Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tips for If Your Film is in Sundance

Jacques Telemaque from Filmmakers Alliance has this advice for those filmmakers with the luck to make Sundance, which BTW is NOT the end-all-and-be-all or the make-or-break for your film or your career, so don't worry if it did not make it.


The following is a special "Tip Sheet" I created for my fellow Sundance filmmakers back in 2006 that I ammended slightly. But it can still be useful for this year's fest as well as for any festival filmmaker and even for non-filmmaker festival goers. Hope it helps!SUNDANCE TIP SHEET First of all, CONGRATS to everyone for having your film at Sundance. And even bigger congrats for making your film in the first place. Be prepared to have a blast. And I mean that literally - be prepared. Hopefully this email/guidebook will help. Of course, there's no way for me to know who reading this has or hasn't had a film at Sundance before, so I apologize in advance if some of this stuff proves insultingly obvious. But for those of you interested, I put this guide together to share some basic thoughts about how to get the most out of the experience. A few years ago, you could download the "Tips from Sundance alums" from www.sundance.org/source. I don't know if it is still available. In fact, I don't even know if they still have The Source - a web-based resource tool that the festival provided for its filmmakers. I used it back in 2006. Hopefully, it is still around and may even have been improved.

The "Tips..." was 38 pages long with some good info in there from both the short and feature filmmakers. But it is one filmmaker after another commenting, so it can be incredibly repetitive and, sometimes, contradictory. It's also not organized by topic - but still well worth reading. I hope this guide is more organized and direct. I've had two shorts at Sundance and been involved with numerous features and docs as well as having attended the festival many, many times in other capacities - as a film lover, director of a small alternative festival (Digidance 2001), president of a non-profit film collective (Filmmakers Alliance) representing the 11 films we've had in the festival and looking to introduce FA to creatively ambitious filmmakers, and finally as co-president of a private equity-financed feature film production company (FA Productions). So, if I haven't learned a thing or two over the years that I can share with others, I'm a complete idiot (entirely possible, of course). It's important to keep in mind that having a short at Sundance is very different than having a feature. And your goals for the film and yourself should be correspondingly different. Sundance is a huge festival with a lot of noise. Rising above the din is very challenging. What a short offers media types, industry types and the festival itself (in terms of furthering or maintaining its visibility) is limited in comparison to a feature so getting attention from them is difficult, to say the least. Nonetheless, there will be many people at the Festival interested in shorts and in your talent as a filmmaker who can be meaningful to you at some point in your filmmaking future - if, indeed, you are even concerned about a filmmaking future. Embrace the fact that a short has its own life and meaning at this fest - in a way that it may not at other festivals - and make the most of that reality. Whether you have a short or a feature, the most important thing is to define your goals for yourself and share them with other film savvy types who can reflect them back to you so that you know they are rooted in firm soil. Some of the things that people tell me they want out of Sundance are so unrealistic they might as well have stayed home and played the lottery.

Here are a few goals that are in the realm of possibility:
• Watch great movies and be creatively inspired by them. Watch bad films and consider thoughtfully what made them what they are and are not. My personal favorites are the docs and world cinema.
• Relax and/or ski and/or connect with friends but, over-all, just have a great time.
• Meet lots of great filmmakers with whom to build a community of support and with whom you can exchange info, resources, connections, bong hits, etc., etc.
• If you are a feature filmmaker, build interest in your film with other festival programmers and potential distribution partners (not necessarily just distributors).
• If you are a short filmmaker, you can also meet and engage festival programmers who might program the film elsewhere. And you can also introduce your film to short film distributors who might take it to one of the various short film markets and sell it to domestic cable and/or foreign television.
• Introduce your talent to the entire filmmaking universe and generate awareness of yourself as a filmmaker to watch.
• Meet producers or production execs (less likely) who might work with you in the future (and help raise funding for your work). But And you can also garner support for your future filmmaking plans from cast, crew or anybody else that thinks they can help.
• Connect with the Sundance programmers to soften the road for your future films ("Is that really possible?" - couldn't hurt and they are really nice people - and obvious fans of your work).
• Meet and engage managers and/or agents who can help you build a career (for those so inclined to chase that foolish..er, I mean, exciting/elusive industry dream).
• Go to lots of parties. Get free drinks. Eat free food. Maybe "hook up".And all of these goals will have sub-goals or perhaps be more targeted depending on the type of film you've made. If your film is a work of experimental animation, and you want to meet/attract the universe that supports more of that work, your goals will be more targeted.

