All posts by James McNally

About James McNally

James McNally is the founder and Director of Programming for Shorts That Are Not Pants.

Sundance 2020: Day 2

Artist Relations, Sundance 2020

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

T-1 day until festival begins

Up at 6:30am this morning to make sure I could get into HQ before 9am. I wanted to make my traditional coffee stop at Starbucks. At the shuttle stop near Fresh Market, I met Romina, who is the Artist Relations Liaison for World Dramatic and World Documentary. She lives in Mexico about half the year and works at Sundance during the festival and also during the summer labs. She worked at Sundance 2018 and took last year off. It was nice to catch up. At HQ it was a mixture of familiar faces and new ones, but everyone seems really nice and we are all looking forward to getting to work.

Tony is the department manager, and he’s returning from last year, and Tenley is the assistant manager, and she’s worked lots of Sundances in the Press Office, so they are an experienced team. Of course, Kir Chalker is back as the head of Artist Relations, and this is her 18th festival. Tony and Tenley ran the training during the morning, and then we broke for lunch. My roommate from last year, Bryan, will be working with me this year as he’s the volunteer for International Shorts. He and I went with Marci (with whom I’ve worked for the past three years) to a sort of health food cafe for lunch, on Bryan’s suggestion. It was further away than I thought and we ended up not back until nearly 2pm, after which they set us to work assembling filmmaker folders until 5pm.

Upon coming back to my lodging, I was mortified to discover I’d emptied my right pocket this morning which held all my Canadian money. It also happened to hold my key! Luckily, I knocked and woke Greg up from a nap who kindly opened the door for me. I won’t forget my key again!

All three of us went to the staff and volunteer party tonight, where we hung out together and then mingled on our own, and then all decided to leave at 11pm. It was still a bit of an adventure getting home. We took the bus in the wrong direction from the Main Street transit hub and had to get off and wait for the one going in the opposite direction. All tucked in before 12:30am but only 5.5 hours until I have to get up for a long day tomorrow. Still, nice party where I got to talk to a bunch of people.

Sundance 2020: Day 1

Sundance 2020 Swag

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

T-2 days until festival begins

Despite having a very comfortable bed at the Hotel RL in Salt Lake City, I didn’t sleep all that well last night. Probably just the excitement. After I checked in about 8pm, I wandered over to the Fisher Brewery, about a ten minute walk away, where I sampled some fine brews while dining on Jamaican jerk chicken and peas and rice courtesy of the food truck parked outside. It was a nice place with interesting beers, but pretty dead on a Monday night. I was pretty wiped out and only stayed an hour. Walking anywhere in SLC feels a bit strange, but at least my walk was well-lit. In previous years, I’d stayed at a suburban AirBnB that was pretty spooky at night.

This morning, after enjoying a buffet breakfast (another benefit of staying at a real hotel), I packed up and was ready for my shuttle pickup before 11am. Normally I’m picked up by Susan (who I’ve dubbed the Shuttle Queen™) but this morning it was her son Logan who picked me up. I joined a nice group of women from all over the US who were also volunteering at the festival. We were at HQ in Park City before noon, and it wasn’t busy, so we had all our stuff pretty quickly. I went and ate lunch at my old standby, Este Pizza (two slices and a drink is still just $7) and then just spent the next few hours at HQ waiting to pick up my lodging key. I ran into Daniel Webster, a young Englishman whom I first met at a screening here last year. He’s now studying film in Florida, and is helping us out as a screener for this year’s Shorts That Are Not Pants.

Shuttle Susan dropped by HQ and it was good to see her and give her a hug. She said her daughter Carly would be coming by just after 4pm and could drop people off at their lodgings, which is truly generous. I told her they should charge an extra $10 for that. There was a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing with a few people going to Park City Mountain Resort (notoriously difficult to navigate) and so I was dropped off last, since this year I’m all the way out in Deer Valley. It’s far out but the house is huge. I have my own room with two queen beds and my own bathroom too. Really comfortable. But not as easy to get back to during the day, and grocery shopping will be a bit of a trek. Google Maps says it’s only a 25 minute bus ride, but it just feels farther out due to the distance.

