IFH 214: Sundance Film Festival Survival Guide



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This year will be the sixth time I’ve been to the Sundance Film Festival and I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks on how to survive the experience. I’ve many many mistakes when traveling to the festival. From the wrong shoes to not having Chapstick. These small things can turn into nightmares if not done correctly.

I teamed up with Adam Bowman from Media Circus (listen to his past IFH Podcast Episode here). Adam is a true veteran of the Sundance FilmFestival, this year being his seventeenth outing. Between both of us we have you covered.

Also if you want to get a behind the scenes / backstage pass to the Sundance Film Festival check out #crashsundance during the festival to see all the inside stuff we are creating from the festival.

Take a listen and take some notes. Enjoy and I hope to see you at the Sundance Film Festival this year!

Alex Ferrari 0:01
So I teamed up with my buddy Adam Bowman from media circus who's been there 17 times. And we kind of put together this top 10 tips on how to make your Sundance experience a little bit more enjoyable because we've made a lot of mistakes along the way. And there's some inside tips that if you're going to Sundance you really should know, and it covers all sorts of things. So without any further ado, enjoy our top 10 tips for surviving Sundance.

Adam Bowman 2:01
Welcome to the Sundance survival guide with your host Alex Ferrari. Adam Bowman. We want to give you 10 tips on how to survive Sundance. Yes, so the first one yes, very simple, very personal health and comfort. Yes, right. Yes, hand sanitizer, much of it, you're gonna meet a lot of people, you're gonna be shaking a lot of hands a lot. And you don't want to spread the germs around. But don't do it necessarily in front of people. You don't want to put them off or see germaphobe PRL in private. Yes, vitamins and supplements. So you had a regime last year.

Alex Ferrari 2:34
So last year, I mean, I've gone to Sundance, it's gonna probably be like six or seventh time I lost count. And every time I've gone, except for last year, I get sick, I brought I bring something back or I catch something while I'm there, which makes the Sundance experience less than optimal. So what I did last year is I got you stick with your Maltese, obviously, right but I got a general broad spectrum, immune boosting nice supplement that has like a nation all this kind of other stuff, and probiotics at sure biotics all the time, the other little secret I took was chlorophyll and not not to be not chloroform. We're not Bill Cosby anybody know? But chlorophyll which is to help oxygenate your blood with the altitude which we'll talk about another tip later. But those are the supplements that I took and kind of helped me good and again, the pleura and not putting your mouth hands in your mouth, you know, doing a lot of hand sanitizer to give your body a chance. It's tough because with all of the you know, extreme if you especially if you're coming from places not like LA, which is not you're not used to this kind of extreme weather, meaning cold weather period, right, and snow and altitude and you go from cold into a hot environment out back out the cold environment, you know it you were your immune system down really quick, right? So do everything you can so that's very, very important.

Adam Bowman 3:49
Alright, tip two for surviving Sundance is layers. Lots of them. You're in the snow. You're in the mountains it's high altitude. And the last thing you you know la wear and attire is just not going to cut it everybody in New York who's coming to the festival probably gonna be okay because they're really used to cold temperatures right now. But But yeah, layers are a key. The other thing is waterproof boots.

Alex Ferrari 4:11
Well, before we even finish layers, have you been tell me you've seen this? Women? Oh, yeah. actresses coming in from LA with miniskirts? I'm gonna say actresses. Okay. very loose term with her. And I just see them walking on Main Street with like miniskirts? Yeah. And not even stockings, no, just like and and high heels. They showed up to a party in LA. Right. They showed up to a party in LA. And they have a little jacket on and you just see them like, yeah, freezing their butts off. So don't do that. Just it's you're going into battle. That's right. This is it's an excursion it isn't. You're going out to Mount Everest. You got to really prepare yourself because it is not also a short thing. No, you're going to be doing this for two. You're gonna stand in lines outside. Yes. Yeah, it's just and depending on this on the year you go, it could be like this year we're looking at 20 to 30 degrees. But I've been there years where it's five, right and 10 and freeze

Adam Bowman 5:03
You will get snowed on you might get dumped on, like last year was a dump.

