Support us
December 18, 2023

Sundance Film Fest Survival Tips

by Tony Gapastione
producer blog 1 1

Sundance. 

Since 2013 I’ve been attending this life changing festival. It might be cliche to say it’s magical but being in person in the snow, with some of the best artistic cinema in the world and the ones who make it is something special. 

It’s been eleven years in a row, for me and two of those years were online, and I’d still it call it an inspiration. I go every year because it’s my reset, my creative vacation, my film camp.

As I prepare to attend my 12th consecutive festival in Park City, January 2024, here’s a few reflections to inspire others to go and equip those who are joining me in January 2024. 

I already wrote this blog: THREE REASONS YOU SHOULD ATTEND FILM FESTIVALS. Give it a read. In summary: friendships, collaborations and inspiration are the reasons! (I was inspired to start BraveMaker because of all I experienced at Sundance).

Sundance has been all of that for me. If you go, you’ll get the above and:

  1. You’ll watch inspiring, challenging, mind-stretching films that will be Oscar nominated and possibly Oscar winning. Sundance is one of the top film festivals in the world and their programming is a huge predictor of cinematic success. (That’s why ten thousand plus apply each year and they only pick one hundred. Those odds are wild. I’ve been rejected six times and yet I still go. Filmmakers don’t wait until you have a film there, remember those odds). 
  2. You’ll see celebrities, yes. I stood in line with Patrick Wilson at Starbucks. I peed next to Jefferey Tambor in the Eccles Theater bathroom. I sat next to Thanos, I mean Josh Brolin and his wife in my favorite Atticus Cafe. I saw Christopher Nolan walking down a fairly empty Main street and yelled his name. He turned, I waved and I said ‘You inspire me, Thank you!’ I sat in front of Effie Brown at the the Library Theater and talked to her for a few minutes about her work and how I learned from watching her on Project Greenlight. Celebrities are just like us. Don’t be weird, though. 
  3. You’ll be inspired in your own craft… in many ways. I take my laptop with me because inevitably I get ideas and in between screenings you’ll find me typing out a few pages of scripts. 
  4. You’ll get good social media content. Admit it, you’ve always wanted a selfie in front of that iconic Sundance Marquee or in front of that Banksy (below)! I’m always taking shots at the same places every year, because, It is SUNDANCE! 
  5. You might find a new friend, collaborator, funder, fan or gig. YOU MIGHT. Bring business cards. You’ll probably go home with a lot, too if you are filmmaker. Follow up and stay connected. The film business is a marathon of building relationships. 
Grey Photo Collage New Arrivals Instagram Post
Screenshot 2023 12 18 at 3.19.16 PM

Here are my top 11 survival tips for Sundance. 