(11:20pm): Okay I went out and it took about half an hour each way. Not too bad, but I ended up spending US$55 on groceries, which seems a lot for some fruit, peanut butter, chips, and frozen chicken fingers. Food is definitely more expensive here. But eating a good breakfast each day is pretty important.

When I got back, both of my housemates had settled in. I met Felix last year briefly because we were lodging in the same building. He’s originally from Minneapolis but is living in Los Angeles right now. Greg is from Connecticut but lives in Brooklyn. They’re both probably mid-20s at the oldest, and they both work together in the Industry Office, which is right across the hall from Artist Relations. They have more fixed schedules than I do and so will probably end up seeing more films. They had ordered some pizzas so we just shared, and had a two hour conversation. I’m glad that we’re going to get along so well.

Training day tomorrow, starting at 9am and I’m not sure how long it will take me to get there from here, so heading to bed now.

P.S. In the photo above, I hope you can see the small pin above the logo on my jacket. That was given to me for five years of volunteering!

Sundance 2020: Before I Go

Sundance Film Festival 2020 [poster image]

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

I’m incredibly excited to be returning to Park City for the fifth time in the past six years. My 2019 was much better than my 2018, with my health getting better all the time and my cataracts corrected by surgery back in the spring. I’m feeling a tiny bit sick as I get ready, but it’s just a tickle in the throat. Hopefully nothing to be concerned about.

Nevertheless, I’m privileged to be returning to the Artist Relations department, and very happy to be working on the US Shorts programme again. I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues, especially Terry, the US Shorts coordinator. Once again there seem to be a lot of new faces this year in Artist Relations, and I’m eager to meet everyone, as well as to catch up with old friends. I fly down on Monday evening, when I’ll spend a night in Salt Lake City before riding to Park City with Shuttle Queen™ Susan on Tuesday morning.

I’ve seen quite a few of the Sundance shorts already and hope to see the rest soon. I also look forward to meeting and making connections with filmmakers, so I can bring some great films to our Toronto screen for our 2020 festival.

In what’s become a bit of a tradition, I’ll mention the number of granola bars I’ll be bringing along. This year, it’s a measly 5, which I think are left over from last year, so may not even be edible! I hope you’ll follow along with my festival adventures again.

2019 Festival Awards

Our second annual festival was held this past weekend, and exceeded my expectations once again. I’m grateful to our staff, volunteers, audience, and especially to our filmmakers, and I want to recognize those films awarded by our juries and audience. Thank you to all our jury members for their hard work and for lending us their expertise. Congratulations to these filmmakers but also to all the rest of the filmmakers who allowed us to share their work during the festival. Toronto enjoyed watching your films and we can’t wait to see what you’re working on next!

Award Winners 2019

Best Narrative Film

Patision Avenue [poster image]

Patision Avenue (Dir: Thanasis Neofotistos)

Jury statement: The director masterfully lets us tap into the protagonist’s rapidly rising pulse while handling a mother’s everyday challenges in streets under the siege of an aggressive political riot.

Best Documentary Film

Dulce [poster image]

Dulce (Dirs: Guille Isa, Angello Faccini)

Jury statement: A subtle and moving portrait of a Colombian mother and daughter harvesting clams amidst the existential threats of climate change, this has the deft storytelling of a scripted film, accumulating power and significance rather than demanding it. Intimate and observational, the film’s success lies in its focus on impression and vignette over traditional narrative, conveying a vital message without preaching. Sometimes the greatest works of art are those that feel simultaneously about the smallest stories and the enormity of being alive; to see that in a work of nonfiction is an impressive feat indeed.

Best Animated Film

Pura Vida [poster image]

Pura Vida (Dir: Nata Metlukh)

Jury statement: Great fun! Nice design and style and funny stuff!

