By Greg Pak
So I finagled my way to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival this year by snagging a job as a videographer for one of the festival sponsors. No pay, but they hooked me up with a plane ticket and accomodations. I’ve just returned and I’m chock full of practical hints.
Cold weather clothing
I wore long johns and sweaters every day, and my knit cap was essential (although I managed to lose it before the week was out). However, I did not need the eight pound insulated snow boots I hauled out to Utah. My leather Redwing hiking boots served me just fine, worn with heavy wool socks and liners.
Some folks dressed up for some of the parties, but cold weather casual ruled the days and nights.
The festival is aggressively flyer-unfriendly. Park City actually has an ordinance prohibiting people from handing out flyers on the streets and annoyingly officious Sundance volunteers quickly throw out any publicity materials unrelated to festival films which are left on tables or posted on kiosks. So much for the scrappy independent film spirit.
Transportation and Lodging
Shuttles to and from the Salt Lake City airport cost about $25. The company I used was Park City Transportation, 1-800-637-3803. The airport is about half an hour from Park City, without traffic.
The festival venues are spread out widely — unlike Telluride, where almost all the theaters are within walking distance of each other. But Sundance runs an efficient shuttle bus service which trucks filmgoers from theater to theater. I never had to wait more than fifteen minutes for a bus.
But be careful where you stay — not all of the surrounding condos are on the shuttle circuit. I stayed in several different places, with my level of convenience and luxury decreasing as the week wore on.
First I was at the Lodges at Deer Valley, a pretty nice ski lodge which has its own shuttle to and from Main Street. It’s also on the Park City shuttle circuit. Very convenient, but expensive. My tab was picked up by my employers — I think it was around $250 a night.
Then I stayed a night at the Best Western, which was 6 miles out of town. Only (!) $169 a night, but considerably less convenient. The hotel ran an hourly shuttle to Main Street, but it stopped running around midnight. After that, I had to catch cabs ($12).
I spent the last few days in a shared condo with friends of friends. A mere $100 a night, but there were no convenient shuttles. I ended up taking cabs in and out of town, at $8 a pop.
The Japanese restaurant on Main Street is terrible — congealed rice, sugary udon broth, tempura vegetables cut too thick. Ugh.
The Thai and Vietnamese restaurants were pretty good, but wildly overpriced. One of the best little meals I found was the soup special at Burgies — tasty and good for cold weather.
Warning — the condos and lodges don’t have adjoining restaurants. To get food, you’ll have to shuttle or drive into Main Street. For general provisions, take the shuttle to the Holiday Village Cinemas — there’s an Albertsons supermarket a few doors down.
If you get into any parties, grab the free stuff early. I was working plenty of swanky parties, shooting video, but invariably I’d forget to make my way to the swag tables until it was too late. Missed out on some nice stuff, too — people were walking away with free pagers and backpacks and whatnot. Ah well. We all have enough junk anyway, right?
I brought my camera along as back up and then had to use it for my gig when my employer’s camera turned out to be broken. So at the last minute, I had to scramble to find a video light on a Saturday morning. I ended up going to Salt Lake City — I found a camera store called Inkleys which helped me out. 127 S. Main Street, 801-328-0561.
For extra batteries, try the Radio Shack next to the Holiday Village Cinemas. The theater shuttle will take you right there.
I didn’t have a film in the festival, so I wasn’t there in maximum self-promotion mode. But the streets are full of Los Angeles and New York film industry people fairly itching to toss their business cards your way. If you’re even marginally friendly, you should be able to meet producers or managers or agents or fellow filmmakers — they’re sitting beside you in the theaters, sharing taxis, and standing next to you in line. Bring business cards.
When I found out I was going to Sundance on a videography gig, I promptly submitted “Asian Pride Porn” to TromaDance, one of Park City’s supplemental festivals. There are a slew of alternative festival screenings going on — and although no one’s offered me a three picture deal on the basis of my TromaDance screening, it was nice being able to tell people I had a film showing during the week.
I met another TromaDance filmmaker who was even more savvy about getting his work shown — upon arriving in Park City, he talked to the organizers of NoDance and got himself a screening in their festival as well.
I got very lucky with tickets — a friend hooked me up with a number of comps and I was able to get into a few press screenings in my capacity as the editor of AsianAmericanFilm.com. If you don’t have an inside angle and don’t want to pony up the bucks ahead of time, I’d recommend going to the matinees rather than the evening screenings. Almost every evening show I attended was sold out. The matinees were very well attended as well. But screenings begin as early as 8:30 a.m. — if you’re willing to get up early, you oughta be able to see something on short notice.
By Greg Pak