Films & Food: Sundance Film Festival 2017

Today begins my eleventh Sundance. If you had told 14-year-old Sarah that future-Sarah would have spent over a decade trekking to Park City, Utah, she would have laughed in your face. (She would have also probably not realized that Sundance Film Festival was in Utah.)

But here I am. My eleventh time riding up the mountain to stand in lines, cry in movies and overdose on airborne while trying not to catch the plague. Sidenote: the Sundance flu is real and faithful. Post on that next week.

With an Industry Pass, I attend most of my screenings without a public audience and with fellow industry colleagues. There is a distinct difference between Industry and Public screenings. Industry are notoriously more critical of films and it’s common for people to walk in and out of screenings. Buyers or programmers may decide in fifteen or thirty minutes if the film is something they are interested in and will not waste time finishing it if it is not the right fit. This was an odd thing to witness when I started attending P&I screenings long ago, but now I’m use to it and have played my part in it. Public screenings have a general excitement filling the room as you’re often sharing the space with the filmmakers’ friends, family and supporters – or people just excited that they got into a Sundance screening. Through my work I receive a few public screening tickets and it’s fun to share in that experience too. There is nothing like catching a premiere at Sundance. The anticipation in the room is palpable and emotions run high. The environment you see a screening can influence your approach and perception of a film, so it is something to keep in mind when hearing opinions on the film from others.

sundance-2017-pi-spreadsheet
2017 Press & Industry schedule with my hope-to-see highlights. And yes, there are days where more than one film at a time is highlighted. It’ll be a roll of the dice.

One thing I’ve learned from my many years of attending Sundance is putting together the puzzle of your personal schedule. If you’ve ever attended a festival at all you know this struggle. For Sundance, this becomes ten fold. You must figure in your travel time (it’s ALWAYS slower to get somewhere on Friday or Saturday night of first weekend – be ready to walk in those snowboots). Industry often camp out at the industry-specific theaters all day, so it’s possible you’ll catch a movie in the middle of the day only because it is easier than going to another location. Industry receive the screening times a month before the festival in order to plan. The trick during planning a schedule is leaving room for surprises and spontaneity. Once on the ground, the schedule may go out the window. One day you want to end on a “good note” so you decide to call it and meet up with friends. Or your dinner party goes later than planned. You may end up at a party that someone gets you in or are given an extra ticket to a public screening from a buddy. You may over sleep that 8:30am screening (because catching a shuttle at 7:15am feels so early when you went to bed five hours before). The whole day shifts as you fill in the gaps and see a buzzed-about movie. All of that is part of the fun. It allows for discovery, new friends and memories.

sundance-2009-photo
Sundance 2009: walking in the snow, on the way to/from a house party, around 2:00am. I seem to have a LOT of blurry photos from past Sundances…

As for fitting food into that schedule, that can also be tricky. The food in Park City is not exactly…amazing. Ok, so it mostly sucks unless you can spend real cash (read: not on a non-profit org budget). The key is grocery shopping upon arrival and making whatever quick meals you can make in the condo. My go-to meals include:

  • ravioli with pesto
  • salads (a few grocery-premade ones which are not the best, but again, you take what you can get)
  • cereal (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
  • salami or deli meat, crackers & cheese

There are a few good spots for dining (and drinking) in Park City too:

  • Davanza’s – the best little dive restaurant in my opinion. Tacos, pizza and hamburgers for the win. I probably eat here too often.
  • High West Distillery & Saloon – one of my favorite places to grab a drink with friend (if it’s not taken over by a party).
  • Riverhorse on Main – This is $$$$, but totally worth a real, sit down meal when you need to take a time out.
  • Butcher’s Chop Shop – Another one on the expensive side, but a decent bar and cozy place to unwind.
  • Flanagan’s – An Irish pub that has very basic food. If you’re uphill on Main Street, you could do worse.
  • El Chubasco – Another cheap Mexican option. I always see someone I know in here. Close to HQ, Eccles, Prospector theater.

I’m looking forward to what this eleventh experience will bring, seeing a few old friends and discovering new filmmakers. I’ll post a few of the (shareable)stories next week!

Will I see you in Park City? What tips do you have for making a festival schedule? Any favorite restaurants in Park City you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

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