It’s that time again: Sundance. But not just Sundance, of course. There’s also Slamdance, Slamdunk, No Dance, Lapdance, TromaDance, X-Dance, Freedom Cinema Festival, and the Park City Film & Music Fest. If you’ve got an indie film “out there,” the only there that counts this month is Utah. Have you been? If so, you already know the drill. If 2005 will be your first Sundance, get ready to have your mind blown. And for those of you staying in Hollywood with me and about ten other people this season, don’t fret, we’ll find something productive to do here ’til everyone else gets back.

Rule Number One: Dress the part. The locals don’t call festival-goers “The PIB” for nothing. Yes, that’d be “The People in Black.” So, dress warmly and dress in black. Unless pink is the new black, in which case you can accent accordingly. I tend to be tragically unhip in my pink Hello Kitty earmuffs and mittens, but when I’m separated from my group, folks can always find me in a crowd. Oh, and there’s always a crowd.

Rule Number Two: Be patient. There will be screenings you just can’t get into. Hollywood sends locals out to buy up tickets, online pre-sales are over-committed, and VIP slots are held. Still, if you show up early and go on the stand-by list (and prepare to stand outside during the hour you’ll wait), you may get inside. My favorite screenings tend to be the first-in-the-morning ones. Amazingly, I saw more “special guests” at early-morning screenings than at the more high-profile prime-time slots.

Rule Number Three: Thumb-type. Seriously. Text-messaging will earn you more friends than taking a call on your cell phone. Sure, cell phones will still be in use (and always at the most crucial moment in the most sensitive scene in the most quiet film), but if you get in the habit of thumb-typing your way through your during-film-social-life-planning, you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of being escorted out. Oh, and take that tip with you into restaurants too. Some have a flat-out cell phone ban. Take that seriously.

Rule Number Four: Save room in your luggage for swag. You will get free stuff. Lots and lots of it, if you’re smart about your schmoozing. If you’re flying in and out of Salt Lake, be sure to save room in your luggage for all of the freebies. Things you can pack that you will use up while at Sundance (therefore freeing up space in your bags) include lip balm, sinus medicine, moisturizer, bottled water, Excedrin, eye drops, Vaseline, spare sunglasses and gloves (you will lose or loan a pair of each), and disposable cameras (turned into prints before you leave town).

Rule Number Five: Have a plan. If you have films on your must-see list, make sure you go through the Sundance festival guide (or start looking at the program schedule online now) to know how many chances you have to see the films and where. You will have a better shot at getting into screenings after the premiere and at the larger venues. And if you’re headed to a tiny, makeshift screening room, make sure you know how to find it. Those out-of-the-way venues are way out of the way sometimes. Make sure you know which parties are important to you and how to get into them. Make friends with filmmakers, publicists, producers, festival personnel, and anyone else who can help you gain access. And, again, be patient. You may not get to do everything you wanted to do at Sundance, once you get to town and start seeing what’s going on at the other festivals. Don’t discount those other festivals, either. In a world where the “indie film” is now a $2M “risk,” there’s something really wonderful about catching a $4,000 short at one of the “minor” festivals (especially when you get to sit with the filmmaker during the screening and hear all about how his film was too edgy for Uncle Bob’s fest).

Other tips I’d like to share include the following. Learn the bus and shuttle system (ride each route once when you get to town, so you’ll know which ones stop at your favorite destinations and in how much time). Pay attention to when the busses stop running (that walk back to the condos after the last screening on Main Street can be cold). Attend the filmmaker discussions and panels (they’re enlightening and shockingly light in attendance). Pick up the free copies of every trade publication and special edition of the entertainment rags provided at major venues. Get to parties early (for the free food and drinks that get gone by 10pm). If you’re into celeb-spotting, stand out in front of the Egyptian Theatre and watch the balcony across the street all day. Camera crews choose that location to film interviews with the A-List Celebs in town (since the Egyptian marquee is so lovely in the background). When you’re not out on the town, watch the Sundance Channel for the higher-profile award ceremonies and screenings of past-years’ award-winning films. Get enough sleep, stay warm, drink plenty of water, and be prepared for post-Sundance crud (the flu-like illness everyone gets after having partied too hard while dehydrated at high altitude) when you get home.

Oh, and be ready to work. If you leave town for Sundance, you’ll be expected to have made some good contacts while away. And if you’ve stayed in town, take advantage of that jump you’ll have on those who leisurely return home.

Here’s hoping every one of you has a great film of your own screening at one of the many Park City festivals next season!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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