The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in existence, with more than 50,000 people eagerly viewing hundreds of independent films from all over the world. The event transforms the small ski town of Park City (as well as other Utah cities) into a hub for all things film and music.
For these ten days, the typically easy task of being a tourist in Park City is anything but. Everything - lodging, transportation, ticketing and parking - requires extra planning. And if you thought winter in Park City was pricey and busy to begin with, you haven’t seen anything like Sundance.
That’s not to say a streamlined group Sundance experience isn’t possible. Use the steps and guidelines in this article and you’ll plan a group Sundance event to remember.
Keys to a Successful Festival
Start Early | Trust us, we've seen people plan a trip to Sundance and end up ticketless and staying in a shoebox. There are ways around this, which we'll discuss later, but if you are hosting a VIP event you'd be well-advised to plan your accomodations and ticket packages in advance. The same goes for transportation, airfare and non-film activities.
Make Decisions | A typical ski trip to Park City might not require much planning. There's so much to do, just let the group decide as the time comes based on how they're feeling. Not at Sundance. Your group will thank you for making decisions and planning out the event for them so that they know where they have to be and when. Having these decisions made is best for everyone, since you're more likely to get them into great films and events by deciding on things in advance.
Make Connections | Know a local in Park City or Salt Lake? Have friends in L.A. with a production company? Start to rack your brain about who you might know to help give you an edge. If this isn't an option for you, you might consider hiring an experienced event planner such as Strategic Event Design, or contact one of the local Park City reservations agents.
First thing's first: know your ticket package options. Visit Sundance.org to learn about festival passes, ticket packages and individual tickets. You're typically required to register for the time slot lottery, so be sure to register before the cutoff date. You'll then be assigned a time slot during which you may purchase your ticketing options. We'll be the first to admit the system is a bit cumbersome, but we can only surmise that after 30+ years, the Sundance crew have good reason for their madness.
Not Just Films
Note that when planning your group event, you'll want to consider a variety of functions. Even the biggest movie lover might get sick of watching three-plus films every day for a few days. Sundance is so much more than just films. Check out the live music options including the fan favorite ASCAP Music Cafe. There are also plenty of VIP events which your pass may or may not grant you entrance to.
In addition to all of the wonderful performances, it's almost a sin to visit Park City and not have a day on the ski hill. Check out Deer Valley, The Canyons, and Park City Mountain Resort for your downhill skiing fix. Just looking for a quick cardio hit? Park City also has numerous nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails.
After all that exercise and entertainment, your group may want the chance to simply walk Main Street, head to one of the many fine dining establishments, and
Just like tickets, lodging is in high demand and selection becomes tight pretty quickly. This is one of the most important elements to plan well in advance if you have a group who does not want to cozy up on the living room floor of some hundred year old miner's shack. Stuck on lodging? We can help you coordinate. Other options include travel agents, reservations offices at the local ski resorts, and Sundance's own loding booking service.
Of course, you'll need to get to Park City. Lucky for you, it's one of the easiest mountain towns to get to. It's just 30 minutes from the Salt Lake International Airport.
Once you arrive, getting around can be a challenge, due to the additional 50,000 other people trying to get around. Luckily, you have options:
Take the free transportation. Sundance runs shuttle busses frequently and much later than the normal Park City busses.
Hire a driver. If you know you have a varied group going to different films and events throughout the week, it might make sense to hire a private driver. Taxis can be expensive with rate hikes during the fest, so this option might not be as pricey as it sounds.
Taxi cabs can work but aren't necessarily recommended due to long wait times.
If you are able to stay in a prime location, you can always walk to and from your destinations, or combine this option with the shuttle bus and taxi cabs. The best thing to do is to tap into your network of connections or your event planner to determine the best and most cost effective method for you.
Grabbing some of the printed festival guides to hand out to your guests is also advisable. Sometimes it's just nice to have everything in one handy package versus trying to look it up online. The guide will give you the festival schedule, a map of theaters and venues, transportation information and a few key contacts.
Give your group an itinerary
Ask for a preferred film list once the selections are published. You can try to accomodate your guests' wishes, but due to popular demand, might not always be able to get the exact films and times they want.
Make a game of it. Try something fun like a contest for who can spot the most celebrities at the festival.
Bring supplies. Guests who are not used to the cold and snow might need to rely on you for the little extras: hand warmers, gloves, tissues, etc.
Stuck without tickets? Try one of the offshoot festivals like Slamdance or X-dance. There are more and different fests popping up every year. You can also try going to a film in Salt Lake, or films at off-times, such as the midnight showings.
image source: flickr.com
My team has decades of experience with the Sundance Film Festival and events in Park City, Utah, as well as all over the world. We can help ensure your plans are buttoned up, with no detail left to chance. If you need assistance planning your group's film festival event, contact us.