Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah

by Heather Potter Google

From humble beginnings, the Sundance Film Festival ( has become the biggest independent film festival in the U.S. and one of the world's most famous film festivals. Held in January, the festival attracts celebrities and the world's film press. Each year the festival shows 200 films chosen from thousands of submissions, which makes this a very competitive film festival to enter.


The Utah-U.S. Film Festival was first held in Salt Lake City in 1978. At that time, the festival focused primarily on retrospectives of older Hollywood films and held a small competition for independent films with only eight entries. The festival continued that same format until 1981 when it moved to Park City, Utah. The festival's organizers hoped the move would increase attendance by offering the only film festival in a ski resort at the height of ski season. The next year, the festival increased the number of independent films and added documentaries and shorts to the slate. In 1985, Robert Redford took over management of the festival through his Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization that supports independent filmmakers through grants and other programs.


Sundance holds screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City, Sundance and Ogden. The festival hosts five competitions that include categories for American dramatic films, international dramatic films, American documentaries, international documentaries and short films. The festival also hosts a variety of talks given by industry professionals that cover topics such as storytelling, the impact of new technology on filmmaking and marketing independent films. The festival's ASCAP Music Café features live musical performances throughout the festival.


Winning an award at the Sundance Film Festival often leads to very successful careers for the filmmakers and actors. Past winners who have gone on to international fame include Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez. Several films that played at the Sundance Film Festival have later been nominated for Academy Awards including "Super Size Me," "Hoop Dreams" and "Precious."

Practical Information

The festival sells passes, ticket packages and individual tickets. Pass holders can attend any screening at the festival as long as they show up 30 minutes before the film starts. Ticket packages allow you to select the films you want to see in advance, while individual tickets are available only for films that haven't already sold out through ticket packages. The Sundance Film Festival strives to be eco-friendly by offering free shuttle service to festival venues and a recycling program.

About the Author

Heather Potter has more than 10 years experience as a writer. She specializes in travel writing, and her writing has appeared on national websites, including USA Today. She attended Boston University.