Despite how it might sound via Twitter feed and Facebook post, film festival-going for film journalists is not easy. It is fun, but it’s not easy. Each festival has its own unique addition to the crush of films, interviews, events, sleeping, writing, eating, sleeping, writing, eating all over again, more films, more interviews, more events, and attempting to spend some time with fellow journalist pals you might see but once a year that add up to a festival experience. SXSW and Fantastic Fest have all the temptations of Austin – why write when you can eat BBQ? The Los Angeles Film Festival has the caveat of taking place in the downtown Los Angeles hellmouth. AFI FEST? Passes only. Tribeca? City living. Cannes? Parlez-vous Français?
The Sundance Film Festival‘s unique challenge is an obvious one – it takes place in a ski town in Utah in the middle of January. It’s cold. It can be really cold. More than that, Sundance is a lot of work. A lot of films, a lot of interview opportunities, a lot of events to attend. It’s a pretty daunting combination, but it’s one I’ve overcome (happily, and with apparent success) before, and it’s one you can, too. I am a self-confessed cold intolerant (the medical term! Living in Los Angeles for a decade has made me soft!) workaholic (quite clearly) who loves Sundance more than any other festival, and I am about to tell you what I pack to make sure that I can survive and thrive at said favorite festival.
After the break, check out my (not at all over-the-top) packing list of must-have items, along with handy pictures for those of you who don’t know what flannel looks like.
Dressing Yourself, Basic Clothing
1. Thermals for layering.
2. Flannel shirts for layering.
3. Sweaters and/or fleece pullovers for, you got it, layering.
4. Jeans or cords for, umm, pants-wearing.
Dressing Yourself, Cold Weather Gear
1. First and foremost, a winter jacket. Don’t be a tough guy and think you can get by without it, it’s just not happening. However, if the weather warms up and you’ve also gotten used to temperatures that are likely much cooler than those in your hometown, you can wing it in later days with a fleece and vest. And a scarf. And glo-ittens. Just bring a jacket.
2. Second and also pretty foremost, long underwear. I went without long underwear beneath my jeans/cords/whatever last year and it was the worst day of the festival by a long shot. I’ve worn Hot Chillys (or, as my delusional sidekick calls them, “Jingo Jangoes”) since I was a ski-jumping tot. Yup, they’re expensive, but I’ve never been cold in them. Don’t skimp on underoos. Also, don’t hate me for using the term “underoos.”
3. Third and not pictured because oops, boots. Snow boots, real snow boots. Not anything with a heel or fur that’s just there for decoration (fur for warmth is cool). Real boots with a real grip that you can wear for hours upon hours. Mine are North Face and they’ve served me well.
4. Hats. Your ears and head will get cold. It’s a fact.
5. Mittens or gloves. Lately, I’ve been sporting glo-mittens – they look like mittens, but unfold to become fingerless gloves! You can still use all your touch-paddy stuff!
6. Scarves and mufflers.
7. Socks. Lots and lots of socks.
8. Cold weather vest for “warm” days.
A typical outfit on the first day of Sundance? Boots, socks, long underwear, jeans, camisole, thermal, sweater, jacket, scarf, hat, glo-mitens. Typical outfit on the last day of Sundance? Socks on top of socks, long underwear on top of long underwear, one hobo shoe, flannel, thermal over top of flannel, vest, hat, hat, socks, someone else’s hat. Layering is so versatile.
Technology That Gets the Job Done
1. If you’re staying with a lot of people, there’s one piece of technology that will save your ass, delight your roommates, and prove your out-of-the-box brain power: surge protector. Not only will it protect you from, well duh, surges, it also adds enough power outlets for every blogger you know to plug in their laptop life machine.
3. Ipad and nifty iPad-typing case. Last year, Eric D. Snider looked oh-so-cool while typing away on his iPad while waiting for movies. Snider has ditched his iPad, but I’m trying mine out this year, along with a keyboard borrowed from ever-gentleman James Rocchi.
4. Not pictured – paper things! Ewww, paper! A notebook for writing notes while reviewing, a separate notebook for other stuff (interview questions, observations, food diary, limericks, etc.), pens, pencils, highlighters.
5. The Sundance Binder of Epic Epicness. I could describe this masterful invention, but I wouldn’t do half the job Erin McCarthy does in this must-read Sundance prep post on Cineboobs.
6. Tech toolkit.
The Tech Toolkit
2. Voice recorder for interviews.
3. Jump drive (little Fantastic Fest dude!).
4. Flip Mini.
5. Camera charger.
6. Mophie Juice Pack for iPhone-charging on the fly.
7. IPod shuffle.
8. Cords for everything, including an extra Apple cord and an extra set of headphones.
The Medicine Chest (And More)
1. A solid multi-vitamin, paired with as much rest as you can get, water, and a decent meal or two a day will keep you from illness.
2. Melatonin for sleep (I can stop any time I want to).
3. Cold medication – because, if you do get sick, the last thing you want to do is go looking for medication.
4. General allergy medication for the same reason.
7. A double set of contacts. If one pair of contacts conked out on me, I’d be upset, but if two did, I’d be screwed.
8. Sewing kit.
9. Tissue pack – you might not need them, but someone will.
10. Lozenges – same.
11. Tide Stick and Tide (if your lodgings have a washer and dryer, i.e. if you’re the luckiest person on the planet).
13. Lotion for your cute little face.
This year, I am bringing just two snacks – mini cookies and Cheez-its. Why just the two? Well, despite what other people may have told you, Park City is a real town with real restaurants and mini-marts and a real grocery store. Don’t waste space on stuff that will just get smushed and forgotten. Pack only what will save your ass in a pinch, something tasty, caloric (for energy), portable, and delicious. And guard these snacks with your life.
And don’t make the mistake I did last year – Starbucks Via packets are a disgusting rip-off, and I say that as someone who does not function without coffee and worships at the altar of Starbucks. At some point last year, I reportedly holed up in a corner of my condo and tried to eat one of the blasted Via packets for strength. I say “reportedly,” because I don’t remember it at all – that’s just not safe, people.
And that, my friends, is how you pack for Sundance. I think. Wait, where did I put my socks?