In 1981, Robert Redford, one on Utah’s resident celebrities, helped to form the Sundance Institute, an organization dedicated to enhancing the artistic quality of films. He has since been instrumental in one of Utah’s major tourist attractions, the Sundance Film Festival. This festival is held every January. It is centered in Park City and has events Salt Lake City, Ogden City, and at Redford’ s Sundance Village.
Each year the Festival programming team reviews thousands of independent films from all across the world. These films span nearly every language known to man, broach any and all topics one could imagine, and represent many different genres — from animation to indigenous works to cult films. The mission of the programming team is to find features and documentaries that “ inspire, challenge, delight, startle, move, and thrill” viewers. Each year thousands of fans and artists alike eagerly greet a line-up of revolutionary and thought provoking productions. Many of these films eventually make their way into mainstream society, but their bragging rights stem from their claim of independence from big-budget studios.
The Sundance Film Festival is open to the public, with tickets going on sale in advance; locals can even buy their tickets two days ahead of the rest of the world. Tickets are only $10 per show, about the same as you would pay to see a movie at a theater, but when you see a show at Sundance, you get to sit in on a Q&A session with the director and some of the cast members as well! For those who are not able to obtain any of the highly-prized advance tickets, a Wait List Line is always a likely way for stragglers to be able to participate in at least one film or venue. For those who do not want to wait in lines or venture out into the cold, the committee recently announced the launch of its Sundance Online Film Festival, where patrons can pay a small fee to gain access to many short, animation, and new-form projects on the internet.
Aside from the film venues, the Sundance Film Festival boasts several other locations — the Filmmaker Lodge, the Music Café, the Digital Center, and the Sundance House — where people can immerse themselves in festival culture, hobknobb with industry forerunners, and enjoy the benefits of time away in an area that prides itself on being a whole other world. The Festival also features a Film Music Showcase and a Film Music Roundtable, where composers and directors speak and demonstrate the logistics of creating a film’s soundtrack.
The Sundance Film Festival Daily, the official Festival newspaper, provides up-to-date info about events, including last minute changes. Pick up a copy at any venue. Current information is also posted on the Festival website.
Organizers encourage attendees to come prepared. The Festival is held in the rugged mountain climate of Utah, where the average daytime temperature in January is between 12° and 33° degrees F. The average snowfall during the month of January in Park City and surrounding areas is approximately 30 inches, and organizers suggest dressing in layers and bringing warm coats, gloves and hats. Visitors should also be prepared for the high altitude that accompanies the beautiful scenery. At 6,800 to 10,000 feet above sea level, one should drink plenty of water and be careful not to overexert.
The Sundance Film Festival is an ideal way to acquaint yourself with the world of independent film, whether you are an aspiring writer, actor, director, or simply a fan of good cinema.