How to attend the Sundance Film Festival

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The Sundance Film Festival is one of the world’s most popular and well known.  Cannes is obviously the most famous, but Sundance will almost always hit the Top 5 in any list.

Founded by Robert Redford, the Sundance Film Festival is held every January (opening day is always the Friday after the Martin Luther King holiday) in Park City Utah which is less than an hour from Salt Lake City.

However, know that buying Sundance tickets can be complicated and you need to do some advance planning.  This post focuses on the rules for non-Utah residents.  For the 2018 Festival, ticket packages go on sale 18 OctoberTickets will go quickly.  Packages vary from $3000 to $250.  But note, the passes are for a certain number of tickets (and perks) but are not for specific shows or times.  You then select your shows, times and locations in early January.

The primary location for the festival is Park City and this is a charming place to stay.  You can combine your trip with a ski vacation and ski right to your room.  But not all screenings are in Park City, and very few are right downtown.  In fact, many showings are in Salt Lake City or even farther south at Sundance.  Therefore, a rental car is definitely recommended and if you need to save some money, a hotel in Salt Lake City may end up being both more convenient and affordable.

If the idea of a pass is a little daunting due to the price and the idea that you don’t even know what you will see, you can also purchase individual tickets in mid-Jan.  However, if you are a member, there is a pre-sale.  Memberships start at as little as $65 and this can be a good compromise between a pass and waiting until the last minute to see what screenings are left over.

Crowds will be heaviest during opening weekend.  Tickets are also more expensive this weekend.  I would love to tell you that it is not worth it and to plan your trip for the second week.  But I can’t!  Opening weekend is the screening of the premiers.  It is when the actors, directors and producers are in town.  It is the best time to go star hunting up and down the main drag of Park City.  It is when the sponsors give away swag (I love my annual Britta water bottle).  It is when the writers and directors will speak at a screening and you get to hear the rest of the story about the idea, their dream, the filming…  And it is when you get to vote and influence the outcome of the festival.

If you have more time, and love films, consider volunteering at the Festival.  You receive one free ticket for every four hours of volunteering.  Applications for volunteers is traditionally late summer / early fall.  It is competitive to volunteer but not impossible (about 50% selection rate).  Volunteers also receive perks along with a snazzy Sundance coat to keep warm during the festival (a lot of the work is outside).  But if you love Film, it provides you a unique opportunity to talk with like-minded volunteers and movie goers as well as a behind the scenes look at what is good and what is not!

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