Tag Archives: Sundance 2016

Sundance 2016: Day 3

US Shorts Folders - Sundance 2016

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

Festival Day 1

Today was supposed to be our big film team check-in day. We threw the doors of the Film Office open at 8am and waited. And waited. And waited. Kevin and I have the largest number of film teams (an unbelievable 39!), and we were hoping that we’d have most of them checked in by the end of today. But I don’t think we even crossed the halfway point. Inevitably, it would be very quiet for a while, and then two or three teams would come in at the same time. Tomorrow is bound to be busier, but it also has more screenings we need to attend.

Although the Film Office was open until 9pm tonight, we had to leave just after 5pm to attend a reception for shorts filmmakers hosted by YouTube. I spent some time talking to Sol Friedman and his wife, who are here showing Bacon and God’s Wrath. And I met a pair of friendly Irish filmmakers, Damian and Keith, here with animated short A Coat Made Dark.

We had to get over to the historic Egyptian Theatre on Main Street by around 7pm to be ready to welcome our Shorts Program 1 filmmakers for their press line. The lineup featured two Canadian films (Mobilize and Don McKellar’s It’s Not You) and one that might be called half-Canadian: Killer director Matt Kazman is from Toronto though he lives in New York now. His parents and sister were attending and were excited to find out we are showing the film as part of our April Lineup. They’ve promised to bring all of Matt’s family and friends along to the screening.

I’d been looking forward to meeting Don McKellar but he arrived at the very last minute and barely had time to sit in his seat before the film got underway. Hopefully he sticks around and attends some of the events; it would be great to say hello and thank him for all his work.

After we had helped the film teams manage the press line and find their seats, we were free to go, but I ended up watching the entire program standing at the back of the cinema. A couple of highlights: AJ Schnack’s Difficult to Speak was a quietly devastating indictment of America’s gun problem, while Mickey Duzyj’s charming The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere was a more whimsical look at a legendary Japanese racehorse.

After a 14 hour workday, though, I’m ready for bed. Hopefully I can get a good night’s rest so I’m ready to check in the remaining 20+ teams tomorrow as well as accompany filmmakers to three screenings.

P.S. Random run-ins with people I’ve worked with and for: Alan Black (Hot Docs), Charlotte Cook (ex-Hot Docs), Anita Cotic (TIFF), Thom Powers (TIFF). Additional celebrity sighting: Elijah Wood (walked right into the Film Office).

Sundance 2016: Day 2

Sundance Film Office 2016

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

T-1 day until festival begins

Today was a training day, but between sessions I began helping Kevin complete all our filmmaker packages. We actually checked in three teams already, which will give us a jump on what will be an insane day tomorrow. Even though I had the same training last year, nothing really prepares you for the on-the-ground madness once festival begins. It’s good to remind myself (and the first-timers, too) that this will all make sense very soon, and not to worry about retaining everything today.

Tonight is the Staff and Volunteer party, and luckily it’s a short walk away. It’s nice to do this before we all get buried in work, but it’s also hard to completely relax with so much ahead of us. And I need to be back at HQ before 8am tomorrow, as do all of my Film Office colleagues. So it will be some prudent partying tonight. And hopefully a decent night’s rest.

I had my first “celebrity” sighting today, with actor Adam Scott sitting a few feet away while checking in for a film he’s a part of. Probably wise I didn’t introduce myself. Back around 2009, I made a huge social media gaffe, writing a not-entirely-positive review of a film he was in, while working for the film’s Canadian distributor. He was very unhappy with me at the time, though I doubt he’d remember my name.

Sundance 2016: Day 1

Sundance Film Festival 2016 Coffee Mug

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

T-2 days until festival begins

Today was a whirlwind. I was up pretty early (around 8am) and didn’t have anything on my agenda except getting a coffee at a place near my AirBnB called Jack Mormon’s. I couldn’t resist with a name like that, and the coffee was great, too.