Alex Ferrari 5:07
Yeah, last year was like, with a foot and a half every night was dumping on it. But the other one the other tip you're saying is waterproof shoes.

Adam Bowman 5:14
Yes, absolutely. Because it right now is calling for snow that first weekend. And all the slush, and all the roads are good. It's gonna be super wet. And the last thing you want to do is walk through town. Because you're gonna your feet will be cold and wet all day.

Alex Ferrari 5:31
Yes. And I made the mistake on my first first couple actually, because I was an idiot, Sundance's where I used just regular socks, and not having water. I took sneakers, and like dress shoes for a party. And I would walk out and wait in line to get into a party or waiting too long to get in a movie. And my foot was frozen, literally frozen solid from the moment, you know, within 15 minutes, and you're just dying out there. So make sure they're waterproof. And another big tip as well as last year, I was just telling these guys, last year I bought insane boots that nothing could get it. Right But they also weighed five pounds. So there was that and when you're walking around, I was exhausted all day. My feet were killing me. But I was dry. So you have to find the balance as well. That's right. And then the other tip was the sock sucks.

Adam Bowman 6:17
Nice big heavy socks socks get wall insulates, even if it's wet.

Alex Ferrari 6:22
Yes. So wool thermal, get thick socks, not like two or three of your regular socks. That's not going to work. Don't get thermal socks. And arguably if it gets cold enough, I don't think it'd be that this year but like thermals underneath, are sometimes necessary

Adam Bowman 6:36
Sometimes are although keep in mind that if you're wearing thermals, and then you go to a party. You're done. Yeah, yeah, it's too much.

Alex Ferrari 6:42
It's too much. So depending on what you're going to do if you're going to be out all night, right, then yes, wear thermals. mittens.

Adam Bowman 6:50
Gloves are not a bad idea. You don't necessarily need the big thick, you know, ski gloves, but something to keep your hands warm while you're trotting around town area coffee making phone calls.

Alex Ferrari 6:59
And if you have something that can pull the fingers, oh yeah, fingers are here for your phone or for just being able to touch something. Yeah, that's really good. my gloves has something that you can actually stick like an iPhone or, or chapstick or something like that. Inside that hand warmers, the EDS, the hand warmers, I discovered them like trip three. And they're the best things the best investment you can make where there's these little packets, you crack them and it creates heat for like a couple hours. Yeah, you put them in your hands, you put them in your feet. Yep, put them wherever you put them in your pockets, put them wherever you want to be warm. Inner giblets warm, keeps you giblets warm, whatever you will write is well worth the miniscule amount and get them before get them on Amazon, get them Okay, I gotta tell you, just bring them with you.

Adam Bowman 7:44
REI is definitely Amazon's a good place for you. Alright, tip three is, there's a lot of stuff going on. But make sure you try to see movies,

Alex Ferrari 7:52
There is a film festival after all film festival that you watch movies there. And there's great panels. So that's another big, big, big thing a lot of filmmakers don't take advantage of is the panels, the workshops, the seminars that go on expertise that are around there and giving away free information is remarkable. And don't forget, I've actually met a lot of producers and people in the industry by walking up after the panel and going, Hey, I really loved your panel and just accessing them. And you would never get access to like a producer of a big television show or a big movie, you know, any other way. And if they're hanging around talking, that means they're open to it. And I've gotten meetings from that I meet with them later. And we make relationships and things happen. It's really, really valuable. And also don't forget, there's only not just one Film Festival. That's right. Two world class film festivals going on.

