5 Ways to Sundance: The Cinephile

“I can see six or eight movies in a day. It can be exhausting or it can be exhilarating.” – Levi Elder

by Christie Marcy


Levi Elder uses a spreadsheet to choreograph his Sundance schedule. Seriously.

Elder, the programming director for Salt Lake Film Society, says he sees at least 40 Sundance screenings each year. “That’s a conservative guess,” he says. “In a really good year, when there’s a lot of titles I want to see—I can see six or eight movies in a day. It can be exhausting. Or it can be exhilarating.”

Elder’s job at the festival is to view films he would later like to put before SLFS patrons. But, how does he pick the movies worth his limited time at Sundance? “Mostly by director, if I like the work they’ve done before. Or if I like someone in the cast,” Elder says.  “If I don’t know anybody in the cast—what is it they say about there only 

being seven original stories? I’m really looking for something I am not familiar with.”

And because he’s going from Salt Lake to Park City and back again  to see films, time is the premium commodity at Sundance, Elder says. “It’s a lot of standing in the cold, waiting by the bus stop to get to the next venue—even people like me have to stand in line just like everyone else.” And once he gets to a venue he’s not guaranteed a seat. “I get a pass, but I still sometimes don’t get into the screenings.” Even after that, if the movie’s not something he’s interested in, he’ll bail and  and head to the next theater on his spreadsheet.

Most anticipated movie: Brigsby Bear (filmed in Utah, including scenes at The Tower Theater)

Stay organized.

How to keep your dance card together

Novice movie-watchers fail to do their homework, Elder says, even if it’s simply reading the intel put out by festival organizers. “They produce a lot of information about how to festival correctly. How to get tickets at the last minute, how to ride their shuttles, et cetera. But, no one ever reads it. If you really pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you, they make it easy. But if you’re just trying to wing it, it can be a nightmare. Don’t try to wing it. Do your research.”

Follow our Sundance coverage online and on Instagram and Twitter with #slmsundance.

Christie Marcy
Christie Marcyhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Christie Marcy is a former managing editor at Salt Lake magazine. Though she writes about everything, she has a particular interest in arts and culture in Utah. In the summer months, you will find her at any given outdoor concert on any given night. In the winter, you will find her wishing for summer. Follow her on social media at @whynotboth.

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