Tag Archives: Sundance 2019

Sundance 2019: Day 3

Sundance 2019 Floor Shadow

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

Festival Day 1

It’s 8:15pm and I’m ready for bed. A long and very tiring day but our first screening is under our belts and it went fairly smoothly. I started the day at HQ at 8am where we waited for our filmmaking teams to arrive. Of 31 teams, I think we only met about 12 today, so there’s lots of work left to do tomorrow, even as the number of screenings takes us away from the office.

It was great to see Canadian filmmaker Trevor Anderson back at Sundance with a new short film, Docking, which looks really funny. We originally met back in 2015 when he was here with The Little Deputy and I’m looking forward to seeing how his new film plays in the Midnight Shorts programme, where it will play along with Winnipeg collective Astron-6’s new short Chowboys: An American Folktale. We didn’t meet them today, so hoping they check in tomorrow morning.

Throughout the day, I kept running into familiar faces, such as Toronto blogger Ulkar Alakbarova, new parents Dor Dotson and Josh Johnson, and Sundance award-winning filmmaker Jim Cummings (Thunder Road), whose continued kindness to me is as baffling as it is appreciated.

Pizza appeared in the office sometime around lunch hour and so that meant I didn’t actually leave the building until our first screening at the Prospector. We left around 4:30pm to meet our filmmaking teams in Shorts Program 1. We handed them off to festival publicist Brianne and then stuck around until the films started, about 15 minutes later than the scheduled start time of 6pm. The first day is always a bit rough around the edges, with everyone learning their jobs on the go, and teams figuring out their chemistry. But everyone remained cheerful and I’m sure things will run more smoothly from now on.

After a quick stop back at HQ to drop off my walkie-talkie, I wanted to head home. After waiting for a shuttle that didn’t seem to want to arrive, I took advantage of a Lyft discount code ($8 off) but we ended up getting lost. The driver lives in Salt Lake City and so neither of us was too familiar with the roads. He was patient, though, and finally got me back to the Park City Mountain Resort, where I’m staying. I decided to grab dinner at the Baja Cantina, where they had completely run out of draft beer, and where the cook mixed up my order and ended up giving me an extra enchilada.

I found today extra exhausting due to a lasting side effect of my chemotherapy. Neuropathy in my feet meant that standing for long periods was extra painful. I’m hoping I can endure, but heavy winter boots aren’t the most comfortable footwear, and there’s really no way to avoid standing a lot. I’ll manage.

These first few days are so immersive, it’s difficult to even think about seeing any films later in the festival, but I know that gradually I’ll start hearing from people what the good films are. That will make the second half of the festival much more fun.

Sundance 2019: Day 2

Volunteer Party with Kim, Sydney, and Scotty

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

T-1 day until festival begins

Got a decent sleep and an early start this morning. I was up at 7:30am and had plenty of time to shower and eat some breakfast before heading for a 9:30am start at HQ. Today was our training day, but in reality most of my time was spent helping Bobby put together the check-in folders for our 31 film teams. There are a lot of different components that have to be included, and it took us most of the afternoon. He also presented me with a huge binder of material that included our full schedule as well as “face sheets” for every screening, listing times as well as headshots of all the talent attending. Extremely useful. He said he wanted me to have the exact same information that he has, so that really made me feel like more of a partner. I think we’ll work really well together.

It took me a bit of a long time to get from HQ back to my lodging since the shuttles aren’t on festival schedules yet, but i had a bit of time to eat and get cleaned up for the Staff and Volunteer Party, which was held at the head office of Skull Candy again this year. I got out there (there being Kimball Junction, about a half hour shuttle ride) by about 9pm and quickly ran into some familiar faces, including Kim Z. from Chicago, whom I met at my first Sundance way back in 2015, and Jake, my roommate from last year. Through Kim, who works in Events, I met Scotty from Richmond, Virginia, a non-drinker who happily gave me his two drink tickets, leading me to stay out a bit later than I planned. But I was back home just after midnight, writing a blog post, and ready to get up again at 6am for the first day of the festival!

