This week was my first-time to Sundance Film Festival and I was not even a paying participant since I showed up without any movie tickets or Festival Pass.
My interest was more about other happenings around Park City besides the films. I was uncertain before arriving in Park City if I would be able to do anything related to the festival without a Sundance Film Festival pass.
Sundance Film Festival had all kinds of free activities to occupy my few days in Park City.
Sundance Poverty Jet Setter
I frequently joke about being a poverty jet setter. The phrase comes from the foresight of Doug Coupland’s 1991 book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.
Poverty Jet Set
“A group of people given to chronic traveling at the expense of long-term job stability or a permanent residence. Tend to have doomed and extremely expensive phone-call relationships with people named Serge or Ilyana. Tend to discuss frequent-flyer programs at parties.”
–Douglas Coupland, novel Generation X, 1991
These days there are hundreds of us in the blogosphere who make our living discussing miles and points at parties.
Going to Sundance Film Festival 2015 was a by-product of my Alaska Airlines mileage run for their Ski the West promotion, whereby two round trips from California, Oregon or Washington to any of ten ski destinations earns a free ticket to any of those ten ski destinations to be used by April 30, 2015.
I bought two round trip tickets for $96 each between San Francisco and Salt Lake City, Utah at the beginning of January. Last week I flew to Salt Lake City during Martin Luther King 3-day holiday weekend and explored downtown SLC. This week I flew back to Salt Lake City and attended the Sundance Film Festival 2015. The film festival is primarily in Park City, Utah in the Wasatch Mountains, some 30 miles east from Salt Lake City.
Festivals tend to be the kind of events I avoid. And I do not ski.
Park City ski resorts are 30 miles east of Sat Lake City on slopes 7,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation in the Wasatch Mountains.
My typical travel pattern is to go places when there are not crowds and prices are low. Sundance Film Festival was stepping outside my normal travel pattern. Hotels were too expensive, so I redeemed points for Hyatt Escala Lodge. I figured I could always hang out at the hotel room if I could not access Sundance Film Festival activities.
My experience was three days attending events and checking out venues and the only event that cost any money was $15 I paid to see the film The Tribe at a Sundance Film Festival theater. I probably watched 15 hours of free live music performances from a dozen bands. Three days cost about $80 for beer, food, musician tips, round trip bus from Salt Lake City, shuttle driver tips and one Sundance movie. I did Sundance on a poverty jet setter budget.
Getting to Park City, Utah
On a Sunday, I was the only person in Salt Lake City with a suitcase getting on that Park City bus. Utah Transit Authority charges $4.50 to take the public bus from downtown Salt Lake City to Park City. The catch is you have to catch one of four buses leaving downtown Salt Lake City between 6:00 and 8:00 am in the morning. The ride is about 60 to 80 minutes.
There were a couple of doormen at the Waldorf Astoria Park City talking about a $90 Uber ride a couple paid the night during Sundance to go five miles into Park City. I took the hotel’s free Sundance Festival shuttle from the hotel to Main Street.
In the Park City area, public buses are free year-round as an effort to keep vehicle traffic congestion at a minimum in the affluent ski resort town of 8,000 residents. The Canyons bus runs every 30 minutes between Main Street Park City and gets you within five minutes walk of Waldorf-Astoria or Hyatt Escala Lodge all-day until near midnight.
During Sundance Film Festival, when about 40,000 visitors come to Park City, there is an additional fleet of hired buses to transport people around town between theaters and Park City Main Street where many of the public events related to the film festival take place.
There was quite a bit more activity the first weekend of Sundance Film Festival 2015, although the streets were not as crowded as I expected on the weekend and there were far fewer people on the weekdays. Many of the storefronts in town are leased by companies. On Sunday I walked by the CNN Lounge. By Tuesday the space was a restaurant again.
Lodging is the challenge during Sundance Film Festival. I saw availability using points on weeknights at Holiday Inn Express Park City off Interstate 80 at Kimball Junction. That area has Whole Food Market, Wal-Mart and a few other hotels like Best Western. The I-80 freeway is seven miles from old town Main Street.
Hyatt Escala Lodge had rooms for 15,000 points per night when rates were $500. I booked a free stay using points. My 9:00am arrival at the Hyatt Escala meant checking my luggage for the day and heading into Park City to see what I could see and do. The bus ride was about 30 minutes to travel five or so miles on the bus from the Canyons ski area to Main Street in downtown Park City.
Within minutes of arriving in downtown on the public bus, I was in the heart of the Sundance Film Festival action. Camera crews were doing media takes on Main Street.
I stepped inside Airbnb Haus for a scene that made me feel the Sundance experience would be relevant to Loyalty Traveler in more ways than leisure entertainment.
Airbnb was giving away free coffee and prizes for submitting an entry for Airbnb spend credits.
Minutes later I was sitting in Sundance House sponsored by HP and listening to a panel discussion on creativity and the impact of online piracy in media. I was let in without a festival pass. They only restrict access to the panels if the event is too crowded.
One of the panelists stated 25% of all internet traffic worldwide is pirated media viewing of songs and films. I know when I want to hear a specific song, YouTube generally has a video for the song uploaded by some user.
What I gathered from the discussion is many creative artists do not care about piracy since it is primarily a corporate control issue and not an artist’s issue. The commonly expressed sentiment seemed to be the artist already earned the income they will get from their corporate contract regarding the sale of their creative work. Piracy is more of a media corporation marketing issue due to lost revenue from pirated material broadcast illegally on the internet in copyright violation. Some other website is making the Google ad revenue on pirated media, even Google.
An hour later I found the place where interviews and photographs of celebrities were happening above the Stella Artois Lounge near the Park City Main Street pedestrian bridge. I saw film director Jennifer Siebel Newsome. She was at Sundance as director of a documentary premiere for The Mask You Live In, a film about the impact of American society on cultural development of young boys attitudes to power, dominance and aggression. Jennifer is also the wife of California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome.
A few minutes later, when I was sitting at the top of the stairs, Slash, guitarist of 80s rock band Guns ‘n Roses, walked up the stairs in front of me.
My primary objective was trying to figure out how to get into the Stella Artois lounge. That was a hard task on the weekend with a waiting line and bouncers and a preference for Sundance badged guests. I was not planning to be paparazzi.
On Monday night, I walked right in to the near empty Stella Artois lounge and drank free beer until I had to refuse more.
New Frontier 2015
One of the most popular venues on Main Street Park City was New Frontier 2015 where visitors could sign up to participate in Virtual Reality exhibits.
This woman was in the process of virtually flying around the skyscrapers of San Francisco as seen on wall-mounted two dimensional monitors by others.
My first day at Sundance Film Festival was simply trying to figure out where I could eat and drink and what could I do without a Sundance Film Festival pass. The second day I saw a morning film, had free beer in the afternoon and evening and watched bands play live music in several venues on one city block of Main Street over an eight hour period. By day three I was sitting in the front row of shows, being greeted by musicians off stage who had seen me the day before in the audience and buying the discount food specials at local restaurants.
My take away from Sundance Film Festival is the place is a media exposure outlet for independent artists. Many of the filmmakers and musicians at Sundance are there to gain exposure, be recognized and provide their creative content to the public.
For some artists, the film and photographic imagery, the musical and vocal sounds, written and spoken words are primarily a creative expression that may or may not be marketable. Sundance Film Festival is the interface of creative art and marketing.
Anyone can make a film and put it on YouTube. That is artistic freedom. There is plenty of artistic content created and accessible if you know where to look.
Marketing is about generating the buzz to spread the word that this content is worth your time to experience. Marketing builds the audience to appreciate your art.
The inspiration I found in Sundance Film Festival were musical artists I heard who are on the road and playing venues where sometimes they feel purely exalted and sometimes totally exhausted.
I found it inspiring to hear stories from people on stages sharing about how their car broke down on the drive to Park City, or his guitar broke, or he came down with the flu and traveled anyway or the 6,500 feet elevation had her breathless between songs or he should have come several days earlier to acclimate to the altitude of Park City. These are poverty jet setter travel stories and business travel worker stories of Sundance 2015.
My poverty jet set life this week involved sitting in music cafés in Park City, Utah during Sundance Film Festival 2015 enjoying free music and free beer and a free hotel room that I accessed with a $96 plane ticket, some hotel loyalty points and $9.00 in public bus fare on the Salt Lake City – Park City Connect.
Back home I think that I need to pay the bills too. I better keep writing. The road is always a bit uncertain, but I know in my soul this is the creative path I want to follow.
Will work for tips.