Audience Award – TIE

Nefta Football Club [poster image]Girl in the Hallway [poster image]

Nefta Football Club (Dir: Yves Piat)
Girl in the Hallway (Dir: Valerie Barnhart)

There were also jury special mentions in the three categories:

  • Special Mention (Narrative): Repugnant (Dir: Kyan Krumdieck)
  • Special Mention (Documentary): The Snowball Treasury (Dir: Kara Blake)
  • Special Mention (Animated): Good Intentions (Dir: Anna Mantzaris)

2019 Festival Juries

With the festival kicking off in a few days, I’d like to introduce the good people who are helping us determine our three juried award winners. We’ll be giving away a total of $1,000 in prize money with the help of our audiences, as well as these fine industry leaders.

Narrative Jury

Liane CunjePer FikseDan Moore

Liane Cunje

Liane Cunje is a programmer for the Overlook Film Festival, and has been an international programming associate for the Toronto International Film Festival since 2017. In 2019, she became the Discovery programming associate for the focused programme showcasing bold visions from international first- and second-feature directors. Coming from a Film Studies and a television development background in Montreal, Liane previously worked in cult film restoration and distribution in the UK with Arrow Video as operations executive. She currently sits on the board for The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, and is working with a few industry femme fatales on INIODYMUS, a genre film festival consultancy collective promoting new filmmakers.

Per Fikse

Per Fikse (b. 1965, Norway) is the director of Minimalen Short Film Festival in Trondheim, Norway. He began programming for the festival in 1994 and has been its director since 1999. The festival had its 31st edition this year, screening more than 200 films over six days.

Dan Moore

Dan Moore is the executive director of the Indy Film Fest which recently celebrated its 16th year, and was drawn to the fest by his love for film nearly a decade ago. He has served as executive director of the all-volunteer festival since 2016. By day, he’s a software engineer and lives with his two cats in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Animation Jury

Barnabas WornoffShelagh Rowan-LeggElaine Wong

Barnabas Wornoff

Barnabas Wornoff is a senior animator, animation professor and one of the co-founders of TAAFI (Toronto Animated Arts Festival International) where he helps with speaker programming and other fun shtuffs. Wornoff is a full-time professor at Seneca College, where he coordinates the 3rd year 2D stream and mentors his students while they make incredible cartoons.

Wornoff also animates for top tier animation studios in Toronto, and has worked on Corner Gas Animated, Nature Cat, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Total Drama Island, Jimmy Two Shoes, Peg and Corn, and did storyboard cleanup on Danny Phantom. Currently he’s a freelance animator for Nelvana on Sesame Street’s second season of Esme and Roy.

Barnabas has his Masters in Creative Media and Education from Bournemouth University in England.

Shelagh Rowan-Legg

Shelagh Rowan-Legg is a filmmaker, author, programmer for FrightFest, and contributing editor for ScreenAnarchy.

Elaine Wong

Elaine Wong is a short film programmer for the BFI London Film Festival. She has previously worked on Sheffield Doc/Fest, London Short Film Festival, Underwire, Raindance and Chinese Visual Festival and is based in London.

Documentary Jury

Mickey DuzyjSanne JehoulEthan Warren

Mickey Duzyj

Mickey Duzyj is an Emmy-nominated director known for his innovative use of animation in documentary film, and was chosen by Variety as one of 2019’s “Top 10 Documentary Filmmakers to Watch.” He is the creator and director of the critically-acclaimed Netflix documentary series LOSERS (2019), and previously won the Best Short award at Hot Docs for his ESPN 30for30 film The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere (2016.) More at mduzyj.com.

Sanne Jehoul

Sanne Jehoul is the co-director of Glasgow Short Film Festival, Scotland’s leading short film event, which champions new talent and disruptive, transgressive work alongside a programme of industry events. She is also a programmer at Document Human Rights Film Festival in Glasgow, and freelances as a writer, host, and curator. Sanne has worked in arts and media in her home country Belgium as well as in China and the Basque Country. She sits on the advisory board of Femspectives, a new feminist film festival in Glasgow.

Ethan Warren

Ethan Warren is a senior editor at the online film journal Bright Wall/Dark Room and the writer/director of the 2018 independent feature film West of Her. He lives on the south shore of Boston with his wife, Caitlin, and their children.