If you made a work of experimental animation but secretly want to make a Farelly Brothers movie, I wish you luck and have no advice whatsoever to offer in meeting that goal. I sorta listed these goals according to my own priorities, (different for each of you, of course) although I probably should have put free food and drinks higher on the list. I left off "getting hired to direct a $20 million dollar film". I also left off "win an award for your film" because that's something you have no control over should never be a goal. However, once you've defined your primary goals, it makes it easier to decide what steps you need to take to maximize the experience. Below are all of the various considerations. I've grouped them by category and offered my two cents on each of them.

General notes:
• Be Active - Take part in everything offered to you, including the orientation meetings in NY/LA (sorry, rest of the country) and all of the official Sundance activities.
• Be prepared to be active. Take your health seriously. Budget appropriately for all of the stuff you'll need to do (Sundance can be a bit expensive - but not ridiculously so with all of the filmmaker perks you'll get).
• Read and respond to all of the stuff you get from the festival staff.
• Watch films. Duh!
• Meet people. Duh! Especially filmmakers. They are your extended family and future collaborators. Wherever you go, DON'T BE AFRAID TO TALK. But, please, don't sell. Chat. Be invested/interested in who you chat with. That simple approach can lead you in all kinds of exciting directions.
• Bring as much of your crew/homies/family/friends as you can. But don't hide away with them or you won't meet people. Instead, spread them out. Have them help you meet people. Make them your publicity/promotional force.
• Listen. Pay attention to conversations. Some are great to jump into and can lead to wonderful connections. Some have great information which can lead you to get more details. Some just have great dirt.
• Stay fluid - A lot of things happen on the fly or out of the blue. Some of those things are great. Allow yourself room to flow with them.
• Don't feel like everything has to happen in Sundance - important things often happen before and after.
• Drink lots of water (I will repeat this in the "health" section).
• Relax and have fun!!!
• Be yourself!! Whatever you do, don't be desperate! People will naturally be drawn to you if you're relaxed and having fun.Where you stay:
• Hopefully, you have a place already. If not, don't panic. There are still a lot of spaces available. Finding them is the challenge. Tell everyone you know. Post on the Source. Post on Craigslit. Post on Withoutabox. If you do, something will shake loose soon. Worse comes to worse. Find a place to rent and find others to chip in with you. Worse than worse - sleep on somebody's floor. Worse than worse than worse - stay outside of Park City - even Salt lake - and then find someplace close once you get there.
• If you can't stay somewhere close when you first get there, find a way to get close once you arrive. Travel time takes a big bite out of the time, efficiency and fun. At the very least, stay close to the free Park City shuttle line.
• If you can afford it, buy privacy (you'll need downtime).

What to bring:
• This guide
• All your Sundance paperwork
• Warm clothes - with double pairs of socks.
• Waterproof shoes/boots - that won't slip on ice.
• Swimwear - Unless you insist on jumping into one of the multitude of hot tubs completely naked.
• Booze - Don't wait to buy in Utah (see food/booze).
• Postcards and Posters - Don't go crazy with these (see publicity/promotion)
• 50 to 100 DVD copies of your short film - all region (or at least region 1)
• Cell Phone - (see communications)
• Stuff to read that has nothing to do with films and filmmaking (for downtime)

