Calm Before the Storm @SundanceFest

So this is what Park City looks like right now. It’s been snowing and windy, but today it looks peaceful. Sidewalks cleared of snow. Volunteers roaming the streets preparing for the real storm ahead. It’s called the Sundance Film Festival.

In one more day, this:

Sundance Film Festival, Snow, Robert Redford, ExperienceSundance

Main Street, Park City, UT

Will become this:

Sundance Film Festival, Snow, Robert Redford, ExperienceSundance

An evening at the Sundance Film Festival in Full Swing

Run almost entirely by hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, the festival has been growing the last 4 years. The mood has shifted each one of those years for various reasons. But, it’s still an incredibly fun and well done festival that I can’t help but go.

The Sundance Film Festival has the unusually good fortune of providing the festival-goer with a personal experience; allowing you to get close and connect to film crew, directors, actors. You’ll be exposed to new technologies and art forms you’ve never seen before – and in some cases you may never see again. Not because they suck, but because they are unique, one-of-a-kind experiences the artists chose to share at Sundance.

With any good storm, you’ve got your forecasters and your weather guides to help you navigate the turbulent events. In the case of the festival, your guides are your volunteers and they will all be wearing the same gear. The color of their gear and their uniform jackets change from year to year, but they’re not hard to spot and THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. If you need help of ANY kind, walk up to one of them and ask. They’re trained, knowledgeable, and I’ve never run into one in a bad mood.

Sundance Film Festival is funny, fries your brain, challenges what you think you know or believe, and is never short on bold style, crazy fashion choices, and colorful people!

Robert Redford’s commitment to staying the course and providing a venue where a unique voice can jump off of the page and onto the screen is endless. He’s witty, thoughtful, and smart. And for filmmakers and festival-goers alike, he’s considered an open-thinker, adventurer, and ground-breaker when it comes to promoting arts and artists alike with his ongoing @SundanceOrg workshops. The opportunities are endless.

Sundance Institute Workshops

Come to Sundance. Kick it with us. There’s so much to do you’ll forget about sleeping. And you’ll feel great doing it!

#experiencesundance #onlyatsundance @sundancefest @sundancefestuk @sundanceorg @sundancetv @sundancelive @sundancefestnow @firstlooktvfilm @filmindependent @scriptmag @cooperdance @variety @pamelaettlin @thr

Snowman Staked at Sundance

Strange $#&@ Happens at Sundance…

Day 1 at Sundance Film Festival and some crazy $#&@ happened!  A photo-bomber showed up in the form of a camoflauged man with night vision. Everyone was keeping their distance from him.

Sundance Film Festival 2015 Street Performer

Then the snow on the hill caught fire…

Sundance Film Festival 2015 Torch

And as we were heading across the snowy terrain, we saw a snow-terrorist staked in the head with an icycle!  There are obviously ninjas in Park City!

Snowman Staked at Sundance

However, there was a saving grace.  Park City is absolutely gorgeous at night.  The Slamdance HQ’s was abuzz with the World Premiere of a film called Bloodsucking Bastards.  And the food and drinks at Banghkok Thai was a party in my mouth!Park City at Night Outside Slamdance HQ's

Sundance Film Festival

The Prep – Part II

Year 3 is locked and loaded! 9 days to go!  Airfare. Transportation. Condo.  Credentials.  Movie tickets for the first 4 films secured.

Out of the entire trip, lodging will most likely be the most expensive thing you’ll pay for. Though there are other things you can drop a lot of money on such as the type of credentials you can buy, we have found the most expensive credentials are not necessarily the best.

Where you stay will greatly determine how enjoyable your festival experience will and can be. I think the idea is to not spend a lot of money, but stay within walking distance of Main Street.  If you are there to experience the films, the music, the dancing, the talks, and even ski the slopes – remaining close to Main Street is important.

And if you attend a party or two, have a few drinks or several, it’s always nice to be within a few blocks of where you are going to sleep. Or not sleep.  Because there is so much to do, and if you like to push hard like I do, you may not find yourself sleeping very much.  During the first 4-5 days of the festival, I find myself averaging about 4 1/2 hours of sleep a day.

Lodging Sundance Film Festival Lodging

Though you may not sleep much, when you do bounce in and out, it is important to get good rest and since you’re going to play in a town where others go to pamper themselves once a season, you should too!

Sundance Film Festival 2015 Lodging Sundance Film Festival Lodging

This will do!

There are shuttles that stop on all of the routes and they roll about every 20 minutes, so if you’re going to theaters outside the area, they’re quite handy. Renting a car doesn’t have many benefits. Unless you’re really good at driving in snow on icy slopes and enjoy driving for long periods of time searching for a parking space, there’s not much point. You can even get to Redford’s Sundance Lodge on a shuttle.

