While silver and whiskey originally put Park City on the map, it’s world-class skiing and the Sundance FIlm Festival that the town is best known for these days. The Sundance Film Festival takes place each year around the end of January to the beginning of February. It’s a 10-day event where participants can screen a wide variety of out-of-the-box films created by veterans in the industry and newcomers alike. An A-list Hollywood crowd is drawn to Park City for the Festival every year, along with film industry heavy hitters, and the average movie buff.

A Brief History

People watching and laughing at SundanceSince the Sundance Film Festival began in 1985, it has consistently gone through major changes every single year. This constant evolution is something the creators of the Sundance Film Festival pride themselves on, since the whole purpose of the event is to showcase new ideas and fledgling talent, giving instant recognition to these projects through the 10-day long celebration.

Here are some of the highlights and fun facts of the Sundance FIlm Festival over the years:

1985: The Sundance Institute took over the U.S. Film Festival. They expanded it to a 10-day event, and made the creative leap to include independent American and international films.

1986: Woody Allen and Orson Welles are among the filmmakers highlighted.

1991: The name of the U.S. Film Festival is officially changed to the Sundance Film Festival, after Robert Redford’s character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

1995: The Sundance FIlm Festival is often taken on the road, hosting screenings in other places. In 1995, it was held in China. In 1987, it was held in Japan. Cultural diversity is hugely encouraged throughout the Festival, and entries from all over the world are excepted.

1999: The Blair Witch Project is screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and goes on to have huge box office success. Many of the most innovative and cutting-edge films that catch the public’s attention were first seen at the Festival.

2001: The Sundance Online Film Festival is launched. Many short, animation, and new-form projects can be viewed on the internet by anyone, for a small viewing fee. Downloads of the online content surpasses 1 million for the 2006 festival.

2006: This ends up being a banner year for the Sundance Film Festival, with many of the films going mainstream. Among them included documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and Thank You for Smoking, along with Little Miss Sunshine.

2014: The Sundance Film Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary. 54 first time feature-filmmakers are showcased among the 186 films screened. Robert Redford says, “That the Festival has evolved and grown as it has over the past 30 years is a credit to both our audiences and our artists, who continue to find ways to take risks and open our minds to the power of story.”

The Sundance Institute continues to keep the Sundance Film Festival open as a platform for international and novice filmmakers. Out of over 12,000 film submissions, around 200 are screened, but over 25% of those usually end up being first time filmmakers.

What’s on the Agenda

Man with video camera at SundanceThe program for the Sundance Film Festival is broken into two, 5-day blocks. Each block screens the same films, but there are unique events for each block every year. The first block is usually the most popular, and sells out the fastest. Attending the first block allows you to be one of the first to see the films, and to attend the Opening Ceremonies. The second block is easier to obtain tickets to, and it’s easier to find lodging, etc. during this time. Closing galas and the Awards Ceremonies are part of the second block as well. Whichever block you choose to attend, there are going to be some fun parties and unique experiences.

With around 200 shows being screened at the Festival, it can be difficult to decide which ones to attend. Purchasing a screening package, versus individual tickets can take some of the guess work out of it, and save you money. The films are also broken down into categories by genre, so that can help you to narrow things down as well. The categories change all the time, but there are some traditional anchors along with innovative newcomers. There are films screened for competition, and others that are out of competition categories. The most recent program lineup can be viewed here.

Booking Your Trip

The key to having a successful trip to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival is to book your accommodations early. Park City will put you up in high style, but it’s a small town, so slots sell out quickly. Lodging, screening tickets, transportation to and from the airport, restaurant reservations, and other activities need to be booked as far in advance as you can reasonably plan for. Salt Lake City is only half an hour away, so if Park City is booked, you can consider staying down in town for the duration of your trip. Winter roads can make the commute back and forth a little dicey though, so if you are staying in SLC, hiring a luxury SUV service for transportation to and from Park City is the safest and most reliable option.