Where to hang:
• Any of the festival theaters - Watch movies. Meet people. That's what you're there for.
• Filmmaker lodge - Last year located on Main St. Relaxed, fun. Great place to meet a ton of different people. Happy hour (free booze and drink) starting at 4 or 5 p.m., I believe every day.
• Festival HQ - Last year it was the Marriot near Prospector Square. This is the hub - where you check in, where the industry and Press office is located and where they have an internet lounge. Not really much room to "hang" at the press office but there are a few tables nearby. But there is a lot of traffic. Interesting traffic. It's right next to your filmmaker mailbox, which you should check pretty regularly. If not for any other reason than for an excuse to hang around the press office and meet people. The internet lounge is in the same general area. More interesting traffic. Go in there, do a little work and chat people up.
• Kimball Arts Center - A good place to check out starting from about 2 p.m. each day. There are often great receptions there no one tells you about but to which you are very welcome. They have internet stations there, too.
• Main Street - The best place over-all to run into people and fun stuff. It can be a bit obnoxious, but just wandering around it is still the thing to do if you are looking to make connections, re-connections and get info. Or maybe just have a drink or two with friends.

Food/booze:
• Almost no need to buy food, unless you have special food needs. Most of the official parties (and unofficial ones) have food. There are so many receptions, brunches, etc., you'll be a porker by the end of the fest.
• Hit receptions early, before the food disappears.
• Restaurants are often very crowded and kind of expensive (at least right near the busy venues and Main St.). Park City is NOT a culinary paradise outside of the busy and expensive restaurants. If you do go to those places, you better make reservations as soon as possible.
• Big Condo meals ROCK! Have them with your housemates and/or with the people you meet there. Everyone shops at the Albertson's next to the Yarrow. You can meet people there, too. For hard-cores, there's a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in Salt Lake City. Google them for directions.
• If you want booze in your condo, buy it before you go to Utah. It is a dry state, so you have to buy it there in "state stores" and it is very expensive. But there is so much booze to be had at parties - for free- that I usually book a stint in rehab for right after the festival.Communicating:• People MUST be able to reach you. Stuff happens fast. You must have a cell, blackberry, etc. that will work in Park City. If you are uncertain about cost/coverage, call your service provider to make sure you're cool. And anticipate serious minutes and potential roaming charges, so call your provider now to set up the cheapest way to deal with it.
• Don't give out your condo's phone number unless your housemates take great messages and/or you have a reliable voicemail on it. Otherwise, you'll only annoy and frustrate the people who want to connect with you.

Transportation:
• Shuttle from airport - Have you thought about how to get from Salt Lake City airport to Park City? There are shuttles that can take you for about $40 round-trip. But you should find them on-line and book them before you leave.
• Car rental - You don't need a car, but very convenient. Cars are great to have because so many parties run late and take place in farther off places like Deer Valley. You rent at Salt Lake Airport, of course. Parking is a bitch, but not impossible. Main street is the only place it really sucks. I will park on the streets above Main on either side of it (Swede Alley running parallel to Main - or the opposite side, behind the Treasure Mountain Inn side, with several streets parallel to each other as you ascend and connected by stairs). If I don't find parking there when I need it, I'll park at the Library parking lot and jump on the shuttle into Main Street. But you don't NEED a car. It's a convenience. You will meet plenty of people that you can catch a ride with.
• Buses - Park City has a great FREE bus/shuttle system. The buses are nice and dependable, but not good if you are on a tight schedule. They don't always run as often as you like. If you are depending on them, give yourself lots of time. GREAT places to meet other people at the fest. Don't be afraid to chat on the buses.
• Shared rides - A great opportunity to engage in collectivism. You can contact a group (about 4) of filmmakers to chip in for a car for the duration and then work out some schedule for its use. It may end up costing you about the same as using the airport shuttle and add way more convenience - and allow you to connect with others.

