much everywhere, but there’s also a convenient Sundance shuttle that pops up just during the festival.
Plan your day in advance
There are a lot of speakers, concerts and other activities scheduled during at Sundance, many of them at exactly the same time. It’s a good idea to get a sense of everything you want to do in the morning, then arrange your day so you can hit as many events as possible.
Enjoy the free stuff
The sheer volume of freebies it’s possible to get your hands on at Sundance is staggering for those of us not used to being wooed by companies. Admittedly, we’re not the targets – other people in the Sundance crowd have far more money and influence than we do. But whether it’s a magazine, a water bottle or a free meal, there’s no reason for the rest of us not to enjoy the benefits.
Be open to surprises
Though it may be hard to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood A-list, the screenwriter or director of your favorite Sundance film may be walking next to you on the street. Many will be wearing their credential tags – movie cast and crew usually wear grey ones – and there’s no shame in scanning. If they happen to have worked on a film you loved, they’ll probably be thrilled to hear how much you enjoyed it.