I packed everything up to be ready for 12:30pm, when a really kind Sundance volunteer named Susan arrived to pick me up. She’s a Salt Lake City resident and in the Facebook group for Sundance Volunteers, she offered to drive people to Park City so they wouldn’t have to take the shuttle. She asked for $20 each, which was much better than the shuttle’s fee of $35. And I didn’t have to make my way all the way back out to the airport, either.

We also picked up Claire, who was also staying in SLC for a few days. I had met her yesterday for coffee and we discovered that not only was she working with my friend Jackie, but that they were going to be roommates, too. Small world.

We had a full SUV of 7 people, a mixture of new and seasoned volunteers, and the ride was lively and full of conversation. The only other guy in the bunch, Joel, turned out to be my roommate. He’s working as a Category Volunteer in the Film Office, too, with Premieres. He’s Australian, and actually worked with Courtney (our manager here) at the Melbourne International Film Festival. He said she convinced him to come work at Sundance.

Jackie’s flight was delayed and she ended up getting to Festival HQ with just minutes to spare before their 6pm closing, so we didn’t have much time to chat. There are volunteer screenings tonight, but I just wanted to decompress after finding my way over to my festival-provided lodging. I’m sharing a room with Joel in the basement of a condo. We each have a twin bed. The other three housemates each have their own room with a Queen bed, and one even has his own bathroom. It’s all a matter of seniority, I think. They all know each other well, having worked together both here and in Chicago. They seem really nice, maybe late 20s or early 30s. Joe and Eric drive around and fill up propane tanks(!) which seems like a bizarre festival job, but they say it leaves them lots of time to see films. Mike works in the Development Office with donors. Oh yeah, the condo complex (just 6 units, each the size of a house) has a shared hot tub! It’s much smaller than the one I enjoyed last year, and it closes up at 10pm, but still!

It’s relatively early, but I just want to settle in here and maybe go and do some grocery shopping. Our place is really central, on Park Avenue about halfway between Festival HQ and downtown Main Street. It’s a 20 minute walk to HQ or about the same by shuttle. There’s a 7-11 across the street and the big grocery store (Fresh Market) is just a few minutes walk. It feels like a great location.

Earlier, I stopped by the Film Office to say hello to Courtney and to Kevin, with whom I’ll be working again this year. We’re the US Shorts team, and the Film Office Coordinator (FOC) for International Shorts is named Corinne, whom I also met. Her volunteer is Celine, who lives in Toronto and who worked at the Film Office Box Office last year. So things are familiar, mostly.

But Kevin says we have 39 film teams this year, a huge increase over last year, so we’ll be very busy over the first few days. Tomorrow is our training day, but Kevin is also trying to encourage any film teams who are here already to check in early. So we’re going to hit the ground running.

Sundance 2016: Before I Go

Sundance Film Festival - January 21-31, 2016

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

It’s hard to believe that I’m actually returning to Sundance this year. Last year at this time, I was a little bit nervous. This year, I feel like a seasoned pro. Well, not exactly, but it helps to be returning to almost the same position I held last year. I’ll be working alongside the Film Office Coordinator (FOC) for US Shorts (last year we worked on International Shorts). I think I’ll get more out of the festival this year, having a year of experience under my belt. I won’t need to spend the first two days figuring out how to get around on the festival shuttles, for instance.

I’m really excited that my friend (and sometime Shorts That Are Not Pants programmer) Jackie Marculescu will also be volunteering this year. Having a wingwoman at parties and screenings and other social events will be much more fun for me, and may help me overcome a lot of my natural shyness and introversion. I’m also happy that a few other friends will be there, some covering the festival as critics, some attending with their own films. It’s amazing to me that I seem to know so many people in this world. It’s safe to say that for the next few weeks, I’ll be in my happy place.

I leave early tomorrow morning, though I don’t need to be in Park City until Tuesday. I’ve decided to spend a couple of days exploring Salt Lake City, which will also give me some time to adjust to the altitude. And because of my experience getting stranded for two nights in Denver on my way home last year, I’ve decided to avoid the winter weather for another week and head to Los Angeles after the festival. I probably won’t be blogging about those side trips here, but once I arrive in Park City, I’ll be documenting my second Sundance for your amusement. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to go pack. Do you think 22 granola bars will be enough? 🙂