Festival help:
• Sundance Festival Publicists. Use them as much as they'll let you, especially if you want publicity and are doing it yourself. But engage them now, not when you get to the fest. They will be swamped and naturally give their attention to whomever they've already connected with. Bug them now to tell you what media outlets might be interested in your film. If they say they don't know, SHAME them (kidding, sorta).
• The programmers. As I said, they are your champions. They love being there for you. They are indeed really nice people. When they select a film, they commit to it through the whole festival. Don't pester them for support to the point of annoyance, of course. But have them point out important people to you. Have them guide you through what you need to be doing. And feel free to express your appreciation to them without sucking up.
• Volunteers. They ROCK! Not all of them, of course, but many of them. As a whole, they seem to be very smart and committed. Some are talented filmmakers in their own right. Some have no talent at all but are very cool human beings. They can be in support of you in a myriad of ways. Be nice to them. Talk to them (and be invested in that talk). And, hell, ask them for things. • The Source. Again, not sure if they still have this. It was available in 2006 and was a great tool - although far from perfect, but still very useful. Log onto it as soon as you can to see what it offers. Use the contact info to set up meetings now (see below).

Publicity/Promotion: This is a big category, so think clearly about your goals before jumping into any of this. Do you even want to or need to publicize/promote? Not everyone does. You certainly don't have to do it to drum up audience as every screening (except early morning) will be sold out or close to it. You are doing it to create connections and visibility as a filmmaker. Or, let's be honest, just for ego. Maybe just to build a little scrapbook of the attention you garnered at Sundance. Whatever the reason is, just make sure that you have a reason so you know why and how you are putting energy into this.
• Publicist. Most will tell you don't bother with a publicist for a short - although they can be very important for features (narrative or doc). But again, that decision should be based on your personal goals as they can indeed be very useful. I used a publicist who did it as a freebie for my short in 2004. I got a lot of media attention and got into a lot of parties that I normally wouldn't. I also met a lot of people that I normally wouldn't. Did any of that move my filmmaking life forward. Not directly. The publicists (Dominion3) did a great job for me, but it did not immediately serve the life I am building for myself as a filmmaker. I'm glad I did it, though. It was fun. And my ego loved it. And I think, indirectly and over time, it did indeed help move my filmmaking life forward. One way to defray the cost of publicity is for you to get together with other filmmakers and chip in to pay for a publicist together. Or, if you are a short filmmaker in a program of shorts, chip in with all the filmmakers in your program. Not all in the program will go for it, even though they will benefit, but if enough of you do it, it will save quite a bit. Also, since publicists can only wring so much from a short, define what you want from them and settle on a price accordingly. I only asked that they arrange a few key interviews and reviews and get us into a few key parties. That shouldn't cost too much.
• Sundance Publicity Liason. As mentioned earlier, bug them now to find out what media outlets would be interested in your film or you as a filmmaker.
• Mutual cross-promoting. Again, connect with other filmmakers. See if they have similar goals. Then, you can cross-promote each other's films. Maybe even put info about their films on your postcards. Or, if you are in a shorts program, chip in together to create postcards that have the whole shorts program on it. Remember, there is strength and savings in numbers. Even if you don't have a formal cross-promotion relationship with another filmmaker, when you see a great film, talk it up. It reflects well on you. And personally, I buy into the whole karma thing.
• Reviews. Reviews are, in my mind, the best thing you can come away with regarding press attention. If they are good, you can actually make use of them instead of just file them in your scrapbook. For shorts, however, it is tough to get any publications to review individual short films, although some certainly do from time to time. It's best to get all the filmmakers together in your program and create a single DVD with all the films that you can make copies of and send out to the various publications, both off-line and on-line. The local Salt Lake City papers are great for this. I would do the trades, as well. Can't hurt. Then, there's Film Threat, indiewire and many, many more. Also, papers in NY or LA have publications that review Sundance films, like the L.A. Times, L.A. Weekly, NY Times, Village Voice - definitely send it to them, as well. Please share your info with other filmmakers if you find other places to which they should send films for review. You give, you get.
• Print. Print other than reviews usually mean feature articles, which are tough to get and need a lot of lead time if they are magazines. You may want to angle to get yourself included in the festival wrap-ups that a lot of magazines do - MovieMaker, Filmmaker, The Independent, etc. But if you have an interesting filmmaking angle, I would still give them a shot now, although it is pretty late in the game. Also, you must again, consider your goals. Do you want to make an impact in the film world, or in the world that is explored in your film? If you are doing a film that deals with domestic abuse, perhaps that is the world you want to reach. What are the publications that service that world? Research it and reach out to them. Finally, if you have an interesting story angle, whether it be about filmmaking or is issue-oriented based on your film's content, you can try pitching it to the local papers or any of the hundreds - and I do mean hundreds upon hundreds - of news organizations that will be in Park City. Find out who they are and how to contact them through the Press office.
• Radio. I did a radio interview about my short at the Park City NPR affiliate, KCPW, that was arranged by my publicist. It was a great, fun interview. Call them to see if you can set one up. Call early, though. 1-435-649-9004.
• Television. Park City TV is where its at for promotion-hungry filmmakers. Sundance Channel and IFC do stuff, as well, I believe, but unless you can sell yourself as a big ticket commodity, or if your film has a "name" in it, or you yourself are a "name" who is directing a film, or you put a lot of energy into coming up with a unique and/or outrageous way to seize their attention, you aren't going to get much play with them. PCTV roams the streets looking for filmmakers to spotlight, but that is hit or miss. Contact them now to see if you can schedule and in-studio interview, 1-435-649-0045. Or see if they are interested in following you around at Sundance.... • Promotional Items. Shirts, hats, keychains, squeeze balls, balloons, etc., etc. with the film's name are commonly done, but cost bucks. Anything outside the norm will garner more attention, but cost even more. I'm not sold on how effective these things are. Personally, as a potential audience member, unless it is something really practical, I find them to be annoyances. And if they are practical, I don't even really pay attention to what's written on them. Every so often, I'll be struck by something really cool. And if you can afford it, some of those promotional items can be silly fun. But be sure to ask yourself if any of these things are even appropriate representations for your film? Will they detract from the energy of your film? They could, depending on the type of film you have. What would you hand out if you did a short documentary on starvation in Ethiopia? (insert tasteless joke here)? If I do anything, I prefer to use a simple sticker that I can paste on things all over the place, including clothing.
• DVD screeners. No, if you are a feature filmmaker. Absolutely yes, if you are shorts filmmaker. Bring 50 - 100 DVD screeners, if you can afford it. They'll go like hotcakes. Unlike features, you want your film spread around. It doesn't diminish its distribution value in the states because there virtually is none. Sundance Channel doesn't care if a hundred people get your DVDs. And you will meet many, many people who cannot make it to any of your screenings who you will want to see the film. Many are people who are "working" Sundance with whom you hope to work. People who are "working" Sundance (producers with features there, publicists, institutional funders, broadcasters, producers reps, distributors, etc.) have virtually no time to see anything. You may even meet the occasional rich patron who's time is limited. The beauty of Sundance is that everyone is there and so you never know who you are going to meet who can mean something to you in any or all of a myriad of ways. Be ready to grace them with your film. But again, this is for shorts and features that are not suited for mainstream commercial distribution. For films suitable for that kind of distribution, a different kind of strategy is usually necessary.
• Posters. Posters look great. But they are expensive and there are few places to put them in Park City due to city ordinances. The only places, really, are the Sundance-sanctioned kiosks around town. But as soon as you put them up, someone else tapes/staples over them. It's much cheaper to make smaller posters (11 x 17) and put them up everywhere. Then refresh them consistently. It's a lot of work though. Again, remember you are doing it to simply create awareness of your film in the Sundance zeitgeist since you don't need to drum up audiences. Personally, I would make the 10 posters the press office asks for and leave it at that and/or put small posters up all over my car, if I have one (or someone else's car, if they let you).
• Postcards. Good postcards are very important, but do not saddle yourself with a zillion postcards unless you are one of those promotional freaks that will roam Park City annoying the hell out of everybody. A beautifully designed card says a lot about you and your film and is a key introduction to your film and the details of the screenings (date, time, location). Use it as a business card. Put in your contact info - both permanent and in Park City - along with a synopsis, screening times, and any other pertinent info that you can fit on it without cluttering it. But be sure to design an arresting image on the front of the card in full color (unless your film is b&w). That will speak volumes for you and your film. Finally, you don't need more than a few hundred in my opinion. Take 500 to be safe. I only take about 100 because that's about how many new people I know I'll actually engage long enough to want to invite them to a screening.
• Poscards in badgholders. Postcards also fit nicely into a Sundance badgholder, turning you into your own walking billboard. Convince any other badgeholders not connected to a film to put your card - face out - on the opposite side of the badge in the badgeholder and create an ARMY of walking billboards. Or a least a few people who can walk around with your postcard in their badgeholder that others can see when the badgeholder flips, as it does invariably, to the opposite side of the badge.
• Photo ops. They're there. Take them. Why not? But don't waste time seeking them out. My publicist got me into a WireImage photo session. Those things are goofy and I have no idea what, if anything, they do for you. But, again, if you are committed to promotion and can get yourself in there without too much trouble, you might as well.