Adam Bowman 8:45
Right on top of Main Street. There's this film festival you might have heard of called slam dance. Yes. So you know, if you're having a hard time getting tickets to Sundance, go up and check out slam dance some great movies there. If you have a pass for Sundance, you're probably set. But otherwise you need to learn the app. The app is very it's never been easier to waitlist a movie, but you have to stay on top of it. And you know, make sure that you're ready right when that opening happens to weightless movies that are coming up. Yeah, the old days used to just literally sit in line. Yeah, three hours in the snow waiting to go see Yeah, then not now you can sort of see instantly whether it's worth your time to go and check out the the line for the movie. Yep. Alright, tip four is parties. How do you get into a party?

Alex Ferrari 9:27
Well, you either break in jump fences, yes, you can. And then you'll get arrested. But there's a lot of different ways you might it might be worth it, actually, and we'll say how we did it before but there's other ways you can do it. One, if you have a little bit of a little bit of a scratch, hire a publicist. Yes, if you can hire a publicist, pay them a couple grand 1500 bucks 2000 bucks. They might be able to get you on lists to get into any of these parties and or gifting suites and things like that in areas that you will not be able to get access to. So might be a good investment. to hire a publicist, other ways of getting into parties is while you're there meeting other people, right? And you will meet people, you could just go, hey, what parties you go into tonight, hey, I'm going to this party, Oh, great. I'm going to this party and you start hearing about where these parties are, you have a party network, there is a party network. And you'd be surprised that people that you meet there, you know, you might meet somebody on the side of the road, that's a big, high powered producer, director or manager agent or something like that. And they just know you as the dude that they partied with at Sundance. And then later on, you find out that they're this, you know, big, powerful person, totally what it's happened many times.

Adam Bowman 10:37
The other thing to think about when you're at a party, though, is that you are at altitude, so you're going to have the tolerance of an 18 year old with a fake ID, okay? You just cannot sit there and drink the same amount you were any other time you need to moderate your drinking, especially if you want to try to get to the next day, which is the other part is, don't go big on your first night. If you're tempted, it's the energy of Sundance, you're going to want to go big on the first night. Yeah, it's a mistake, because you're going to want to do the same thing the next night. And then the same thing the next night, no less same thing the next night. And if you're 18, you might get away with them too. Might you might get away with a day or two. But generally speaking, it's going to want it's going to just beat you down. Yes, it's a marathon. It's not a sprint,

Alex Ferrari 11:20
Sundance is a physical, it's a focused physical endurance challenge. Yes. It's not just about chilling out and having a good time and party, if you're going to do it. For real, it's a lot if you're going to need even three days. Even if you're staying three days, it is a marathon because after that first night, I remember waking up at two o'clock in the afternoon and half your day is gone, right? partied so hard is that eight o'clock screening. And you missed the eight o'clock screening of you know, the next big movie, right? So just take pace yourself, because it will, it will hurt you. Absolutely.

Adam Bowman 11:54
Tip number five, don't drive at Sundance, please don't drive it. You could drive to Sundance, but then don't touch it. Don't drive again.

Alex Ferrari 12:02
So if you're going to drive a car, first of all, do not drive apart in Sundance. Now. If you're going to drive to Sundance, that means you have a private parking space. Yes, a garage where you can park that car and never touch it again while you're at ever. Because if you're gonna try to drive around Sundance, you will not find parking, and you will make it hell for everybody else there. So don't do it. Use Uber and warnings on using Uber there is no lift. There's last year I couldn't even find a lift. So it's only Uber and Uber will price gouge you Yeah, like it's the surges are ridiculous talking about like I had to drive a block to carry a whole bunch of gear from one place to another. It cost me $40 I wanted to shoot somebody.

Adam Bowman 12:45
Also Uber drivers, a bunch of them come into Sundance just for the festival. And not everybody brings a four wheel drive winter equipped vehicle. Yes. So when that Prius shows up, to pick you up to take you to some party up in the hills, recognize it probably halfway there that the Prius is not going to make it and you're gonna have to walk half the way.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
Correct. So people are very well aware of that. Now, as far as getting around Sundance, there's an amazing Publix public transportation, the trolley. They have this little trolley that takes you to the buttons, also Trump buses.

