All posts by James McNally

About James McNally

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

Sundance 2019: Day 11

To The Stars Q&A - Sundance 2019
To The Stars Q&A. Director Martha Stevens is at far right.

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 9

Another hour in the office this morning, and then off to the enormous Eccles Theatre to see To The Stars, a rural 50s story about two misfit young women. Great performances, really nice black and white cinematography, and an excellent score. There were some touches that made it feel like an old-fashioned melodrama, but it had a sweetness and a love for its characters that made it really enjoyable. And nice to see young Kara Hayward in something. Moonrise Kingdom seems so long ago now.

I met up with my Toronto friend Mike Lane at the screening. Remarkable because Mike doesn’t own a smart phone and we’d tried to arrange our meeting by email. But when I got to the Eccles, the largest cinema at Sundance, it was impossible to spot him, thanks in part to my diminished eyesight. I sat in the middle of a row but happily there was a free seat in the row in front of me, and he somehow found it. After the film, we walked back toward HQ and had lunch at Este Pizza. It was nice to hear how his festival has been.

I put in another couple of hours at the office but found myself getting sleepy. I’d originally planned to see Greener Grass at the Ray and then try to stick around and get a ticket to Blinded by the Light which was playing next, but I decided to come home for a nap and then get into the volunteer ticket line early so I didn’t miss Blinded by the Light, which a few of my colleagues had recommended.

It’s a very frothy crowd-pleaser about an English Pakistani kid in the 80s who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. Despite some downright silly moments, it was hard to resist. A feel-good movie was just what I needed at this stage of the festival. The film let out at 11:30pm and I just stopped at Fresh Market on the way home for some snacks.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last full day of Sundance 2019. I don’t need to be in the office until 3:30pm when we’ll be heading over to work the awards ceremony and party. If I’m keen, I’ll get up early and try to see a film, but I wouldn’t bet on it. 🙂

Sundance 2019: Day 10

Carla Patullo - Sundance Talent Forum Closing Party 2019
Carla Patullo performs at the Talent Forum Closing Party

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 8

Another very quiet day in the office which allowed me to see two films. At noon, there was a volunteer screening of Penny Lane’s documentary Hail Satan?, which was an excellent examination of the rise of The Satanic Temple, which turns out to be a much more political organization than you might think. The film explores issues of religious liberty, the separation of church and state, the nature of organized religion, and even the limits of anarchy and resistance. All with a generous helping of (forgive me) black humour.

Then at 5:45pm, I was able to catch This Is Not Berlin at the Library Theatre, an enjoyable 80s-set coming-of-age story. Director Hari Sama explained that it was a semi-autobiographical look at his early exposure to the art and music scenes of Mexico City. This one had a killer soundtrack, too.

I was conveniently nearby The Shop, an events venue that was hosting the closing night party for the Sundance Talent Forum. I was determined to attend to see my friend Carla Patullo perform. I met Carla back in 2015 at the Scruffy City Film and Music Festival in Knoxville, where she was attending with her film Cinderella, a Shadow Ballet. Last year after Sundance, I stayed with her and her partner Elizabeth in Los Angeles for a few days. It was great to see both of them here in Park City, and to catch up on how they’re doing. Carla is just finishing a feature score for a film which will premiere in a few weeks at SXSW.

I ended up running into lots of people I knew at the party, including the filmmakers from Adalmadrina (Pepe, Carlota, and Oriol), my friend from Toronto Grant Cermak (15 year Sundance volunteer), and Natacha, a Slamdance programmer I have bumped into several times this year. I also had good chats with longtime Artist Relations volunteer Hayley and my US shorts counterpart Angelo. Bobby was there for a while, too, and invited me to join him later at the Park Avenue hotel bar, where the shorts programmers were gathering with some of our filmmakers.

That began at 11pm, and I think I stayed just over an hour. We said goodbye to the team from Brotherhood and I had a good conversation with producer Maria Gracia Turgeon, who also produced the Oscar-nominated Fauve. She was saying she was disappointed she couldn’t go to Clermont-Ferrand this year, but that it was because she had to be at the Oscar nominees’ luncheon, which didn’t sound too terrible. She’s having a very good year. We also said goodbye to Gregorio Rodríguez, the producer of End, who’s returning to the Dominican Republic.

A busy and social day, and I realize how close to the end of the festival we are now. I’m going to try to see as many films as I can over the next few days, but we’ll also be preparing for the Awards Ceremony and party on Saturday night.

Sundance 2019: Day 9

Sundance 2019 Puppy Day
Artist Relations Manager Tony Coppola gets some puppy love

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 7

Slept in today, as might be expected, and didn’t get into the office until just before noon. Nothing really happening, but today was “Puppy Day” so Bobby and I piled into a car with Artist Relations Manager Tony, along with jury liaison Alyssa and her volunteer Megan (who works year-round in the advancement department at TIFF!) and we drove over to somewhere near the Library Theatre. A rescue organization had brought three adorable pups for festival staff and volunteers to cuddle. There was a lot of oohing and ahhing and passing the puppies around. Two of them seemed to just want to sleep but one was lively, and they all were remarkably tolerant of all the handling and attention. It was a great bit of therapy for all of our tired souls.