Making Connections:
• If you can, set up meetings that take place before you go to Park City - As exciting as it is to meet people at Sundance, they also tend to be very busy and distracted. Some are actually there to watch films and have limited time to meet. If you are in NY or LA or somewhere else close to the people you want to meet, use the fact that your film is in Sundance to arrange meetings with whom you want to connect. The fact that your film is in Sundance alone opens a lot of doors (no matter whether it should or shouldn't). Take advantage of that. If you are geographical unavailable or otherwise can't set up a pre-Sundance meeting, at least make a phone connection before you go so that you can complete the connection face-to-face in Park City. Who are these people to meet? That's for you to research based on your own stated priorities/goals.
• Panels. Attend the ones that interest you. The information can be good in itself, but you also can learn a lot about people in the industry with whom you hope to work by what they say on panels. Don't be shy about approaching them afterwards, although they tend to be mobbed right after the panels. If you see them later at a party or on the street - introduce yourself. Mention your movie, but don't sell it.
• Speakeasy. Not sure if they are still doing this, actually. This was the programmers' party of choice. Always after hours (after 2 p.m.). Usually happens at a particular Main Street bar, the name of which escapes me. But ask the programmers, they'll be happy to tell you. Great place to connect with other filmmakers and with the Sundance programmers - if you've got the party stamina for it.
• Movie/Ticket lines. When you find yourself in line for anything, don't just stand in line - talk to the people next to you!! You may discover quickly that you don't want to talk to them. Or they may prove to be a useful connection. Or they might just be great people with whom it is a pleasure to converse.
• Buses. Same as movie/ticket lines. Don't be afraid to talk.
• Main street. You'll often run into people on Main Street. And you'll often see people you want to meet. Usually they've done something or are doing something to make you want to meet them. Use that fact as an opening to meet them by acknowleding/appreciating what they've done or are doing. Stay away from celebrities. Those encounters are always unsatisfying and - who cares? Celebrities suck.
• Research your targets or find someone to be with who knows who is who. A big part of connecting with people is spotting the people with whom you want to connect. You will be at lots of parties and events. It's good to know who is in the room with you. Do a little focused research related to your goals about who is who. Or bring someone (or hook up with someone) who knows these people and can spot them or even make introductions for you.