Sundance 2019: Day 1

Sundance Swag 2019

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

T-2 days until festival begins

On the flight down last night, to get in the Sundance mood, I watched two films from last year’s festival. Three Identical Strangers is a documentary that starts with an unbelievable but happy premise (triplets who were separated at birth and adopted find each other) but grows darker and more disturbing. Worth a watch. And, although Hearts Beat Loud was a rewatch, I still got embarrassingly emotional. A crowd-pleaser with great music. A few days before, I’d also caught up with Blindspotting, a fresh and thought-provoking look at racism, gentrification, PTSD, and a whole host of other issues, while still being hysterically funny in places. Seeing these Sundance selections has put me in the right frame of mind to tackle this year’s lineup.

This morning, Shuttle Queen™ Susan collected me from my AirBnB at 10:30am and we picked up about six more people, including Super Volunteer™ Harvey Lalonde and another volunteer from Toronto named Michelle. There was also a guy from Lethbridge named Graydon. We were at HQ in Park City by just after noon and checkin was easy. We had a lot of time to kill before being allowed to pick up the keys to our lodging at 4pm so I took Harvey and Michelle to my perennial favourite lunch spot, Este Pizza. Then we just hung around HQ until it was time to get our keys. Susan had kindly offered to drop us all off at our lodgings for no extra charge, which was a huge help. I’m staying in a condo that’s part of the Park City Mountain Resort, and it has a whole bunch of shops and restaurants also, though it’s a fair hike from the main shuttle routes on Park Avenue.

I’m sharing with two other guys: Bryan is a first-year volunteer from Queens, New York, and he’ll be working alongside me in Artist Relations. Chad is a veteran from Indiana who is part of the works crew, so he knows Justus and Joe and Eric, my roommates from 2016 and 2018. They went off to see the 7:30pm volunteer screening of Apollo 11 while I decided to go to Fresh Market for a few supplies. I got fruit and cheese and peanut butter and croissants and potato chips. You know, the essentials. There was also a 9:30pm volunteer film (Knocking Down the House) but I’m now cosy and would rather get settled in. Training starts at 10am tomorrow and I’m eager to get started. I stopped briefly by the Artist Relations department to see if I could introduce myself to Bobby, but he was out. Got a nice hug from senior manager Kir, though. And bumped into some volunteers from last year (Gray and Marci) and spotted a few others. Will catch up with everyone and meet the new ones in the morning. Last night I slept terribly so hoping for better luck tonight.

Sundance 2019: Before I Go

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

I’m incredibly excited to be returning to Park City for the fourth time in the past five years. The past year has been a rollercoaster, with a cancer diagnosis just before last year’s festival, surgery upon my return, followed by seven months of chemotherapy. Happily, I’m feeling well, but there have been some lasting effects and I’m a tiny bit worried they may affect my ability to do my job effectively. I have ongoing neuropathy in my fingers and feet, which feels like pins and needles and some numbness. This is more annoying than debilitating, but it could be with me for months or even years. More worrying is the development of cataracts within weeks of my chemotherapy ending. My left eye is much worse, with vision so blurry I can’t read any text at any distance. I have an appointment with a surgeon when I get back, but having blurred vision isn’t the best situation when a big part of my job is having to recognize the faces of unfamiliar filmmakers.

Nevertheless, I’m privileged to be returning to the Artist Relations department, and very happy to be working on the International Shorts programme again. I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues, especially Bobby, the International Shorts coordinator. There are quite a lot of new faces this year in Artist Relations, and I’m eager to meet everyone. 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’m also incredibly fortunate to be heading to (hopefully) sunny Los Angeles after the festival for six days. I’ll mostly be using that time to make plans for 2019, including working on three quarterly screenings (the first of which will be held on February 21 at Cinecycle) and our 2019 festival. I’m hoping to see most or all of the Sundance shorts and to make connections with filmmakers, so I can bring some great films to our Toronto screen.

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 paltry(?) 11. I hope you’ll follow along with my festival adventures again.