Adam Bowman 13:17
Well, there's a trolley that goes up and down Main Street, right. But then there's the buses that go through all the Park City, they take you to all the Sundance venues, yes. And it's free. And there's a bus every five minutes,

Alex Ferrari 13:26
Right. It's an amazing system. And they've got it down to a science. So once you get to Sundance, as long as you can get down towards an area where there's a bus stop, you're you're good, you're golden, and you can walk around and travel around the whole festival pretty much for free. Alright, tip number six giveaways all at Sundance, there's tons of swag, super amounts of swag. everywhere you turn, they're giving you a beanie, a water bottle, water bottle, a scarf, a T shirts.

Adam Bowman 13:55
It's so much swag, and every magazine, every filmmaking magazine, ever, ever want,

Alex Ferrari 14:01
Is there. Yep. Now, with all this wonderful free stuff, you have to think about it in the long term. Meaning that if you start grabbing everything you they give you, you're going to carry this all day, because generally when you're in main street or Park, you know, and sometimes you're not going to go off to the hotel room, unless you're online Street, which you're lucky if you are poor, you're going to be carrying this all day. So just be aware of that. And with the altitude and with the climbing and all this kind of stuff. It's going to kill you. So don't grab everything. Look, magazines are great, but they're not. Yeah, like it's a magazine, guys. You know, it's an issue of America's in matok variety comes out all the time. You know, if you want to grab it, it's really important to grab it but don't grab everything that comes along. Because it's going to get a little bit heavy for you.

Adam Bowman 14:47
Alright, tip number seven meeting people at Sundance. There's a lot of celebrities there.

Alex Ferrari 14:51
Yeah. And take it from someone who came from the west coast or the east coast from somewhere that's not Hollywood. When I first got the Sundance, I was starstruck, like nobody's business, their stars, walk in the streets everywhere. There's directors that celebrity directors that you would know if you're a filmmaker walking around. So there is some protocol on how you approach people on the street. Generally speaking, if you see a celebrity on the street, be cool. You know, if you're a fan come up, like, it seems obvious, you got to but you got to be cool about like, Hey, can I get a picture or something like that, if they're on the street, they're generally going to know that this is what's going to happen. Because a lot of celebrities, they'll just come in, in a black SUV, jump into whatever thing they have to do, and then jump back out and don't left the riffraff right. But there are other celebrities, if they're walking and we are the river, we are absolutely the riffraff. But if they're there, they're generally there to meet them be seen and walk around, but just be cool. And they don't want to just be cool about it. Same thing with the producers or direct producers, other filmmakers, other filmmakers. Now, with that said, Please, if you meet a big producer, if you have Jerry Bruckheimer is walking down the street, or Tarantino or Lawrence Bender, and one of these guys walks down the street. Do not pitch them your movie, do not walk up to them and go, hey, I've got this movie's gonna be don't do that. No. What would your suggestions on how you would approach that?

Adam Bowman 16:17
You know, again, approach him as a fan say, look, I love your work. I appreciate everything you've done, you know, simple things like that. Let them know that you're, you know who you are, and you respect their work, but but they're not there to hear you talk about yourself. That's not why they're there.

Alex Ferrari 16:31
No, absolutely not. So just be aware that when you're going to approach someone of that caliber walking around Sundance, now networking, how do you network? How do you not network at these parties at these events at these workshops, and so on?

Adam Bowman 16:44
Well, first, again, you don't want to lead with this is my movie that I want to make, or I made a movie, you want to start with, you know, obviously introducing yourself as your name, what you do, and and trying to find some other common interest to talk about. The other thing is business cards, right? Yeah. Have a business card prepared? Have it look good. You know, when you when you're exchanging business cards have a system? Yeah, because it's so easy to collect so many business cards, right. And you know, when you're wearing your winter stuff, there's like 15 pockets, and it's very easy to lose them. Collecting the business cards is great, but you also need to follow up with them. So you need to know where that where the business card is. Connect with them while you're at Sundance. And then the most important thing is connect with them after Sundance.

