Here's How We Survived Sundance: A Guide
The 2018 Sundance Film Festival is more than just independent films and the whole of Hollywood layered up in expensive snow coats that they’ll only use this once. The festival also plays host to an unconquerable amount of parties in log cabins and lounge in vacated store rooms along Park City’s Main Street. Most all the events are invite-only. If you are lucky enough to get invited to some, you should prepare yourself for a shit show bigger than Waterworld and the first three episodes of Star Wars combined. That said, here are a few things to remember…
1. It’s going to be cold for a real long time.
Every Sundance party is overbooked by about 7000 percent during the festival. This is probably because they know that everyone in the world loves waiting in lines. Especially for an hour or two. Especially in below freezing temperatures.
Often times, as was the case for the Milk squad as they tried to attend an after, AFTER party for the film Sorry To Bother You, you’ll be standing in line with your group for a little over an hour in the kind of cold you’d be scared to cry in; you’ll be playing “Heads Up” and sneaking shots of whiskey from a flask to keep your insides warm while you wait to get into this party you were told you were on the “VIP Guest List” for, when all of a sudden the line you are in will disintegrate as John Legend and Lakeith Stanfield (one of the stars of Sorry To Bother You) walk up.
Suddenly your group will find themselves compressed within the middle of a mosh pit of flashing cameras and bad breath screamers who, only moments before, were calm and collected – and are now climbing over the top of one another as they try to grab a photo of a celebrity walking into a building.
Hopefully your team will be savvy enough to keep your heads down and your ID’s out, like our team was, and you will escape the clambering masses and proceed unscathed into the party directly behind Mr. Legend himself.
2. Once the wait ends the wait begins.
After making it past the guest-list clipboard, you’ll want to make your way as quickly as possible to the next challenge your crew must face – the seemingly endless line attached to an open bar.
You should be able to spot this line quickly and easily once inside. The drinks may be free – but if you calculate the time it takes for you to get through the line and order yourself one, and then divide that amount by your current hourly wage at work, you might find yourself to be drinking one of the most expensive drinks that you’ve never had to pay for.
Our advice is to do as our team did while attending the premiere-party for Skate Kitchen, a documentary film by the wonderfully talented, long-time friend of Milk, director Crystal Moselle (who three years ago blew the snow skis off the whole damn festival with her first film The Wolfpack). Simply arm yourself with a ton of CBD chocolate to keep yourself mellow whilst waiting like a slow-walking zombie in line. Then, when you’re finally up to bat, order four bottles of beer per person, quickly flash the bartender a smile, drop a $10 bill, and politely ask them to leave two of the four beers unopened.
If you’re lucky, this process will only need to happen twice per event and it will be the best way for you to avoid spending your entire evening in line.
Unless of course, you are Darren Aronofsky.
See, when you have just inked a first-of-it’s-kind deal for 1.4 million dollars for your new VR project Spheres, you don’t really need to wait in line for the bar. The crowd simply parts for you and you glide past whispered tones to order whatever colorful drink you’d like served to you in a martini glass – then you set the drink down, half-empty, in the center of the table the Milk team has procured for themselves, and wander off in the direction of John Hamm and Jaden Smith so the three of you can watch Diplo perform until 3 am.
(Side Note: Of course we took a sip off the left over Aronofsky drink he left on our table… we wanted to see if it was made from whatever liquid was in Jennifer Lawrence’s prescription bottle in Mother!.)
3. Don’t be that guy.
If you are one of those bozos that thinks they can tell the door guy that “there must be some mistake” or that you’re “here with [insert the name of the person whose name showed up on your email invitation here” – or if you have ever been the complete maniac who has asked the bouncer, “do you know who I am!?”… you’re going to fit right in with about 70 percent of the fur-coat-adorned attendees of the festival.
There are enough of those people. Don’t be those people.
If for some reason you weren’t added to the list (even if you should have been), don’t make a stink and clog up the line for the party monsters behind you. Simply find yourself another cabin full of much more laid back individuals who keep their guest list up to date and their pot of chili full.
That’s how the Milk team found themselves in the best day time pop-up at the festival, The MACRO Lodge. The lodge was only a quick drive down the mountain in the 2018 Audi A4 our team had been comped by the team at Silvercar (yeah… Silvercar and Audi hooked it up and saved us from the surge pricing we would have had to suffer all week), and once inside, you could warm yourself by the fire and eat free mac and cheese and beef jerky, while sipping on white Russians and listening to panel discussions full of inspiring leaders of color within film and industry.
Once you leave, you’ll probably arrive to the make-shift theater your film is having its world premiere at – this theater may be inside a public library or a recreation center or even a high school (Go Minors!). You’ll have to find yourself a seat in the far, far left of the front row due to your drunken tardiness, and you’ll wonder why you ever decided to come back for the sixth year in a row to write about movies that may never even be shown in the main circuit theaters. You’ll tell yourself that you’re never going to be caught shlepping your laptop through the snow just to interview some actor you’ve never heard of.
Then the lights will go out and you’ll see a movie that no one has ever seen before. It could be a film by a first time director who hopes the festival will do for them what it did for Quentin Tarantino or the Coen Brothers or Kevin Smith; and the film will star all the director’s friends who will someday turn out to be Owen Wilson or Jennifer Lawrence or Vince Vaughn. The film will make you laugh or make you cry or scare the shit out of you.
Then you’ll undoubtably leave the theater and get back into the crowded bus and listen to everyone around you buzzing about the films they’ve seen and the films that “you gotta see”. You’ll go back to your overly priced motel room and you’ll sleep for three hours before you make yourself wake up again because you’re so excited to see the next movie on your list.
Images courtesy of Kalvin Lazarte
Stay tuned to Milk for more on how to survive your favorite film festivals.