Screening your film:
• Attend all of your screenings, if you can - If you are in Park City, you should be at all of your screenings. This where people discover you. This is where they make note of you. This is where you enter their thoughts and concerns. Be there to make sure that happens. And happens as you want it to happen. There are a lot of screenings, so you may inclined to miss one or two. Don't do it. You may miss something really important, least of which is the ability to connect with your Sundance audience. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how often filmmakers miss their screenings.
• Be vigilant of screening quality. The Sundance projection crew is truly amazing and among the best in the world. But stuff happens. Lots of stuff. Even If screening digitally, sound levels can be whacked. I like to stay close to a Sundance volunteer who can notify the projectionist of any issues until the film is running smoothly. But that's just me. If you worry about stuff like this, you should do it, too.
• Q & A. In general, be prepared. Know what you want to say about your film. Maybe have someone ask you random questions about it in preparation. Think about how to answer the two most general, basic questions. How did you make your film? Why did you make your film? Naturally, there are a zillion sub-questions. But if you've been thoughtful about these two biggies, you'll be able to answer most of the questions. Be as charming and distinctive (and humorous when possible) as your own personality allows. if you have that awkward moment when no audience members ask questions (inconceivable), have something ready to say. Don't hog time and go on about yourself ad nauseum, but be smart, succinct and impactful. Sum up what the making of the film meant to you and invite them to seek you out afterward. People respond to talent, but they also respond to how well you handle yourself and how your mind works. Be ready to impress your audience with more than your film.For short filmmakers, keep in mind that if your short screens before a feature, you don't get a Q & A, so make the most of your introduction before the film screens without hogging time and being obnoxious. If you are in a shorts program, you should have a Q & A, although it is always good to check in with the person introducing the program to figure out how it is going to take place. Connect with whomever is introducing/moderating (and keep tabs on them) to be sure the audience is made aware of the Q & A beforehand, and that it starts promptly after the last film. And be considerate - of the audience, of the festival and of other filmmakers if you are in a shorts program - even if your film generates the bulk of the questions. Always good to be concise.

Tickets/Passes:
• Buy - or otherwise get your hands on - as many tickets as you can, or can afford, to your own screening. You'll want to have them in hand for people who you really want to be there, but couldn't get a ticket elsewhere. Or people that show up out of nowhere. That happens a lot.
• Ticket swapping. So, you get 10 measly tickets to other screenings (last time I checked). And you have to pick your films in advance of the fest or you wind up with vouchers - which means waiting in the rush line each time you go to see a movie - which can be fun and useful (see making connections), but adds an extra half hour to an hour or more to each movie experience. Build a network of ticket swappers, so that when you get to the festival, hear feedback, then don't want to see a film you pre-picked you can swap those tickets out with other filmmakers (or festival attendees) to go see something you are excited about.
• Collect unusable tickets. Many filmmakers have conflicting events/parties or they are leaving early or some other reason for not using all their tickets. Many tickets get frittered away. Don't let that happen. Collect them, if you can. You go see that movie or distribute them to someone who can. If you are a potential fritterer, make sure you give your ticket(s) to someone who can use them as far in advance as possible. If you are leaving town early and not going to the closing night award party, give your tickets to your friends or fellow filmmakers.
• Ask for extra tickets. Go to the shorts desk and ask for extra tickets to your screenings. Just ask. All they can say is no. But, sometimes, they say yes. But the sooner the better.
• Ask for extra badges. Same with filmmaker badges. Ask and ye shall receive. The sooner the better. These badges don't get you into movies or ticketed events like opening and closing night galas, but they do get you into the Filmmaker Lodge and some official receptions. Ask for a couple extra for your crew/friends/posse. All they can say is no, right? But sometimes.....
• Press Screenings. Not completely sure, but I think filmmakers can go to press screenings. Get a schedule from the Sundance Industry Office (SIO) or the Press office. These are easier screenings to guarantee seating. Although there are less screening times to choose from and they are in the uncomfortable Yarrow.