  1. Stay in Park City that is where it’s at, don’t bother with lodging in Salt Lake. Yes, it’s expensive and Airbnb’s hike up their charges but you’ll waste more money and emotional stress trying to save costs by staying in Salt lake and commuting on the icy highways (parking is expensive and not easy) to Park City, Utah. Fly into Salt Lake City, but don’t stay there or schedule any film screenings there. It’s mostly for those that live in that part of Utah. The real film lovers and filmmakers don’t get the Salt Lake badge, it’s a forty-five minute commute from Park City and not worth it in my opinion. I get the Park City ten ticket badge. It’s pricy, currently $850 but you get priority film selections and entrance into special events like workshops and parties. I  end up buying lots of individual tickets, too. I’ll end up seeing about 15 films usually when I go for half the fest, five out of ten days. 
  2. Drink a lot of water. You’re in the mountains. You’ll dehydrate fast. There are water fillers everywhere. And most years they give out free water bottles, too. SWAG. 
  3. Dress warm. Duh. It’s winter in the mountains. It is a fashionable event and people dress to the nines for those red carpets/social media posts but you don’t wear open toe shoes and tee shirts unless you like frostbite. You’ll need a warm coat/parka and make sure to have thick socks, scarf, beanie and gloves. And you need winter boots. You just do. Hand warmers are useful, too!
  4. No need to rent a car. Uber/Lyft to Park City and their shuttle services around town are free there. Can be slow so give yourself time in between films so you can arrive on time. Check the requirements. It’s 30 minutes or fifteen you might lose your seat. 
  5. Bring a good phone charger. I’m usually out for the day (8+ hours). I walk around, going from film to film screening and workshop to hanging out with people all day. Phones can drain fast and there’s not a ton of places to plug in. I have this $25 one and it’s great. 
  6. Get on the Sundance APP on your phone. Do your research on films. Follow the filmmakers on social media. You can make connections even before you land in Utah. Learn about the waitlist. You’ll be happy you did.
  7. Be safe. Sundance and other film fests (and film industry in general) is unfortunately a place that has been exposed where a predators can take advantage of those in vulnerable situations. If you party, watch yourself and others. See something off, call attention to it. 
  8. Meet and talk to people. Ask questions. Introduce yourself in line, when you sit before a movie or at a cafe. I hang out at Java Cow and Atticus Cafe a lot (My faves). Share about your favorite movies. Get recommendations. If you don’t like a movie be careful, you never know if a crew member of that film is nearby! Don’t be rude or entitled. Not everyone wants to be in your selfie, get permission, especially from famous people. Remember we all go to Sundance have fun and enjoy film. Everyone has a story, many are makers themselves. Some might just be your next funder, producer, actor, director or fan.  
  9. You can find lots of free stuff so take advantage of it. Free swag, food, yes, even coffee and parties. Ask around. Sundance lodge and other sponsors often take over art galleries and storefronts for giveaways, lounges, food samples and other fun events. Thank the sponsors. Post a photo drinking that Matcha tea, you might just get re-shared!
  10. Pace yourself. I go hard at Sundance. The FOMO is real there. Sometimes I’m up at 7am and out past midnight. I can do this for a few days before I crash. I’ve learned to give myself some rest. Take nap here and there. I like to see two, three sometimes (once during my time) four films a day. Other days I intentional only schedule one and take time to write, journal, meet people and drink coffee.
  11. Utilize the fest volunteers. Sundance volunteers ARE THE BEST. I’m usually really impressed by them as I am always asking shuttle volunteers (it’s easy to get lost) what is the best/quickest shuttle to get to my venue. They never do me wrong. At a theater they are everywhere. 99% of the time I’ve had good experiences. These volunteers travel from all over the country to help you! They love film and Sundance. Say thanks. Be kind!
image

Did I miss any tips? Email me at tony@bravemaker.com. The snow, hustle bustle and chaos of the film festival in Park City isn’t for everyone or everyone’s budget. But I’d say try it out at least once and see if you’re not hooked.  If you’re not attending this year, start saving up for next year. It’s not cheap but I can *almost* guarantee it will impact you in some of the greatest ways.

Subscribe

Subscribe below to get BraveMaker blog posts delivered to your inbox.

Name
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Posts

January 16, 2024
Why I started a nonprofit organization, and why you shouldn’t, unless you’re ready to put in the work. (My longest blog ever).

This blog has been something I’ve wanted to write for a while. I may have been procrastinating… or avoiding it because it brings up just a few (read: all) of […]

Read More
December 23, 2023
Speed Date Me

Looking for love? I wrote a script about it and it became one of our last short films of the year. Our most recent BraveMaker Academy short film is in […]

Read More
December 18, 2023
Sundance Film Fest Survival Tips

Sundance.  Since 2013 I’ve been attending this life changing festival. It might be cliche to say it’s magical but being in person in the snow, with some of the best […]

Read More

Tony Gapastione

Tony Gapastione is a screenwriter/producer and director living in Redwood City, California. He founded and executive directs BraveMaker, a 501c3 nonprofit arts charity dedicated to educate, entertain and create community experiences around justice, diversity and inclusion. He and his wife Wendy have three daughters, one labradoodle and two guinea pigs...all of which end up in his movies in some way. His first feature film, "Last Chance Charlene" will be on VOD, February 2023. Connect with him on Instagram: @tonygapastione
crossmenuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram