Ever bumped into someone on a street and think, "Hey, he looks a lot like Kevin Spacey" — and then realize that he is in fact the Oscar-winner? Or been sitting in a sandwich shop and spot "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker strolling by the window?
Star sightings like these are routine in Park City, Utah, during the annual 10-day Sundance Film Festival, coming up Jan. 15-25.
If you thought the resort town was just for skiing and the films were just for Hollywood insiders, think again. Tickets to screenings are available for $15 a pop to the general public.
And while lodging and food are usually pricey, it can be worth it to combine all the amenities of a ski town with a unique cinematic experience — a chance to maybe rub elbows with your favorite star, or get in on the excitement of discovering the next Kevin Smith or Steven Soderbergh (directors of Sundance films who have gone on to mainstream Hollywood acclaim).
Sundance is the most significant American festival for launching obscure independent films into the mainstream, and each year it seems to attract a more star-studded roster of attendees. After eight years of attending the festival, I've picked up a few tips for getting the most out of the experience.
You can register online for a time slot to buy individual tickets when they go on sale. Most premieres will be sold out because they've been snapped up by insiders and buyers of the aforementioned packages, but you can generally find plenty of availability for second and third screenings of films. And even if you don't recognize the names of any of the actors or filmmakers, you could still find yourself watching one of next year's box-office hits or Oscar winners. And at most screenings, you can expect the film's director and perhaps a star or two to show up afterward for a Q&A.
Even if you don't buy tickets in advance, you can check at the festival's on-site box office for day-of-show tickets. Or, you can plan to wait in line at the venues for wait-list tickets — those with high tolerance for low temperatures who are willing to get in line early stand a good chance of getting in.
One of the Park City slopes ends right on Main Street, so you could stash your skis and go straight from the slopes to a screening — or vice versa — if you plan right.