Sundance 2015: Day 12

Sundance HQ

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 20th to February 1st.

Festival Day 10

Kevin had asked me to come into the Film Office by 10:00am but at 6:30am I was just getting off a couch in the condo of the Object team. The Polish Pool Party of the night before was incredible, but getting up was not so much fun, especially since I’d slept on a couch and not in the massive king-sized bed that I’d paid for at the Zermatt Resort, half an hour’s drive away. I raced over to the Eccles in time to get the 8:00am shuttle back to the resort. I was there around 7:30am and luckily the driver was there and had nobody booked so he just drove me back right away. That gave me an hour to shower and dress and get back on the 9:00am shuttle back into Park City. I gazed longingly at the untouched bed for a minute, but just for a minute.

It was the last day of the festival for me, and all of the Film Office staff were working the Awards Ceremony that night. At 4:30pm we all piled into a few cars and headed for the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse, where after taking a huge group photo with about 100 other staff and volunteers, we each separated to our posts. My FOC Kevin had a special job during the awards: he was one of the onstage people who handed the award trophy to the presenter (that’s him on the left in the picture below.) That meant that I was covering the entrance by myself. My job was to look out for our film teams and make sure they had the right number of tickets and that they got inside without any hassles. I had a list of about 20 of our teams that were still in town, but I didn’t know who was coming. It turned out that I think about five of our teams came, and although I wanted to socialize a bit with them later, I really only got to spend a little time with the Object team.

Sundance Awards Ceremony

The Awards Ceremony itself was hosted by comedian Tig Notaro and there were some special awards presenters, too (Adam Scott, Kevin Pollak, Edgar Wright, Winona Ryder). It was nice to be so close to an event like that. I actually ended up standing next to the guys doing all the editing, lighting, and camera direction.

Our job as a Film Office team when the ceremony was over was to clear a whole section of chairs as quickly as possible so that the party could begin. The seated area became the dancefloor and it has become a bit of a competition between different Sundance departments to see who can clear their section the fastest. I think it took us just about five minutes, but there was no way to determine if we won or not.

After that was over, all of our jobs were essentially complete, and we could just enjoy the party. Unfortunately for me, the venue became very crowded and very loud very quickly, and it was hard to find people or even to get to the bar. I had to keep my eye on the clock in order to catch a shuttle back into Park City (the Fieldhouse is in Kimball Junction, a little north of town) in order to connect with the last Zermatt shuttle which was at 1:00am from Eccles. This made the “party” a little more stressful for me than it should have been. I wasn’t even able to enjoy my third drink ticket since the bar lineups were so insane.

Sundance Awards Party

I did run into my good friend Lindsay, though. I worked with her at Hot Docs last year and she’s recently moved to Brooklyn, so it was great to see her and meet her new boyfriend, too. And I briefly got to say goodbye to Kevin, but my good intentions to say goodbye to everyone I’d met in the Film Office came to naught. On top of that, I lost track of the Object team pretty early on and really wanted to hug all of those beautiful Polish women goodbye.

My meticulous planning worked out a little too well, and I found myself outside the Eccles by about 12:30am, shivering in the frigid cold. There wasn’t really anyone else around, and I admit I worried a little bit about whether the shuttle would show up or not. I was a very happy man when I saw the little white van pull into the nearly empty parking lot. And then strangely enough, someone else popped out of a parked car and got in. It was a guy I’d met on the way in that morning, an aspiring filmmaker from Orange County. He’d been out at a party or two, and talked to me non-stop all the way back. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was exhausted and almost completely unable to engage with anything he was saying.

By 1:30am on the last day of my festival, the untouched bed in my room never looked so good…

Sundance 2015: Day 11

Lobby of the Zermatt Resort

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 20th to February 1st.

Festival Day 9

Up pretty early (7:00am) to pack and move to the Swiss-themed Zermatt Resort for my last two days here (that’s the lobby in the picture above.) I got myself over to the Eccles in plenty of time to be picked up by the Zermatt shuttle at 10:00am. In fact, it arrived around 9:35am to drop off people, so I got on. The driver had another passenger to drop off at the Canyons ski resort so I went along for the ride. She stopped back at Eccles at 10:00am again, but nobody else got on.

I didn’t catch her name, but she’s a young, presumably Mormon, woman who works as a bellhop for the resort. She told me she’s lived in Heber (the town near where the resort is located) almost all of her life, and has never attended a Sundance film. She also told me she’d never seen a drunk person until a year ago. She was incredibly friendly and sweet, but you get the feeling that for her, Sundance is kind of a freakshow.

I had enough time to check in and eat a filling though expensive ($20!) breakfast in one of the hotel’s restaurants, but misjudged the next shuttle back to Eccles. I thought it left at noon but it actually didn’t go until 1:00pm so I was late getting into the Film Office.