Other than that, things were pretty dead, so I left at 4:00pm for a bite at Burger King (used one more of my “grub stubs”) and then got a volunteer ticket to see State of the Union at the Park Avenue cinema. It’s a unique ten-part series (each episode is ten minutes long) that will eventually air on the Sundance Channel. Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Nick Hornby, it’s a smart and funny look at a couple meeting up each week ahead of their marriage counselling sessions. Chris O’Dowd is schlubby but likeable, while Rosamund Pike is the bored one who has a brief affair after her husband stops having sex with her. It’s quirky and poignant and for someone like me, it often hits pretty close to home. Sadly, there was no Q&A since none of the talent were here.

I was considering going to the Volunteer Appreciation party down on Main Street, but opted instead to come back to the condo and just relax. I need more rest and “alone time” to prepare me for a few days of film-watching. Plus we have the final Awards Ceremony on Saturday, so now is the best time to catch up on my sleep.

Sundance 2019: Day 8

Sundance Shorts Awards 2019

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 6

Today was mostly spent preparing for the big Shorts Awards party. I spent a few hours in the office, but then went home from 4:00-6:00pm for a nap. My job at the party was to man the “resolution desk” and handle any issues, usually last minute requests for more tickets or people who had “lost” their tickets. Compared to past years, everything went smoothly and I was inside enjoying myself just as the awards ceremony got underway. Three of our international films won awards, though the overall Jury Prize winner wasn’t able to attend. Here are the awards:

  • Grand Jury Prize – Aziza (Dir: Soudade Kaadan)
  • Jury Award: US Fiction – Green (Dir: Suzanne Andrews Correa)
  • Jury Award: Non-Fiction – Ghosts of Sugar Land (Dir: Bassam Tariq)
  • Jury Award: International Fiction – Dunya’s Day (Dir: Raed Alsemari)
  • Jury Award: Animation – Reneepoptosis (Dir: Renee Zhan)
  • Special Jury Award for Direction – Fast Horse (Dir: Alexandra Lazarowich)
  • Special Jury Award for Direction – The Minors (Dir: Robert Machoian)

The venue was new this year, the Utah Film Studios, and we were using one of their three soundstages. They had two food trucks parked inside, along with pool tables and pinball machines and arcade games.

I was able to circulate for a while, giving out extra drink bracelets to our film teams, and making sure everyone was having a good time. I had a good conversation with Alma Buddicke, the director of Hot Dog. Her film team were one of the most fun to work with this year.

Sometime around midnight, Bobby and Sophie (the Artist Relations Liaison for US Documentary and Midnights) grabbed me and said we were leaving to go to another party. A short Lyft ride later, we were at a house near the Library Theatre, where the Rooftop Films team were hosting a small party. I saw my TIFF/Hot Docs friend Dorota Lech, and finally met someone I’ve been Facebook friends with for ten years but hadn’t yet met. Danielle DiGiacomo does acquisitions for The Orchard, and is a New Yorker transplanted to LA. We may be able to meet up when I’m there next week. I also met Rooftop artistic directo Dan Nuxoll and spent a lot of time talking to Maria Rhodes, their Festival and Programming Coordinator. They’ve been doing amazing work in New York City for more than twenty years and I’m desperate to actually attend a screening (the one I did attend in 2013 was eventually rained out).

I didn’t leave until nearly 3:00am but luckily I had only about a five minute walk to get home.

Sundance 2019: Day 7

Weary but happy
Weary but happy

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 5

First of all, if I met you at the festival-filmmaker “speed dating” event at Slamdance this afternoon, welcome! The site doesn’t always look like this. You can click here to see what our festival programming looked like in 2018.

I got into HQ by around 10:00am this morning and it was very quiet. This is what the rest of the week will be like. I wanted to put in a few hours’ work before noon, when I headed out to the Windy Ridge Cafe for the Telefilm Canada luncheon. There I met up with my friend Mike Lane, a film editor from Toronto. He’s here without a smart phone so we’ve arranged a few meetings by email. I met a few other Canadians, including an actor from the Slamdance film Happy Face, Hot Docs director Shane Smith, Toronto film critic Jason Gorber, and producer Kristy Neville (from SNP selection Her Friend Adam, among many other projects). I saw the teams from Fast Horse, Throat Singing in Kangirsuk (who did some actual throat singing) and Docking but didn’t get to talk to them. The event was two hours long and it seemed to go by very quickly.

I was back in the office from 2:00pm until 4:00pm, when I left for another event. Josh Leake, director of the Portland Film Festival, had put together a great event bringing together festivals (mostly from the Film Festival Organizers group on Facebook) and filmmakers (mostly from Slamdance). It was a really intense but fun session, and I gave away lots of Shorts That Are Not Pants stickers. I also won a great raffle prize, $500 of equipment rental from Eventive, the ticketing platform we already use for our festival. It was nice to meet Eventive’s founder Iddo Patt, as well.

I had to run off at 7:00pm to meet Bobby at the Egyptian for our last premiere, the short film Those Bad Things, which was preceding the Uruguayan feature film The Sharks. During the load-in, a nice woman asked me where the jury seats were and it took me a little while to realize that it was Jane Campion.

Bobby and I were starving, and so as soon as the film started, we stopped at The Spur, just a few doors away on Main Street, where I thoroughly enjoyed a plate of chicken wings. It’s midnight as I wrap this up, and I’m exhausted. Most of the hard work is done now, with just the Shorts Awards tomorrow night left. It’s a big event for us to work, but also kind of a finish line. I plan to enjoy myself excessively. 🙂