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Shy of a Decade
by Karen Pecota

The 2016 Sundance Film  Festival was to be my tenth-year celebration of covering the event for my  outlet in Germany. As an international journalist it is a privilege to be  selected to cover the festival. My editor is proud of my accomplishments and  look forward to my annual published coverage.

The application  process for the festival press pass is late in the year so the thumbs up or  thumbs down that is given to each applicant is one month prior to the festival.  Waiting for the acceptance letter is nerve-wracking. The travel and hotel  accommodations are booked almost a year in advance because of the large number  of attendees to the festival. You snooze, you loose in securing the reasonable  accommodations. I have a preference on where I like to reside to make it easier  for me to get around due to the typical hectic schedule.

For my tenth season, I  faithfully booked accommodations months in advance. I felt confident that my  application for a press pass would produce a positive acceptance letter.

Mid-December 2015 the  festival response letter arrived stating that my application for press  accreditation was denied. What? Re-reading the denial, I actually gasped. I  couldn't believe my eyes! The short reason: too many applicants. The number of  accredited press chosen would be drastically reduced. Initially I was shocked  and kept reading and then re-reading the reason for denial. It seemed too vague  and impersonal. Especially since the records showed me as a nine-year veteran.  I felt badly. And, saddened that I let my editor down. I would not represent  them this year.

After getting over my  disappointment, I contacted my film colleagues that I hook-up with during the  festival to share my embarrassing news. They were more shocked than I and  encouraged me to revisit the decision with the press office. They felt I  deserved a truthful explanation!  I did  contact the festival press office a couple of times but to no avail. The  decision was final! Only a portion of applicants would be allowed to hold a  press pass. Again, feeling horrible I broke the news to my editor of the denial  letter.

Naturally, my editor  was disappointed and shared her regrets. She expressed an undying support that  rang loud-and-clear in my favor. She said that it was unfortunate that such a  festival would deny someone of my caliber of journalism. She felt it was their  loss. Since the travel and accommodation plans were already purchased, and to  cancel would mean a large financial loss, she encouraged me to attend the  festival but wanted an article on my experience as to how I would navigate  without the press credential. I agreed.

At this point, the  online ticket sales open to the public, three days prior to the festival  opening day, would be the only option available to purchase single tickets  beforehand. My husband attends with me but he usually wait-lists films after an  invigorating day of snowboarding or skiing at the local resorts. Now our plan  was to see more films together and take advantage of additional ski time.

The third pre-festival  day rolls around and the online box office opens. My husband and I are ready.  We log-in. The guideline is that we have one hour to search for remaining  tickets and purchase. Easy enough!

It takes more time to  search but we find tickets and hit the purchase thread. Our system jams! Our  screen goes blank! We panic! Our allotted timeframe is almost over and we still  can't get our tickets purchased.  We  scramble to get on another lap-top. Our allotted time on the first lap-top is  over and we have lost our initial choices. Oh dread! The second lap-top  connects but system is super slow. We secure a only few tickets of our initial  choice. The rest were gone. We were not allowed to log-on again. We were  confused at what happened to our first attempt when the system jammed. We  contact the help line but they were at a loss.

The following day we  log-in for more tickets. While going into the system we realize that our first  screen from the day before automatically appeared. It had been open all along  but fell to the back of the main screen when the system jammed...ugh! We  reactivated it and purchased a couple more tickets. Yeah! Now done with the  waiting game and off to the ski slopes. Yahoo!

Later, I discovered a  few more options to get tickets: The box office sales on the day of a  film-showing, the eWaitlist line and Sundance Institute membership screenings.  In addition, I was given a couple tickets to a screening during the second week  of the festival from my colleagues. This was a welcomed surprise. The second  week of the festival is usually not as desired so there are more opportunities  to get into films via the eWaitlist lines. However, the festival is still full  of festival fans and never a dull moment trying to get an open seat. It's  invigorating as a die-hard film fan.

The eWaitlist tickets  are really fun to try to get. It's an adventure. Here's how it works:

15-minutes prior to  the start of each film the open seats are sold to people who have signed up on  the eWaitlist. A mobile-enabled check-in system allows festival goers to  reserve a line position over the internet. One can receive a waitlist number  for a screening via any internet capable device. The system also allows one to  view/manage their check-in and see the likelihood of admittance to the event.

The guidelines are  stated in detail on the website but here  below is the basic idea:

  Register  for the Sundance Film Festival eWaitlist at

  This  is what my husband and I do. We link our eWaitlist account to each other's by  going to our account settings. We are then in line together.

  Two  hours before the scheduled screening time for the desired film, the eWaitlist  opens. You are then eligible to check-in for a waitlist number. If you're  early, you'll find a countdown clock on the screening's check-in page so that  you'll know exactly when to check-in. You'll be eligible to waitlist for only  one screening per two-hour window.

  Once  you check-in, you'll immediately receive your eWaitlist number. It will be  saved under your "My Waitlist" heading in your account. You may  cancel at any time.

  You  then present your eWaitlist number on your mobile device (or a computer print  out &. Photo ID) to a volunteer on-site, and queue in your number position.  They will have a full list of eWaitlist registrants and eWaitlist numbers.  ALERT: If you arrive at the theater less than 30 minutes before the scheduled  screening time, you will be asked to queue at the end of the line regardless of  your eWaitlist number.

  Waitlist  tickets will be sold to the waitlist line in queue order on a space available  basis, beginning anytime from 30 minutes before the schedule screening time up  until the start of the film. Tickets are $20 and only cash is accepted

My Sundance 2016  experience without a press pass was adventuresome. Quite successful. We  received several tickets via the online box office. I got in to at least ten  films via the wait-list. A few due to being a Sundance Institute member. Though  it was less stressful this year to get into films, there was a learning curve  to figuring out the festival system.

I've known from Park  City friends that the locals can purchase tickets in advance including special  discounted film ticket packages. In addition, they are privy to the festival  films throughout the year and welcomed to participate in both the film festival  jobs opportunity and volunteer program. Kenneth Cole is a main sponsor and  provides the volunteers with pretty cool winter outer wear. A nice incentive.  In general, the Park City locals have a different agenda during the festival.  Those who can leave the city often do. It's unbelievably crowded. They prefer  to not be bothered with the festival goers they nickname, PIB's (People in  Black).

Maybe I should  purchase property in order to become a Park City local? Owning property would  add to my list of options to be a Sundance film festival ticket holder,  wouldn't it now?