Sundance 2018: Day 2

Sundance Swag

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 16th to 28th.

T-1 day until festival begins

Training at 10am today and I was excited to see a bunch of people I hadn’t seen since 2016. I also got to meet Priya, my Artist Relations Liaison. We’re working on a section that includes Indie Episodic, Spotlight, and a few special events. Strangely, for us the first weekend is pretty quiet, with most of our premieres happening in the early part of next week. At lunch, Darline and I went to my favourite nearby cheap place, Este Pizza, where I devoured two delicious pepperoni slices. Then it was off for a walkthrough of the brand new cinema, The Ray. They gutted an old sporting goods store and built a 500 seat cinema with Dolby Atmos sound. It’s impressive, and still smells new. In fact, there were still workers doing last minute stuff ahead of the festival’s opening.

More training at 4pm (on how to load in a film) and then helping Priya prepare all the filmmaker welcome packages. There are a lot of components: festival credential badges for multiple team members, tickets to their own premiere, vouchers for other films, invites for parties, vouchers for a Canada Goose down jacket (!) and other goodies. Starting tomorrow, our film teams will start arriving to check in and begin their festival experience, and we want to be prepared and make sure nothing’s missing.

Tonight was also the Volunteer and Staff Party, held at the headquarters of Skull Candy, who make headphones. I ended up hanging out with a lot of the volunteers I met on the shuttle ride up here. We even have a Facebook Messenger group, and we’re adding more people to it. It’s nice to have a group to hang out with when our schedules align. I went to the party with my roommate Jake, and introduced him to the shuttle group. Everyone had a great time, and I only drank my assigned three drinks, and was home and in bed by 12:30am. We took some fun photobooth photos (Ben, Adam T., Darline, and I) and I even bought some earbuds at 40% off on the way out.

A little bit of misadventure getting back from the party. When I got to my lodging, my keycard wouldn’t work in the door, so I had to walk a few minutes back to the 24-hour reception in the condo complex. The desk manager told me this always happens during Sundance, when one roommate uses the extra “security lock” switch on the door and then goes to bed. It required him to use a special override key to open the door. Jake and I got in, but had to give our other housemate Justus a bit of a lecture this morning. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to us again.

Sundance 2018: Day 1

Sundance Film Festival 2018

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 16th to 28th.

T-2 days until festival begins

On the flight down on Monday, I caught up with two Sundance 2017 titles, which seemed like a fitting way to prepare for the festival. Patti Cake$ is a fairly conventional story of a struggling rapper from New Jersey, though the music was great, there were some interesting magic realist touches, and the performances were strong. The predictable climax still had my heart swelling and my eyes leaking. Ingrid Goes West is a dark comedy about social media obsession and stalking the people we think are happier and more successful than we are. It’s not as clever as it thinks it is, but Aubrey Plaza is simply fantastic in it.

The day began with a shuttle ride, provided by the rock star Susan Roberts Sisson, another Sundance volunteer who runs her own private shuttle before and after the festival. She started a few years ago to get to know other volunteers, and it’s now grown to a mind-bogglingly complicated operation. It’s great that she provides a necessary service at a reasonable cost, and we all get to meet new people while we’re at it. I got into Park City by mid-day, after meeting a whole crew of volunteers on the ride. Melissa Houghton, from Toronto, is someone I’ve worked with before in the Artist Relations Office, and it was nice to see a familiar face. I also met Darline, from Tallahassee, who is working in Artist Relations, too. It’s her first Sundance and it was nice to feel like I had some useful information to impart.

After we checked in, we had a few hours until we could get into our assigned lodgings, so six of us decided to take a walk to Main Street. Another first-time volunteer, Ben, had been told that the Wasatch Brewpub was a good spot, so we spent about half an hour walking there, but it was such a beautiful sunny day that it was a pleasure, even with the altitude and the uphill on Main.

I checked into my lodging around 5. I’m at the Snowflower condo, which is fairly close to where I was last time, except that it’s about a 6-7 minute walk away from Park Avenue. In fact, the complex has four buildings and I’m in the fourth, the furthest from the street (but closest to the ski slopes!). I’m sharing a room with a guy named Jake, from Chicago. He’s running merchandise between the Festival Stores. In the bigger room is Justus, who is on the Works crew with my roommates from last time. They fill the propane tanks for the heaters at all the shuttle stops. He’s a vegetarian, and Jake’s a vegan, so my grocery shopping was a little bit tentative. I went out to pick up some stuff, and ended up with soup, bagels, pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter, cream cheese, bananas, and some bread.

I went out later to catch the later of the volunteer screenings at the Library Theatre. It was RBG, a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s 84 and a badass. Her work on women’s rights in the 70s and beyond is historically essential and she’s still a strong progressive voice today. The film also did a great job of honouring her late husband, a gifted lawyer in his own right who always put his wife’s career first.

The film got out near midnight and I was exhausted. The walk home from the theatre was only about 15 minutes, but I felt like I’d had a lot of exercise today and was happy to see my bed.

Sundance 2018: Before I Go

Sundance Film Festival 2018 Poster

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 16th to 28th.

Last year, I missed Sundance due to my job working at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. That was a lovely and rewarding experience, and I miss my friends and colleagues there dearly. But because I’m not returning to my position there, it means I can return for my third year volunteering in the Artist Relations Office (formerly the Film Office). Unfortunately, I won’t be working on one of the shorts programmes this time, but I’ve been assigned to a new section of the program called Indie Episodic, which features episodic content that may end up on television, streaming services, or VOD. Celine Roustan, my assistant programmer at Shorts That Are Not Pants, is also returning for her fourth Sundance, and we’re both working in the Artist Relations Office, so I’m hoping that between the two of us, we can meet a lot of the short filmmakers and see their work.

I’m particularly excited to be making the trip to Park City this year, because the new year started off with some pretty bad health news for me. If you’re interested in all the details, I’ve written more on my personal blog. In any case, I’m able to attend both Sundance and, for the first time since 2014, the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, so there will be lots of festival diary entries for you to read in the next month.

Now it’s back to packing and looking over the festival program. Excited to see some great new work in 2018!

P.S. In a weird coincidence, I also packed 22 granola bars this year, the same number I brought with me in 2016!