Editor’s note: You can download a handy PDF version of our guide here

Film Festivals can be quite bougie. Each year, a ton of them are held across the globe including niche fests with films that tackle a certain genre, and massive ones like those held in Toronto, Cannes, Tribeca and of course, Park City’s Sundance. If you’re the friend in your group who is constantly pressed to get to the theater before the previews roll, or if you’re always reading entertainment news on sites ours, then chances are — you’re a cinephile.

Festivals like Sundance give movie lovers the opportunity to get up close and personal with new flicks before studios acquire them and are distributed to the public. It can be an incredibly lit experience, but with a fest like Sundance which shows thousands of films, and hosts hundreds of panels and events, it can be incredibly overwhelming.  However, if you plan ahead and get organized, Sundance can be a once in a lifetime experience.


Plan Ahead

We know you live to be spontaneous and what not, and we do too, but Sundance is not the time to try and wing it.  The fest which was started by Robert Redford back in 1978 is held in Park City, Utah in mid-January each year. This means you have a full 365 days to get things all lined up. We recommend requesting the time off work and snagging an Airbnb or hotel as early as possible. (By early we mean late summer.) This will also help you decide how long you want to spend at the fest. It runs for a total of ten days but a solid four days should be perfect.

Plane tickets or plans to drive in can wait. However, if you don’t get your lodging nailed down, you’ll find yourself taking a 40-minute trek into Park City from neighboring Salt Lake City every day. After a full day of festival fun and giving $40 to a Lyft driver (pools and lines don’t exist in Utah) you’ll be pleased that you didn’t procrastinate.


What Do You Want to See?

If you like Excel, go ahead and pull that joint up. Figure out which films/panels you want to see and make a list of the dates and times. Shadow and Act always publishes a list of diverse films/panels and such for you to peruse as soon as Sundance announces them. You can also head over to Indiewire or Variety to get a comprehensive list of the most anticipated flicks headed to Sundance.  You can’t see everything, so don’t worry, whatever you missed will probably be in theaters within the next year or so.

Make sure you double check your list. Times and locations tend to shift in the weeks leading up to the fest, and you don’t want to be salty when you’ve missed something or showed up the wrong place.


Tickets v. Passes

Just like going to the movies around the corner from your house, attending film festivals cost money. Luckily, Sundance has a ton of options. You can get individual tickets to each screening and event, or a fancy pass that gets you into a ton of stuff. Just know that passes can cost quite a bit of coin. Be realistic about your budget and figure out what works best for you, just be sure you do it as soon as the tickets go sale in October or else you’ll just be chillin’ in your plush Airbnb with nowhere to go.

Note: If you can’t get the tickets that you want, there is a waitlist, so you can always try and cop a ticket at the very last minute.


Have Snacks

Watching three or four movies each day might not seem tiring, but we promise you, it takes quite a bit of stamina to stay engaged. If you don’t have any time between screenings, be sure to have a hearty breakfast and put some snacks in your bag. Protein bars, fruit, and coffee are lifesavers.


Talk To Folks

We get it, we’re not too thrilled about making new friends either, but if you’re at Sundance, you’ve already got something in common with everyone else there. We’re just going to be real; if you’re not press or an industry insider, Sundance can be super exclusive which means the doors are closed to regular folks for the biggest and best events. (i.e., events with food and alcohol.) However, by befriending strangers, you just might get the hookup.


Use That App

Like everything else in the world, Sundance has an app. Download it and keep it updated so that you can have maps, bus routes (the bus is free) and screening information at your fingertips. Being lost and confused isn’t fun. Also, download the Blackhouse Foundation App, they have amazing events, and it’s great to be on their email listing.


Bundle Up!

This probably goes without saying, but Utah isn’t a warm, dewy place in mid-January. In fact, it’s brisk AF. Don’t try and be all cute, bundle up and be sure to have the appropriate footwear in case of snow. Sitting in a 2-hour long movie with drenched socks and freezing cold toes is for the birds. Also, you need to protect your ends and edges from the biting windchill. Find a hat or a wrap; you’ll be happy you did.

Sundance is certainly an experience, but it’s entirely within reach. With a little planning and a bit of scheduling, we guarantee that you can have a great time. Another major perk is you never know which celebs you might run into. Just don’t be all extra and embarrass us when you do.

Sundance Film Festival 2018 runs Jan. 18-28



Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami