A picture of the Sundance Film Festival Headquarters banner at the Park City Marriott

Attending the Sundance Film Festival

By Benjamin Craig

One of the beauties of the Sundance Film Festival is that it's open to everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you are a studio boss or a film fan; you pretty much have the same chance of seeing films as anyone else. No compulsory registration or accreditation is required; if you want to see any films, access official venues, or attend festival events, all you have to do is purchase a festival pass, a ticket package, or an individual ticket.

Festival Passes

For those looking for simple access to screenings or who want to leave the task of choosing which films to see until later, a festival pass is for you. Festival passes allow you to casually stride into a screening or ticketed panel discussion while the masses huddle out in the cold, waiting to see if they can get a ticket. Well, it's almost that easy. In reality, to guarantee entry to an event, you must be at the venue at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, probably earlier for highly anticipated screenings.

A range of festival passes are available each year, providing different levels of access to screenings. Top-of the line Express Passes allow you the most unfettered access, but they are very expensive. Cheaper options are available via the Off-Peak Pass and the Eccles Theatre Pass. With the exception of the Off-Peak Pass, most passes are valid either for the first or second half of the festival.

Ticket Packages

If you aren't up for festival pass, but are hoping to attend more than a handful of screenings, you should consider purchasing a ticket package. This will make your festival visit easier and save you money at the same time.

Ticket packages provide 10 tickets, for use during the package's validity period (first half of the festival or second). Special packages are also available for younger filmmakers (under 24) and if you only want to see short films.

Individual Tickets

Getting hold of a ticket for a specific screening or panel discussion is pretty straight forward. Once the box-office opens (usually the first week of January), you purchase tickets, either by calling the festival ticket line, visiting the official festival web site and buying online, or simply showing up in person at one of the official festival box-offices. That said, highly-anticipated films or events may already have sold out by this point as ticket package-holders will have already selected their screenings.

Failing an advanced ticket, you can also make use of the waitlist system on the day of the screening, which can sometimes allow you to get a ticket.

Film Industry Professionals

Sundance is an important event on the industry calendar, not only for sales agents and acquisitions executives, but also for a host of other people in the industry. Approximately 30% of attendees classify themselves as having some form of industry affiliation. Access to Sundance for industry professionals is available via an industry pass or ticket package. Numbers are limited and attendees must be able to prove their industry affiliation in order to qualify.

Press Accreditation

Sundance is a major media event on the film calendar and each year, the festival welcomes over 800 members of the national and international press corps. Press accreditation is managed by the Festival Press Office and is available to approved members of the print, audio-visual, and online press.

Volunteering

Can't afford a festival package or pass? Not interested in messing around with single tickets? Don't qualify as a member of the press? Never fear, you still have a chance of being able to attend the festival... by volunteering to help out. An event on the scale of the Sundance Film Festival as it is today requires the co-ordinated efforts of a huge number of people, far more than the festival budget could realistically cover. Sundance gets around this labour problem by offering eager beavers (you need to be fairly eager as some of the jobs involve standing outside in the cold and being nice to people for long periods of time) the chance to volunteer to help out.

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Front cover of Sundance - A Festival Virgin's Guide (3rd Edition), By Benjamin Craig

The essential handbook for filmmakers, film fans, and film industry professionals looking to attend the Sundance Film Festival. Available in paperback and digital formats.

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