10 Tips for Networking at the Sundance Film Festival

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Main St. at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Jemal Countess & Sundance Institute.

If you’ve never been to the Sundance Film Festival and you’re thinking about going next year, now is the time to start planning. Sundance is the place to make connections, see inspiring movies (and now TV shows) and learn about new trends.

This year, VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) projects were everywhere at the festival. YouTube hosted a panel discussing shooting video in 360 degrees and also 180 degrees. They had examples of both for the crowd to experience.

Also, Sundance TV, Sundance’s new streaming service (think Netflix for indie film and TV shows) presented its original TV shows, offering Sundancers a free month of service.

As one of the largest film festivals out there, Sundance can be really fun, but don’t forget there is serious business taking place. If you don’t have a film in the festival, don’t worry, most people on the mountain don’t either. Many people go there simply to network. Why not? It’s beautiful, cold, and with Chef Dance and Criag’s providing delicious meals, it’s nice to have a change of scenery. If you decide to go, here are some tips of what to do before, during and after your trip to Sundance.

Before you get to the festival

No. 1. Prepare your completed script’s logline

As a screenwriter, have your latest script’s logline on the tip of your tongue. You are trying to get it read (and ultimately sell it), so make the logline  sexy and exciting. Also be ready to pitch three fully fleshed out ideas. One of the biggest questions you’ll hear after pitching your script is, “What else you got?” If you don’t have anything else to pitch, you won’t seem like a professional.

No. 2. Prepare a logline for yourself

In Hollywood, everyone’s got a screenplay. So introducing yourself as a writer doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t already have a film in the festival or in theaters. Here’s mine: I’m an actress-turned-writer who writes movies about the darker side of women.

No. 3. Business cards

Your name, phone number, twitter handle and website should be on your business card. Don’t put the name of your screenplay on your business card, just the pertinent contact info. If you’re trying to promote a completed project like a short film or web series, use a post card, printed front and back, that includes a picture from the project and contact info.

Festival Director John Cooper, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam, and President and Founder of Sundance Institute Robert Redford. Photo courtesy of Brandon Joseph Baker & Sundance Institute.

Once you fly into Salt Lake City

No. 4. Silvercar is a great option to get from Salt Lake City to Park City

There are shuttles from the airport to Sundance, but if you arrive the first day (or any day really) of the festival, you can end up waiting for hours for one to pick you up. This year, I used Silvercar, an app that puts you in an Audi that has directions to Park City already programmed into its navigational system. Having a car in Park City also proved very helpful when going to pick up my media credentials and grabbing some groceries.

No. 5. Use Lyft to get around the festival

Because the cocktails were flowing everywhere, I Lyfted up and down Main St., where most of the events and parties happen. Lyft was a godsend when it started to snow and the temperature was -2 degrees.

No. 6. See movies

As a screenwriter, you want to see as much as possible, particularly any film that may be the same genre in which you write. It’s always good to stay on top of your competition and you’ll have something to talk about while you’re schmoozing.

Film team at World Premiere of Beirut by Brad Anderson. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hickerson & Sundance Institute.

No. 7. Go to Q&As

Many of the filmmakers do Q&As after their movies so you may possibly have a chance to meet them afterwards. If you do get to meet the filmmakers, be complimentary about their film and if something in particular moved you, let them know.

No. 8. Meet people

If there’s a long line to get into an event, skip it. There’s so many other things going on you shouldn’t waste your time standing in the cold. When you do get into an event, introduce yourself to strangers, be friendly and chat with them.. You NEVER know who that person getting coffee at the 7-11 on Park Ave. or drinking a cocktail at the Chase Sapphire Lounge might be. Ask them what movies they’ve seen. Talk about your screenplay but don’t ask if they want to read it. Give them your card and if they want to read your script, they’ll let you know.

Guests on Main Street at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of & Sundance Institute & Azikiwe Aboagye.

No. 9. Have fun

You’re a screenwriter because you love movies. Enjoy the films, enjoy meeting the filmmakers. If you’re having fun, you’re more likely to be inspired. If you like to ski, take a day and go to Deer Valley. You never know who you’ll meet on the ski lift.

Once you return home

No. 10. Follow up

Go through that stack of business cards in your coat. Look each person up on the IMDb – they may have produced one of your favorite movies and you can mention that in your email. Remember to keep your emails short, reference where you met (party or movie, etc.) and ask what kind of projects they might be interested in doing next. It’s a good way to start a conversation and, if it’s a good fit, may be an opportunity to get your script read. It’s totally fine to email loglines, but, due to possible intellectual property infringement, never send a script without being asked.

Have you ever been to Sundance? Let us know what your experience was like.

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Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera's Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards

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