Alex Ferrari 17:22
Yeah, like two or three days after the festival is over. It's much like dating. Yeah, exactly. He's got give him a minute to decompress. Because we said two guys have been married for a long time. This is true. But we have to get, you have to give them time to decompress. Don't call them the day after Sundance. Like they're not gonna give them a week, give him three, four or five days, and then reach out to them again. But that's that's about it, and you're gonna get so many business cards, you will lose them. So just make sure you hand them out and just be cool. That's the biggest advice we can give you be cool. Be Cool. Yeah.

Adam Bowman 17:50
Tip eight, if you can stay as close as possible to Main Street and Park City.

Alex Ferrari 17:55
And there's a lot of places near Main Street on our street. There's a handful of hotels, which are probably all both. But there are multiple houses Airbnb is going up the hill up like if it means if Main Streets right here, their houses that go up right on the side. And if you can get into any of that area, that's just a walk.

Adam Bowman 18:13
Absolutely. I mean, within a mile of Main Street, you're solid, anything outside of that you're running into issues of trying to get to Main Street, which goes back to one of our previous tips, don't drive and so that creates problems in itself.

Alex Ferrari 18:25
If you think you're gonna get a cool Airbnb and like, Oh, I'm only 1520 minutes out of Sundance. Don't do it. Yeah, don't do it. You're done. You know, it's not a good, it's not a good thing to do. Another big tip, though, if you're gonna go to Sundance with some go with Sundance, go with a group of people. Yeah, more people you can get you can rent out a bigger place, drop the cost down dramatically. And basically, every time I've ever got a Sundance, it's a hostile. Like, I've never had my own private room at Sundance, it doesn't happen. Even huge monster, you know, people in the business, right? millions of dollars a year, are sleeping on the floor, right or on a couch somewhere. Because there's just no space to you know, and that's just the way it is. That's right. 70,000 plus people inundate that city for that 10 days. It's an it's

Adam Bowman 19:11
It's not built for that

Alex Ferrari 19:12
It's not built very small percentage of that. So definitely don't stay too far out of a Park City if you're going to or a main street, if you can help it.

Adam Bowman 19:22
Tip number nine for surviving Sundance. Recognize you will be at altitude. What's the scene? What's the altitude of La?

Alex Ferrari 19:29
Zero Yeah, if you're going to be at 7000 feet, and trust me from someone who came from even actually lower than zero. I came from Miami. Yeah, which is literally under the water. And I got to I got to Sunday, hazmat and I it's the worst feeling in the world. Because you walk five feet and you're like, you can't grab your breath. It is brutal for someone who's not ready for it or let alone doesn't understand that's going to happen to you feel like you're going to die is horrible

Adam Bowman 20:01
Main Street is on an incline? Oh, yeah, no, no, it's it's a hill, it's a mountain, you're you're climbing up a mountain

Alex Ferrari 20:09
Every so if you got to go to slam dance from the bottom of the hill, you're walking up probably three, four or five blocks up,

Adam Bowman 20:17
It's about half to three quarters of a mile from bottom and top

Alex Ferrari 20:20
Right, and you're gonna walk it and you're gonna die a couple times a day, probably probably so you're going to die. That's why a lot of people wait for the trial, plus at the top or the trolleys in the trust to take you down or because they take you around as well. But just be prepared for altitude and understand that you're gonna have to deal with it. So like I said, in my prior tip, chlorophyll to oxygenate your blood will be good, any other stuff, any other supplement that you can buy, to oxygenate your blood will help you acclimate to it better

Adam Bowman 20:47
hydrate and hydrate lots and lots of water or what other kind of there's a stick or some sort of stick? Chapstick?

