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So You Wanna Be in Pictures: The Sundance Institute

Forget Cannes; forget Hollywood. If you want to be (or at least be up on) the next art-house cinema sensation, go to Utah.

Tired of waiting for the next Great American Novel, many people have traded their reading glasses for tubs of popcorn, and are packing the movie houses to catch the latest work of the new creative hero: the American independent filmmaker. These next Tarantinos have to start somewhere -- and that somewhere is, more often than not, the Sundance Film Festival.

For more than 20 years, the hottest independent films have been discovered at this 10-day January event, hosted by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. The festival doesn't actually take place at Sundance; it's held 30 miles away, in Park City, covered earlier in this chapter. There are screenings here during the festival, however, as well as lodging packages and shuttles that take guests back and forth.

The festival has seen the rise to glory of many pictures, including sex, lies, and videotape; Reservoir Dogs; Slacker; Like Water for Chocolate; Hoop Dreams; The Station Agent; The Aristocrats; and Napoleon Dynamite -- and that's just the short list.

Hosting the nation's premier annual film festival is only part of the Sundance Institute's role in the world of American cinema. Since Robert Redford founded the Institute, it has brought some of the finest and most well-respected directors, actors, and producers to Utah to serve as advisors while students rehearse, shoot, and edit their works.

Admission to the festival -- as a filmmaker or as an audience member -- is nonexclusive; that means you and I can rub shoulders with the rich and famous and up-and-coming. To receive a free guide, or to learn how to purchase tickets, contact the Sundance Institute (tel. 877/733-7829 or 801/924-0882; www.sundance.org).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.