Where to celebrity-spot at the Sundance Film Festival? Oh, honey. It’s a time-honored tradition here in Utah, because between January 23 to February 2, you can’t swing a ski pole on Main Street in Park City without whacking an A-lister. (By the way, I strongly recommend against doing that.) That adorable little ginger above is Skippy Jessop, THE best celebrity spotter at Sundance and our beloved reporter. He’s perfected the selfie, the approach, everything. A director made a film about Skippy at Sundance and the documentary showed at Sundance the next year. Because we’re “Serious Journalists,” (yeah, I know, I’m laughing too) I don’t take selfies. Fortunately, Skippy does.
But in the interest of time – since most of your wandering includes being ankle-deep in slush – here’s some sneaky inside tips we’ve culled from years and years and years of covering the Festival.
Etiquette for celebrity-spotting:
- IMDB.com. Use it. Nothing’s more awkward than galloping up to Zachary Levi and screaming, “Hey! John Krasinski, can I get a selfie?” (Yeah, I watched that train wreck last year.) You’ve got a general list of who’s supposed to be at the Festival, (find that here) but if you’re not sure, look them up. Some celebrities will just sigh and take the selfie with you anyway. Some will walk away.
- If you think you’re going to freak out and maybe start crying, hyperventilating, and pawing helplessly at your famous victim – and that was 95% of the crowd at the Taylor Swift premiere last night – practice what you’re going to say first. Take a deep breath. The crying thing really freaks out even the most jaded celebrity.
- “Please and thank you.” Remember how your mom raised you? Everyone likes nice manners and they’re more willing to stop and pose with a pleasant request than if you scream, “Hey, over here! NOW!” (I watched that happen last year to Adam Driver, who uniformly hates everyone. Though given the circumstances, his seething resentment makes more sense.)
- Practice some selfies with a friend and figure out what looks good. No one wants to wait while your shaking fingers are poking at your camera app and getting set up. Also, much of the time you’ll get that photo while they’re still on the move. Practice!
- This is just me being a total mom: keep your feet dry!! Dress warmly! Don’t forget to feed the meter because Park City cops will tow you in a heartbeat.
Wonder who the nicest celebrities are and the super cranky ones? We have a list.
Where to Celebrity-Spot at the Sundance Film Festival
Hospitality Lounges – please, even the Beautiful People like free swag, and it’s overflowing at Sundance. Your chances of getting any of the gift bags are tiny, but you’ll get a selfie with a celebrity holding one. The Acura Festival Village at 480 Swede Alley has been the spot for gawking for the last ten years. Director Kevin Smith hosts celebrity interviews there for the IMDB Studio.
Music Venues – hit the 22nd Annual Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe at 751 Main Street and the Music Lodge, hosting the Associated Press Festival Headquarters at 710 Main St. Courtyard. There are some spectacular guests expected this year, like Sting, John Legend, Hilary Swank, Awkwafina, Nicole Kidman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The Audible Speakeasy at 692 Main Street is actually open to the public, though the private events start at 5 pm. There are panel discussions with Ron Howard, Belinda Carlisle, and Tessa Thompson.
Nightclubs – TAO Park City (The Yard, 1251 Kearns Blvd.) is almost guaranteed to cluster with celebrities after twelve years of clever nightclubbing, this year includes an igloo and an ice bar. The Red Banjo Pizza Parlour at 322 Main Street gets transformed into the Legion M Lounge, with more general access events. We watched Jada Pinkett Smith caterwaul her way through a song or two during Karaoke Night last year. She was adorable.
See Skippy’s most memorable celebrity encounters on our show here.
And the Most Random Location of the Festival Award goes to…
I still remember sipping something tasty and unpronounceable in an underground parking garage at Sundance a couple of years ago. They’d transformed the third level into a nightclub for WarnerMedia and I’d been roughly relieved of my film equipment by a black t-shirted bouncer. Fortunately, I’d hidden my phone so we still ended up with some great photos, after the adorable Keira Knightly used my phone to location “ping” her friend into the party. Moral of the story? Every square inch of Park City gets turned into something else during the Sundance Film Festival. Be prepared.