Sundance 2015: Day 3

Film Office

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 20th to February 1st.

Festival Day 1

The festival officially kicked off today and so I was at the Film Office by 7:30am to get ready for a day of “checking in” filmmakers. It’s a fairly complicated process that involves giving them their credentials (festival badges), tickets to their own screenings, vouchers for other screenings, tickets to parties, a cheque for the festival’s contribution to their travel expenses, and a swag bag. Almost every team has last minute changes, wanting to request additional tickets or adding or changing credentials. We also don’t know when they’re coming, so after we opened up at 8am, Kevin and I sat for a few hours waiting for our first “customer.” Periods of boredom were followed by frenetic activity when several film teams would arrive at the same time. There wasn’t much time for a proper lunch break, and so I survived on coffee, chocolate chip granola bars and a bagel with cream cheese.

Film Office

Around 4:30pm, Kevin let me leave in order to get my luggage moved to my new accommodations. After spending the first two nights very close to the Film Office, I was moving much closer to downtown Park City. But when I left the Marriott (festival HQ), there were about 20 people waiting for the shuttle. Realizing I’d never get my big suitcase on with all those people, I walked a bit, hoping I’d either be able to get on a shuttle at an earlier stop, or else to cross the road and get one heading directly downtown. But neither of those scenarios materialized, nor did a taxi appear. And so I walked the entire 1.5 miles to my new place, dragging my 40 pound suitcase (thank goodness for wheels) through the snow and ice, while my laptop bag was strapped across my back. The high altitude made it even more challenging, but when I arrived at the new place, I also had to deal with a few flights of stairs.

I barely had time to splash some water on my face before I had to head out to a YouTube reception for shorts filmmakers on Main Street. I met up with Kevin there, and two of the film teams who were featured in our very first screening tonight, Shorts Program 1 at the historic Egyptian Theatre.

Egyptian Theatre

We got over to the cinema about 90 minutes before the scheduled start time, since we were preparing a press line for all seven film teams in the lineup. Kevin and I were working with Meredith and Shayna (US Shorts coordinator and her volunteer) and so we had plenty of help. The team at the Egyptian also seemed quite large, maybe because it was one of only five Day One screenings. As with most first screenings of a festival venue, it was a bit rough around the edges, but our filmmakers were incredibly patient and gracious and seemed to have a great time.

We stayed to watch the first three films (the European Film Award winner, The Chicken, by Una Gunjak, the hilarious Mulignans by Shaka King, and the very powerful Prends-moi (Take Me) from Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette and André Turpin) and then the four of us went for a well-deserved beer and a slice of pizza at Davanza’s. It was just a ten minute walk from downtown Park City to my new place and so I was settled in before 11pm.

Tomorrow is another very busy day with more filmmaker checkins and FIVE screenings. Also, the house I am sharing with one other man and EIGHT women has only two bathrooms. Shower schedules have yet to be determined, but I’m prepared to be up very early if necessary.

In any case, it feels good to have that first screening out of the way. I’m looking forward to another day of meeting incredibly talented (and yet humble and friendly) filmmakers. I’ve already got some candidates in mind for upcoming Shorts That Are Not Pants screenings.

Oh, and a funny thing. When I left the Marriott on my LONG WALK, I ran into several people I know. First, just outside the Marriott, Melissa Than from the NFB. Then Brooklyn’s finest film blogger, Dor Dotson, a little further on. And then when I was almost there, TIFF doc programmer Thom Powers. Park City certainly does feel small enough that you can run into lots of people you know within a short amount of time. Earlier in the day, I bumped into Toronto critic Jason Gorber and saw Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann.

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