Sundance 2015: Day 8

Team Shorts (James McNally, Shayna Weingast, Meredith Finch, Kevin Blumeyer)

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

Festival Day 6

I’m writing this the following day, since Day 8 was my longest yet. I think I got to bed somewhere around 3:00am but it’s a little bit fuzzy.

After putting in a few hours at the Film Office HQ yesterday (8:00am to around 11:00am), I was lucky to get tickets from Kevin to two of the shorts programmes playing at the nearby Prospector. It was my first chance to sit all the way through for Q&As, too. At 11:30am, I saw Shorts Programme 4 and found myself tearing up at most of the films. All were fantastic, but the programme was anchored solidly by Oh Lucy!, which went on to win the Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction (more about that later). I also was really moved by Myrna the Monster, which used puppetry and animation to tell a very poignant story about feeling like a stranger in a strange land. The final shot of Oren Gerner’s Greenland also packed an emotional punch.

At 2:30pm I returned to the Prospector for Shorts Programme 3, which featured one of the longest shorts in the festival (28 minutes), A Million Miles Away. I really liked this almost experimental exploration of female coming-of-age. It felt a little bit like a teen movie in which a middle-aged choir teacher is just another one of the girls. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and that’s a compliment. I also loved Hungarian animator Réka Bucsi’s whimsical Symphony No. 42, a series of scenes, many of them featuring absurd animal characters. It reminded me quite a bit of David OReilly’s work, especially The External World.

After a quick stop at home to drop off my laptop, I returned to the vicinity of the Film Office to grab dinner at Fuego’s. I was meeting Kevin, Meredith, Shayna and Courtney (Associate Manager of the Film Office) at 7:15pm to get ourselves over to Jupiter Bowling Alley. The Shorts Awards ceremony and party was being held there beginning at 9:00pm and we were working the door to make sure all of our film teams were able to get in and start enjoying themselves.

I’d heard that this party was one of the best at Sundance and that turned out to be true. The venue is huge and has bowling alleys and pool tables, which made it a lot of fun for everyone. The awards ceremony itself was plagued by some microphone problems, but I did get to hear most of the introduction by Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite (and whose new film Don Verdean is premiering here. I would love to see it.). He talked about coming to Slamdance with Peluca, the short film that went on to become Napoleon Dynamite and how he submitted to Slamdance because their submission fee was only $10 while Sundance’s was $30. It was a good inspiring story of scraping by and working hard until your talent is recognized. The awards themselves were handed out fairly quickly, by the members of the shorts jury (Alia Shawkat, K.K. Barrett, and Autumn de Wilde). In my job, I didn’t get to meet any of the jury members, but I did see them at a number of the premiere screenings we worked.

Here are the list of award winners. I’m proud to say that our International Shorts filmmakers took 5 out of 7 this year!

  • Short Film Grand Jury PrizeWorld of Tomorrow (Dir: Don Hertzfeldt)
  • Short Film Jury Award: US FictionSMILF (Dir: Frankie Shaw)
  • Short Film Jury Award: International FictionOh Lucy! (Dir: Atsuko Hirayanagi)
  • Short Film Jury Award: Non-FictionThe Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul (Dir: Kitty Green)
  • Short Film Jury Award: AnimationStorm Hits Jacket (Dir: Paul Cabon)
  • Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting – Laure Calamy in Back Alley (Dir: Cécile Ducrocq)
  • Short Film Special Jury Award for Visual PoetryObject (Dir: Paulina Skibińska)

I didn’t have to be in the Film Office until 1:00pm the next day, so I stayed until the bitter end of the party, catching one of the last shuttles back to the Yarrow around 1:30am. I do remember sitting in the back row with some of the guys from The Little Deputy team along with some of the ladies from the Film Office box office. “O Canada” may or may not have been sung. From there, I walked back to my place, stopping at 7-11 for a late night snack.

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