But of course there was nothing much to do at the Film Office. I got through the afternoon, helped by the arrival of an invite to “a small swimming pool party” that evening from the lovely team behind documentary short Object, which had won a Special Jury Award for Visual Poetry at the Shorts Awards two nights before. I had met producer/sound designer Kasia Szczerba at Hot Docs last spring when she was there as part of the team with The Supreme, another documentary short film. I’d enjoyed meeting that team and had drinks with them a few times. When I saw Kasia for the first time at Sundance, we both recognized each other but it took a few minutes to figure out from where.

Utah beer selection (3.2%)

In any case, she and her team have been incredibly friendly and a social invite, especially to something small, was just what I needed. I’m not a swimmer, nor did I bring any suitable swimwear, so I didn’t expect to actually be in the pool. When I arrived at their condo, it turned out to be just their film team and my FOC, Kevin. I’d brought some beers and snacks, which I’d bought at Fresh Market. Interesting observation: beer is for sale in the grocery store but it all has to be 3.2% alcohol. The same brands bought at a Utah state liquor store can be whatever alcoholic strength they want. Odd.

We chatted and drank beer (and Polish vodka!) for an hour or so and then we headed for the outdoor heated pool! It was more of a large hot tub since it wasn’t very deep and it had jets to churn up the water. It had been snowing steadily all evening and so I went out in my coat while the rest of them got into the pool. It wasn’t long before they were encouraging (maybe begging is more accurate) for me to come in. I’ll have to admit that the prospect of joining four beautiful Polish women in a large hot tub was impossible to resist, and so I stripped down to my underwear (!) and joined them.

Polish Pool Party

It was the best experience I had at Sundance and might be hard to top for best experience of 2015.

We spent almost two hours just soaking, chatting, and drinking while the snowflakes drifted lazily down into the warm water.

Getting out wasn’t as much fun. I’d hidden my clothes under a blanket but everything was still very cold and running through freshly fallen snow in bare feet was painful. But it was worth it.

Kevin left soon afterward to go another party with some of his Sundance colleagues from last year. I stayed and shared some of my personal stuff with the women. It was the kind of connection I’d been craving and it was wonderful to share our real lives and not just our professional ones for a while.

Shorts programmer Jon Korn and his wife dropped by for a little while, since they were staying in the same condo complex, and I soon realized I was going to miss the last shuttle back to Zermatt. Luckily, the ladies had a spare couch, which I happily occupied until about 6:30am the next morning.

Sundance 2015: Day 10

Cast and crew from Tangerine

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 20th to February 1st.

Festival Day 8

I had vague plans to get up early this morning and get out to a 9:00am film, but when presented with a choice between Don Verdean at the large Eccles cinema or Homesick at the more distant Temple theatre, I chose sleeping in again. I did head down to the Main Street Deli for some eggs and potatoes, though. Then on a lark, I headed to the Prospector to see if there were any last-minute volunteer tickets left for Tangerine. Despite me arriving just before 11:00am for an 11:30am screening, I got lucky. Really lucky.

Tangerine was an exhilarating and very funny ride through a Los Angeles Christmas Eve in the company of Sin-Dee and Alexandra, two loud and sharp-tongued transgender sex workers. Much of the film is taken up with Sin-Dee’s search for her cheating pimp of a boyfriend, and this quest is kinetic and accompanied by some great beats. But the quieter moments achieve real poignancy as we see the hardships these women have to face at every moment. There’s a parallel story of an Armenian cab driver with a secret, and it provides breathing space and a different perspective on LA than Sin-Dee and Alexandra’s. Amazingly, the whole thing was shot on one or more iPhone 5S cameraphones. Director Sean Baker (Starlet) succeeds in grabbing the audience by the lapels, shaking us around, and finally tugging at our heartstrings. Did I mention it’s also hysterically funny? Watch out for Tangerine.

I got into the Film Office just around 1:20pm for another long afternoon of not doing much. I can understand why we need to have people there, but there really just isn’t much activity anymore.

At 6:00pm, I headed for dinner at Good Karma, and despite it being rather expensive, their chicken curry was exactly what I was craving. Then home for a refreshing nap, yet another can of Red Bull, and then out to the Native Forum party at a bar cleverly called Downstairs.

The venue for this party was tiny, and it quickly got crowded and loud. I stuck around until about 11:30pm but only talked to a couple of people. I spotted a few of our filmmakers (Una from The Chicken, Pia and William from Abandoned Goods) but really was only able to wave at them. On my way out, I saw that there was a substantial lineup to get in and spotted Kasia and Michalina from the Polish delegation (here with Object and Starting Point). I’d hoped to have a drink with them before we all went home, but it will have to be tomorrow or Saturday night.

Home before midnight, and ready to pack up and move tomorrow morning to the Zermatt Resort in Midway. It’s going to be a bit of a hassle getting back and forth for the next couple of days since I’ll need to coordinate with the Zermatt shuttle connecting to the Park City shuttles.

P.S. I ran into my FOC Kevin again on the shuttle home tonight. He was at Eccles seeing Z for Zachariah. I’ll just mention again how small Park City feels sometimes.