Parties:
• Go to all of the official Sundance parties and events - At least drop in for a bit. Those tend to be more "serious" parties with interesting people who are equally passionate about film.
• Build/Share a Party list - Databases of Sundance parties will start floating around soon. Ask other filmmakers what they know of available parties. Add them to the list and share the info. When you talk to people on lines and buses, ask them what they are doing that evening and you'll automatically learn about 4 new parties. Then spread the word. Finding/Sharing party information is a fun, easy way for filmmakers to support each other. But don't waste too much time on all this. Parties at Sundance are part of the scene and even important. But you are a filmmaker, not a professional partier (although I personally know that some of you are both). Keep your priorities straight.
• RSVP now. As soon as you hear of a party, figure out how to RSVP and do it immediately. Those lists fill up fast and can mean the difference between eating fresh seafood with your martini or sitting in your condo stuffing your face with Top Ramen.
• Don't try to be at all parties at once. Don't try to hit everything you can. It tires you out and is ultimately unproductive. If you are having fun/feeling good at a party, stay there. Settle in. If you aren't, move on quickly.
• Avoid Industry parties unless you dream the BIG dream - That means big studio/production company parties, agency parties, magazine/trade paper parties. They may have the best food and booze, but the worst people. They suck, period. And they're hard to get into even as a filmmaker - although being a filmmaker allows you to talk your way into most things. Of course, if you really want to go, there are ways. You meet a publicist, ask them to put you on the list. Go with someone on the list. Schmooze up that guy/gal on the panel and ask them if they are going to be at the Variety party. Can you tag along (only super assholes ever say no). But in my opinion, the only reason to go to those kind of parties is if you dream the big studio dream and have made a film that speaks to that dream (and the people that feed that dream). I don't, so naturally, those parties make me ill.
• Avoid Harry O's and other "bar" parties - Those suck, too. Worse than the industry parties because you get absolutely nothing out of them except hordes of Salt Lake City wannabes who care/know nothing about film and, of course, surly bouncers. Run screaming.
• Speakeasy - (see Making Connections).

Sundance Swag:
• Swag does not equal validation - You get a nice swag bag from Sundance. Be content with it. And many parties will have parting gifts or gift bags. Don't go chasing swag even though you will hear stories of free shopping sprees at Fred Segal's. Those are reserved for high-level celebs and other people that don't need free stuff. In general, try not to load yourself down with a lot of meaningless crap you have to tote around for the rest of the night and then lug back home with you.

Health:
• Sleep - Get plenty of rest before you go (at least one week), because you won't get much when you are there. However, if you start to feel run down when you are there, stop immediately. Rest. There's a nasty flu bug that goes around every year. When you are run down and your immune system is vulnerable, you're in deep poo-poo. I was down with the Sundance bug for 5 of the ten days once, trapped in bed and begging my housemates to shoot me and put me out of my misery.
• Vitamins - Start taking them now to build your immune system. They won't be so effective if you start taking them once you're there. Some wait until they are already sick. Pointless. Start now.
• Exercise - Like the other two, this is more important before you go. Park City can be extremely rigorous and you need to be in shape to deal with it. Once there, this is usually not an issue because, like most people, you will probably be doing a lot of walking. And maybe some skiing. But if you are spending to much time just sitting in movie seats, you gotta do something to get the blood pumping.
• Layers - It is usually cold as crap outside and hot inside at an event or party. The weather can also be fickle, sometimes. Dress yourself in a way that allows you to peel off clothes accordingly.
• Emergency room - When my flu bug bit its hardest, I needed professional care. The nearest emergency room I could find was in Heber City - 20 minutes away. Keep that in mind if anything comes up.

That covers all everything I can think of at the moment. I'm sure I've forgotten a bunch of stuff. And I'm sure you'll have many questions. Please feel free to post additional questions to my Facebook wall so that others can see your questions - and my answers. What I can't answer, hopefully one of you can. My goal is to start a dialogue amongst us and open the channel to sharing resources and information. I apologize for the length and density of this note, but hopefully it helps. Look forward to meeting as many of you as possible and seeing your films....and having a blast in Park City. Best,J.

Comments:
Christo Dimassis
Great Sundance survival book.And always remember to have fun.Thanks Jacques
2 hours ago

Brian Chacon
Great thanks
2 hours ago

Dave O'rama
Good info, now I'm ready..I just need a good film now
2 hours ago

Diana Hart
Awesome Overview! I'm hoping at least of my films I shot (as an actor) get in.. PLUS my bday is Jan 18, great way to spend it.
2 hours ago
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3 comments:

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  2. Thanks a lot for the sum up, very helpful - I can't wait for my first time!

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