Friday, January 08, 2010

My 20 tips for SunSlamDance

I’ve been making the trek to Park City for too many years to remember, but not too many to get too jaded about it. Most of my industry friends like to bemoan that they have to go to Park City again, but I think that’s just a “too cool for school” cover. It’s fun, and if you have a film there (congrats) it’s crazy and gut-wrenching, but hopefully still fun. I’ve been seeing lots of great lists on what to do at Sundance - Jon Reiss’ recent post on how to think about timing your film’s release with Sundance being the best. But I think most filmmakers need something much simpler, a little bit of advice on how to survive Park City. Here’s my take on 20 things you need to know to survive Park City. I’m sure there are more, but this is what I could come up with in 30 minutes, so add them to the comments.

  1. You will get sick. If you’ve never been, you might not know it, but Sundance is really a super-virus testing center for the CDC. They unleash every nasty germ there and see how it affects a closed population - self-absorbed film people who only talk to other film people - so luckily it doesn’t impact the entire country. So, to counter this, take every home remedy/precaution you’ve ever heard of. Even if there’s no scientific proof they work. Me, my wife is an expert on flu, so I just drink lots of water, bring kleenex and try not to take any filmmaker’s DVDs, as they are covered with germs. But, I get sick every year, so what do I know. 
  2. Carry a backpack/bag with essentials. These would include - your business cards, postcards for your movie, DVDs and press kits of your film, your film schedule, extra cellphone batteries (unless you fell for that iPhone PR blitz and can’t....), and two other essential items. A bottle of water. Drink lots of it all day. You can usually score free bottles at the HQ. Slimfast bars. This isn’t diet advice, which I am the last person you should take it from. You will skip meals, you will get hungry and tired in a screening at 8am. Any food bars do the trick, but the Slimfast ones are pretty tasty and have less junk than the other ones, it seems. I would say chapstick as well, but you usually are given 50 of those by sponsors who have decided it’s just the right give-away for a cold climate. Original folks, those marketers.
  3. Postcards are stupid. This advice is probably too late, and goes against what other people say and even my own rule above to make sure you carry them. Everyone makes the same postcards for their fest premiere and then re-uses them at every other fest, with stickers for showtimes. But has anyone bothered to wonder if this really works? Nope, no one has, because it doesn’t. Open up a random garbage can on Main Street in Park City. Go ahead, put your head in there. What do you see? Trashed postcards. Probably covered in puke, but there nonetheless. Every person throws these away as soon as you are out of eyesight. Most industry people have already set their schedules weeks ago. The only ones I ever keep are business cards - good ones have your info, the film’s name and a sticker on the back with showtimes. This way I can put it in my wallet or card case, which I can’t do with your big ugly postcard. Or, give me something cool - not a pin or some chapstick, but something that means something related to your film and advertises it, and that everyone wants to have. I suggest dollar bills with your film’s name on it, but Sarah Jacobson did well years ago with “Not a virgin” stickers that promoted Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore. Do something like that, but cooler.
  4. You will only get 4 hours of sleep a night. Not much to say here, but trust me, that’s all you’re getting, so remember number 1 and drink lots of fluids. This is also the number one reason to have your own room if at all possible. Bring earplugs if not, because if you’re sharing a room with me, I snore.
  5. Love the bus. Back in the day, you used to ride in a van with like three other people from one screening to another. Now, there’s tons of buses with lots of room - except there isn’t lots of room. They are crowded, and sometimes come late. My bet is that with budget cuts this year, there’ll be even less of them. Don't ride the trolley (pictured, photo credit: me), as you can outwalk it, but the rest of the buses are great. Ride them to save money and meet people. That’s right, done properly, these are great places to meet others, learn about films, etc. I think I met just about every contact I know on a bus in Park City a
  6. Cab. You’ll need to take probably one a day to some party on some ridiculously beautiful but horrendously far away mountain. And back home, when drunk at 4am with 6 people you suddenly realize are suddenly your buds because you stood next to one another in line for 3 hrs for a Stella. That was fun. Copy these numbers into your phone (disclaimer, check that they all still work when you arrive) - Ace - 435-649-taxi or 655 taxi; Citiride - 435-658-2220; Park City - 435-649-8515;  Powder - 435-649-6648. There’s also a roaming music taxi that is fun. I never know the number, just like getting lucky and randomly ending up in it late at night.
  7. It takes forever to get anywhere. Unless you are going from the Yarrow to the Holiday Village, which are right next to one another, it seems to take 30 minutes to get anywhere. Racquet Club from entire day, or an hour. About the same.
  8. Show the volunteers some love. Be nice to all the volunteers. They are your best friends, and you never know which one will end up running Disney or something. They also know every single party going on somehow. Be especially nice to the ones in the industry and press offices. They can really help you out. Also, for some reason I find that the ones standing outdoors in the cold repeatedly telling people “no, this isn’t the HQ Loop” seem to have met the locals and can help you with, ahem, procurement. I have no idea what that means.
