Sundance 2016: Day 4

Sundance Film Festival 2016

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 19th to 31st.

Festival Day 2

Well, true to expectations, today was long and difficult. We were still expecting about 20 film teams to check in today, and we had four premiere screenings to cover as well. Our first, the Documentary Shorts program, was held at the gorgeous Temple Theatre. It was nice to catch up with Sol Friedman and his wife Sarah again, and the irony of showing Bacon and God’s Wrath at a Jewish temple was not lost on them.

At 5pm, Corrine (International shorts coordinator), Celine (her category volunteer), and I got a lift to the Redstone Cinemas in Kimball Junction, about a 20 minute drive north of Park City. It’s a huge shopping complex, with lots of restaurants and stores. In the exact same scenario as last year, we hit a surprising amount of rush hour traffic and we knew it might affect our filmmaking teams, many of whom were taking the festival shuttles. To make things worse, Kevin had to attend another screening, and many of the US Shorts teams attending were unfamiliar to me. When we check in film teams, we usually try to do it together so that we both get to meet the filmmakers, but for some reason, I didn’t know many of the teams for Shorts Program 2. And as usual, there were several last minute requests for tickets, which in the end proved impossible for us to accommodate. It was also the first day of the festival for the Redstone team, and the rough edges were showing a little bit. They have the unenviable job of having to co-exist with the regular cinema team and programming, so there were people heading in to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the same time we were trying to load in or load out our Sundance films.

Our next screening was Shorts Program 3, also at Redstone, but I was able to step away for about 45 minutes to enjoy a burger and a beer at the nearby Red Rock Brewery. The festival provides full-time volunteers with four “grub stubs” which are good for a meal at several places around town, and luckily Red Rock Brewery was one of those. I did have to pay for the beer myself, though!

Shorts Program 3 ran a little bit smoother, though I had still not met all of the US teams at check-in. Notable, though, was Jungle. Young Ghanaian-American director Asantewaa Prempeh was accompanied by her mother, who had flown all the way from Ghana to the festival. After initially not knowing what Sundance was, as soon as she found out what an honour it was for her daughter’s film to be accepted, she was determined to make the trip.

Ironically, I knew two of the international teams for this program. I’d met Damian and Keith from Irish short A Coat Made Dark at the YouTube reception on Thursday evening, and found it very easy to chat with them. And Polish short Figure was made by my friends Katarzyna (whom I’d met at Hot Docs in 2014) and Kasia (Hot Docs 2014 and last year’s Sundance).

But there wasn’t time to stay and enjoy the films, since we had to get back to the Prospector cinema to welcome a large number of film teams for the Midnight Shorts program. Each team also had a lot of people, so the green room (or “theatre lounge”) was uncomfortably packed. But the press line went surprisingly smoothly, even though some of the teams were quite late in arriving.

By that point I was running on fumes. I’m used to 14-16 hour work days during TIFF but I have a lot more control there, and I know my colleagues better. After a day like that at Sundance, where I’m running or being dragged around all day to different unfamiliar venues and teams, my head was spinning. I got home to bed around 12:30. From here on, though, things should be a little bit easier each day. Crossing my fingers!

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