Stars and snow are draws at Sundance Film Festival
Ever bumped into someone on a street and think, "Hey, he looks a lot like Kevin Spacey" — and then realize that he is in fact the...
Ever bumped into someone on a street and think, "Hey, he looks a lot like Kevin Spacey" — and then realize that he is in fact the Oscar-winner? Or been sitting in a sandwich shop and spot "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker strolling by the window?
Star sightings like these are routine in Park City, Utah, during the annual 10-day Sundance Film Festival, which is coming up Jan. 15-25.
If you thought the resort town was just for skiing and the films were just for Hollywood insiders, think again. Tickets to screenings are available for $15 a pop to the general public.
And while lodging and food are usually pricey, it can be worth it to combine all the amenities of a ski town with a unique cinematic experience — a chance to maybe rub elbows with your favorite star, or get in on the excitement of discovering the next Kevin Smith or Steven Soderbergh — directors of Sundance films who have gone on to mainstream Hollywood acclaim.
Sundance is the most significant American festival for launching obscure independent films into the mainstream, and each year it seems to attract a more star-studded roster of attendees. After eight years of attending the festival, I've picked up a few tips for getting the most out of the experience.
• Go to www.sundance.org/festival and check out your ticket-buying options for the films.
There may still be some packages available that give you access to all screenings on specified dates, plus some of the parties where you might meet celebs. But at $2,500 or $3,000 a pop, you might be better off waiting for individual ticket sales.
You can register online for a time slot to buy individual tickets when they go on sale. Most premieres will be sold out because they've been snapped up by insiders and buyers of the aforementioned packages, but you can generally find plenty of availability for second and third screenings of films. And even if you don't recognize the names of any of the actors or filmmakers, you could still find yourself watching one of next year's box-office hits or Oscar winners. And at most screenings, you can expect the film's director and perhaps a star or two to show up afterward for a Q&A.
Even if you don't buy tickets in advance, you can check at the festival's on-site box office for day-of-show tickets. Or, you can plan to wait in line at the venues for wait-list tickets — those with high tolerance for low temperatures who are willing to get in line early stand a good chance of getting in.
• At the Sundance Web site, click on "festival info" to start your search for lodging. Whether you go with one of the festival-recommended facilities or strike out on your own, the most important amenity to ask about is the proximity to the festival's shuttle-bus route.
The film venues in Park City are spread out, with limited parking, and riding the shuttle bus is a must. The closer you are to its route, the fewer steps you'll have to walk on cold, slushy sidewalks.
If you like crowds, show up on opening day and stay through the first weekend. If you want fewer hassles — but also a lesser chance of spotting celebs — plan to be there for the closing weekend. The festival screens its award-winning films during closing weekend, so you stand an excellent chance of scoring tickets to some of the festival's best flicks if you go then.
• Watch for freebies. Plan to walk up and down Park City's Main Street and duck into the venues that are open to the public. Many offer free drinks, munchies, Internet access or product samples.
• Make restaurant reservations early. If you hope to eat anywhere besides snack bars or sandwich shops, call right away for a reservation. One must-see is Zoom, owned by Robert Redford, the film festival's founder (435-649-9108; www.sundanceresort.com/zoom.htm).
• Last but not least: Don't forget to ski. Plan to build in at least one day for skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing. Because the movies are the primary attraction during Sundance, the Park City slopes are less crowded than usual and are even more ideal during the less-crowded latter half of the festival.
One of the Park City slopes ends right on Main Street, so you could stash your skis and go straight from the slopes to a screening — or vice versa — if you plan well.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.