Film Independent Tue 1.20.2015

Park City for Beginners: Tips on Navigating Sundance and Slamdance

Two days to Sundance and Slamdance! Film Independent hosted an event last month with Short Term 12 producer Ron Najor and Slamdance Film Festival publicist Annie Jeeves during which they talked all things Park City. So for those of you currently packing a bag for a week and a half of movies, movies, parties, and more movies, we have all the tips and tricks you need for getting around, networking effectively and, yes, going to parties (and movies).

Basic Survival
“Some people actually get altitude sickness,” Jeeves warned. She advises getting there early and taking time to acclimate before you really need to do anything. “I get a B-12 shot beforehand,” she said, “and I’m putting Airborne and Emergen-C in my water every day, because you’re not getting any sleep. I’m living on that and coffee. I don’t think I actually eat.”

Assembling a Team
If you’re going with a film, you’ll want to have a sales agent, publicist and lawyer coming with you. Figure festivals into your film’s budget early; reps don’t come cheap. When hiring these people, Najor said, “talk to other filmmakers—and not just in this case, but in any case, when you want to vet somebody. See what other films they’ve worked on and contact those filmmakers.” He and Jeeves agreed that you also will want to find out how many films a PR or sales company is representing at the festival—if they have a huge slate they’re working on, chances are your film will not be their priority.

“Most filmmaking is relationships,” Najor said. “People have and find good relationships that they will keep coming back to, and those people will fight for you and do really great things, rather than if you’re just trying to do a one-off.” A filmmaker’s relationship with a publicist or sales rep is crucial because of the existing relationships that those people bring to the table as well—“I don’t know anybody at USA Today,” Najor said, for example. But publicists do.

Getting Around and Saving Money
“The concept of a cab in Park City is just that: a concept,” Jeeves said. There’s a (completely free!) bus system that transports festival goers between venues, and if you are staying near Main Street or a venue, then that’s very helpful and convenient for getting around. All of Slamdance (except a few parties) happens in one venue, but if you’re at Sundance, be sure to leave a good window of time between screenings when making your schedule. Najor is a huge fan of the waitlist app that Sundance introduced last year. Especially if you don’t have any free tickets as part of your festival package, just download the app and join the waitlist two hours before the screening you want. It will tell you your spot in line, and if you have a low number, chances are good you’ll get into the movie.

Shops, restaurants and housing double or triple their prices during the festival, Jeeves warned. If you want to do Sundance on the cheap, buy groceries and cook in your condo rather than eating in restaurants the whole time. For those living in Los Angeles, Jeeves advises driving to Park City rather than flying to Salt Lake then taking the shuttle as a major money-saver.

Parties and Networking
“People think there’s networking to be had [at the late-night parties],” Jeeves said, “but it’s more the cocktail parties, from 4:00–6:00 pm or 3:00–5:00 pm.” Or anywhere else, for that matter: “I met more people in line waiting for a movie than I did going to a party,” Najor admitted. “That’s the nature of Park City,” Jeeves agreed. “It’s the most random interactions, but you want to make yourself pleasant for those interactions where everyone’s not deafened by the DJ and several vodkas in.”

They advised against pushing your script on people or handing out screeners. “People don’t want to hold onto anything extra,” Jeeves said, “A few days later, if you follow up, include a Vimeo link.” Najor reminded the filmmakers in the room not to tell anyone your film’s budget—not even other filmmakers—and said to strike a mellow tone while hitting the Sundance parties. “Meeting people is like planting seeds; just engage and have conversations,” he said. “Everyone is there because they love movies. If you can talk about movies, that’s the way to relate to people.”

Mary Sollosi / Film Independent Blogger