Though you could throw down and rent a mansion on the hill that overlooks the scenic Park City, we prefer to save it for the restaurants, shops, tickets, and special events you’ll come upon.  Some of them surprising and unexpected – in a good way!

Last year, we stood in line for 90 minutes in the snow waiting to see a documentary film that was getting a lot of hype called 20 Feet From Stardom. The film was about the backup singers over the last few decades that not only shaped the sound the bands they backed up, but the singers the stars couldn’t have survived without. The weather was a balmy 10 degrees and we thought we were going to get in. As they let everyone ahead of us in and the line moved us towards the doors that now represented the nearest warmth we would find for a few blocks, they lowered the red rope in front of us and raised their voice, “That’s it!”  People moaned. “If five people come out, we can let five people go in! You’re welcome to stay in line or go enjoy the evening!”

My sister and I had ate dinner and had a ‘few drinks’ at the pub where we just watched the 49ers get beat by the Seahawks. We even lost a bet to several Seahawks fans and paid up by buying them a round of drinks. That one hurt!

When the gentleman at the rope saw us wearing our 9ers gear, he said, “9ers fans huh?”, we replied with “We bleed red and gold.”  He lifted the rope and said, “Go inside and enjoy yourselves.” Some behind us moaned out loud again and we hustled indoors where it was warm.

And there they were.

Sundance Film Festival

Five of the ladies from the film being introduced one by one to an intimate room of about 250 of us. We never saw the film at the festival.  Instead, we were treated to a 90 minute plus performance of the hits they sang backup to through the years. On occasion, members of bands they sang for like the Rolling Stones and Stone Sour came on to the stage to perform with them as they belted out songs like Gimme Shelter. These ladies tore it up!!

Preparing for the festival is important indeed.  Sometimes it’s the things you’re unprepared for that will please you the most.  Memories that can not be recreated.

Sundance Music Festival - ASCAP Music Venue

Got It Covered

I’ve been asked a lot if I get bored at the festival after being there for 8 days. The truth is, even though I don’t sleep very much (average about 5 hours/day), after 8 days, I’m still revved up. There is literally so much to see, to do, to experience.

This year will be a bit more challenging for me since I’ll be adding you to my agenda! Here’s a sampling of what I’ll cover while I’m there:

  • World Premieres – First time showings of films, never before shown. Often sold out and packed with cast and crew members, you can often feel electricity.
  • Celebrity Sightings – I’ll get close and if possible, I will talk to them and get the close-up. I’m not shy.
  • Sights – Park City and the surrounding areas are so gorgeous at this time of the year. Often breathtaking and always cold, the beauty is sometimes lost in the details.
  • Sounds – The music scene is loaded with bands from all over the world and with sponsors like ASCAP and HP there is always a surprise or two, like last years impromptu 50 minute set by Matisyahu.
  • Food – It’s what keeps you awake at Sundance. Sometimes it’s a quick pot pie on the run or sometimes it’s a freshly authentic Peruvian dish you share with cast and crew of an independent film out of West Africa. A party in your mouth!
  • Fashion – It wouldn’t be Sundance if you didn’t see the latest winter fashion, extravagant jewelry, and some of the most obscenely loud clothing that captures your attention!

Of course, there are the numerous films. Some appropriately hyped, long awaited, disappointments. Last year, I saw 27 in a week. My reviews may not be extensive, but they will be honest. Even if the truth is brutal, it can be funny.

Film is an expression of emotion, of someone’s truth, of secrets and lies. It can be depressing, uplifting, moving. Days later, it can still be invading your conscious, making you re-think the way you thought or felt about something.  It may not satisfy you all of the time, but it is always someone’s vision, someone’s journey – and sometimes it can change you permanently.

Experience Sundance

Experience Sundance With Me

Attending the Sundance Film Festival is somewhat magical. As a filmmaker, screenwriter, director, or simply a fan of film, this film festival delivers the same excitement, appreciation, and education you would expect. The setting is perfect and everyone, and I mean everyone, is so accessible.

I decided this year to chronicle the journey that is Sundance. I’ll bring you with me and let you experience it. Your experience will be on a slightly different level as mine, but I’ll bring you along to the premieres, to the discussions, to the music, and to the people as best I can.

Sundance is also beautiful. Park City and the surrounding areas have a lot to offer when it comes to scenery and it’s all in the details. An extremely photogenic city, it’s hard to take a bad picture.

In addition to the blogging, I’ll do my best to provide you with the most candid film reviews you’re ever going to read. I’ll be honest to a fault, because I owe everyone only the truth. What good is a filmmaker who cannot handle the truth? I’d expect nothing more and nothing less.

Follow me and enjoy the festival!