Alex Ferrari 20:55
Yes, chaps. Sorry. chapstick is so frickin important. I cannot express to you how important chapstick some sort of Vaseline core it's dry, it's high. I'm telling you, if you do not have chapstick, you will die because you will chop your lips. And there's nothing worse than being with losing your breath. Exhausted wet feet. Try to climb up the hill to get a chapstick which is only maybe one place in all of our city that

Adam Bowman 21:25
On Main Street. Yeah, I think that just that that Main Street deli there right now. I think that's the only place that

Alex Ferrari 21:30
And they sell it for $75. So just just bring a handful of chapstick with you. I think that'd be really beneficial to you.

Adam Bowman 21:37
Tip number 10. If you are willing, if you're able, if you have the know how to get out and ski.

Alex Ferrari 21:43
Yes, I've never partake in myself. I'm a fool. But I am also a Florida boy. Oh, there's that.

Adam Bowman 21:50
You can also snowboard.

Alex Ferrari 21:53
I know, I know. It's sacrilege, but I'm sorry.

Adam Bowman 21:56
But you could you can't. You can't. It's possible. But the slopes are empty. Yes, January typically has some of the best snow of the year. And nobody's on the mountain. It's also a great way, you know, it can feel really oppressive with all the people. And in Sundance, it's a great way to get out clear your head, you know, and sort of regroup before the next nighttime activities are that are going to take 10 years off your life. Yes, there.

Alex Ferrari 22:23
I'm actually 25 Yeah. And those are tips, guys. I hope that helps you out a little bit. If you're a newbie to Sundance, even if you're a veteran, sometimes you find these little tips. Absolutely. It's always a learning process. It took me a few years to pick up a lot of these things. So and Adam has been how many times this will be my 17th year. He is a veteran. I've been there about six to seven. So I've been there a few times as well. But between both of us, we probably have done everything that can't be done at at Sundance. Physically. Yes. And learn from our mistakes, please. Yeah, please and have a good time. It's an enjoyable experience. It's a very magical experience that there is honestly no other place on earth and no other Festival on earth that has this kind of experience to it not can not Toronto, they all have their unique total it's a Sundance is a very unique experience. So enjoy it. And it does go fast. So enjoy it while you're there, guys. It doesn't feel like it goes fast. No, no while you're there. No, but it does but it does it just fly right by. So enjoy yourself guys. And stay safe and don't drive.

Adam Bowman 23:32
Don't drive. And check us out. We're gonna have a web series going on interviewing great guests talking about the festival and their their films. And also don't forget to hashtag crashed Sundance.

Alex Ferrari 23:44
Absolutely. Talk to you guys soon. I'm telling you, some of those tips are gold. I've been sick so many times going to Sundance because of the weather and the change. And now with the seasons specifically with all this flu going around. definitely take heed to a lot of our suggestion, guys. So I hope you guys will be out there. If you are out there, please reach out. We're going to be doing a we're going to be doing a party, we're going to be at the slam dance at the top of the hill on Saturday between 2:30 and 4:30. I'm doing a lecture on Blackmagic cameras Blackmagic workflow that I did on the Hulu show dimension 404 as well as the space program and a little bit on this is Meg as well. So definitely come out. It's gonna be a couple hours and then there's gonna be a happy hour. Right after that between five and seven. Up at slam dance. I'll put the information in the show notes, which are at indiefilmhustle.com/214. And we will be recording lots of interviews and doing a lot of cool stuff. So definitely keep an eye out on the hashtag crash Sundance, which is going to be our hashtag throughout the festival. And you can also of course keep track of any film hustle social media accounts, Twitter and Facebook specifically, and you'll be able to see all of them Live interviews that we're going to be doing cool behind the scenes and some other little surprises that we have in store for you guys. So, as always keep that also going, keep the dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.


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