  9. You aren’t there for the cheese man. Don’t spend your time at every party just eating the free cheese (and that’s likely all anyone can afford this year) and getting drunk on the free wine. You’re there to network. Meet people, this is your one chance. Don’t be obnoxious and interrupt them when they are talking business with someone else and don’t wear out your welcome, but meet as many people as possible. By the way, this advice actually comes from Anne Hubbell, my former boss and mentor who now works at Kodak and knows like every person on earth. My other favorite party advice comes from Gill Holland - find the one person in the room wearing a suit who looks out of place and knows no one. Shake their hand, as they are likely the money guy. They don’t know film people but came along because they invested in filmX and may want to fund something else.
  10. Don’t sweat the parties. Trust me, you will always be missing some other party you didn’t even hear about that is way better than whatever you are at now. Don’t spend hours trying to sneak in, or trying to get an invite. Just go to the one’s you are invited to and enjoy. Meet some filmmakers. If Sundance does the Press/Filmmaker meet and greets again this year, attend them all. Most of the journalists will be eating cheese and avoiding you, but try to meet a few and tell them about your film. Keep an eye out for the late night scene - there’s many a party in them hills, and there’s a certain someone who usually starts parties at 4am that are pretty legendary. I skip them now (seriously, I’m old and doing some meeting at 8am), but I met some of my best friends at these.
  11. Walk up and down Main Street. This is fun, and good exercise because it is steep and crawling with Western teeny boppers looking for celebrities, but that’s not what I mean. If you are attending Slamdance with a film, don’t spend all your time there. I love them, but lots of people are too busy to even make it to the Treasure Mountain, so go downhill and try to meet people from Sundance. Vice-versa, if you are in town for Sundance, check out at least one Slamdance film, or the Summit. And everyone should check out the New Frontier lounge on Main Street. Programmed by Shari Frilot, it’s been just about the only interesting thing at Sundance for the last few years. This is where the cutting edge stuff is getting shown and being discussed. Visit it, talk to the artists and think about how you could apply what they are doing to your art in the future.
  12. Albertsons. On Park Avenue near the Yarrow (and on the bus stop) is an Albertsons. Go there on the first day you arrive and stock up on whatever food you need. It’s cheaper than anywhere else, or than eating out and trust me, it’s much better to have your favorite cereal or whatever in the morning than popcorn at the theater. It’s best to go with your condo roommates and take a cab home.
  13. Arrange your return trip now. Unless you have a rental, which you don’t need, you’ll be paying a hefty amount for a van to take you to Park City. Arrange the return trip in advance based on your flight info and you’ll save money. Wait til later and it can be costly and might be booked solid. The return sucks - they usually pick you up in a van then transfer you to buses to go back. It takes time, so plan ahead.
  14. Don’t check bags. Ok, this is probably impossible with what everyone takes to Sundance, but trust me, it can take an hour or longer for them to arrive in Park City, and when you leave there is usually an hour+ line to check them again. If at all possible, carry-on. But not if you are on my flight, cause I need me some luggage space.
  15. Read this book before you leave, if you haven’t already. It tells you how to work a festival and try to sell your film.
  16. Read this book on the plane home, if you haven’t already. It tells you what to do once you realize your film didn’t sell at it’s festival premiere.
  17. Follow Basil Tsiokos on Twitter. He seems to know everything going on and tweets great things for filmmakers. And he’s a programmer.
  18. Watch some films. Yep, sounds like crazy advice, but if you have a film in either festival it gets very hard to take time out and see a film. But you need to do so. Find out what’s being new from some other country, catch an unheard-of filmmaker’s new piece. I say skip the hyped films - you’ll likely see them on the fest circuit elsewhere - and go to the unknowns, but that’s my taste.
  19. Get to know other filmmakers. Meet as many filmmakers as possible and become champions for their films. Indie films need support from all over, and that community often starts with who you encounter in Park City. On the other hand, I have a rule - never sleep in a condo with a filmmaker who has a film in the festival. Trust me, you become crazy people that no one wants around. I guess this means get to know everyone at parties but don’t sleep with them ... unless it’s for pleasure.
  20. Go to the Filmmaker Summit. Ok, I am biased as I am speaking there, but I think this will be a great place to learn new ideas, contribute suggestions and help build the future of indie film. If your film is playing or Harvey wants to meet with you, skip it, but otherwise spend a few hours thinking about the future with us. Not in Park City at all? You can still contribute on the site.


Sheri C said...

excellent info Brian. I am a Park City virgin this year. So I need a face mask, diet bars, water and no postcards under any circumstances. got it! I'm gonna look for that music cab. Plays good stuff huh?

Erin said...

Hah, it's so true about the postcards. Great post, Brian!

sWitt said...

Updates for #6 Cabs & #12 Albertsons from a #pclocal.
Add SnowRiders Taxi @ 435.731.6292 or 435.731.0569, don't think ACE or "Powder 4 the People" are around anymore, but 649-TAXI & citiride are good bets. Music Taxi is 435.649.6496

Alberston's is now FRESH Market, same location. however, if you cross Kearns to Snowcreek area, you'll find "The Market" previously "Dans" better market & it is next to the State Liquor Store.

follow us on Twitter: MeanPony

mikehedge said...

great collection of tips!