All posts by James McNally

About James McNally

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

Sundance 2020: Day 7

Animation Spotlight Sundance 2020

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

Festival Day 5

I was able to sleep until 9am this morning and it really felt like it made a difference. Then I was able to attend the annual Telefilm Canada brunch for the first hour (12pm until 1pm) before joining the team back at HQ for the ride out to Temple, where we had the premiere of the New Frontier Shorts program.

The brunch was good, but an hour was barely enough time to talk to people. I did meet the producer of a short called A Walk Down to Water which is playing in Slamdance. His name was Behran and he and the rest of the film team are from Calgary. I also talked to Jen Mair from the NFB, writer/directors Supinder Wraich and Renuka Jeyapalan, whose series The 410 is also playing at Slamdance. And I briefly chatted with Shasha Nakhai, another producer from Toronto who is doing a Sundance lab here along with her producing partner Melissa Coghlan. Oh, and TIFF’s Peter Kuplowsky. Then I had to run back to HQ.

Our screening at Temple was for the New Frontier shorts, and we had three teams there, but one of them was so late arriving that we had already left. We needed to ask the venue manager to help us get the filmmaker his check in folder, tickets, and credentials. Hoping it all went well.

Our next screening was down Main Street at the Egyptian Theatre. It was for a short before a feature, and that went well and wrapped up by 6pm. I was able to grab a sandwich at Main Street Pizza and Noodles with my volunteer “grub stub” and just took it back to our condo to eat. I’m catching up on this blog post before having a short nap and heading out again. There’s an informal meetup of all the shorts filmmakers at the bar in the Park Avenue Hotel (formerly the Yarrow Hotel) and then we are there for 10:45pm for the premiere of the Animation Spotlight program which should get underway just before midnight. The days are still long but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

12:35am: Back from the Park Avenue. Screening went well, and was able to meet more filmmakers in the bar earlier, although US$9 beers made things harder. After our screening, there were a few left, and Drew (International Shorts liaison) was going to stay for another drink, but I was able to get a lift all the way home with Terry, who was driving her own car out to an afterparty she was invited to. Happy to get home quickly and get some more good sleep!

Sundance 2020: Day 6

Tacos at Anaya's Market

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

Festival Day 4

We spent quite a lot of today at the Temple Theatre, a really lovely space that is an actual Jewish temple for most of the year. It feels a bit remote, but it’s surrounded by land so it’s calming, rather than being in a big mall like the Redstone Cinemas. I always like working at the Temple, and the venue teams are always welcoming and friendly, too.

We started the day at HQ and then got a ride over to Temple for 10:45am with our Artist Relations driver Paul, who’s been taking great care of us. Documentary Shorts 2 had just two longer shorts, and ours was The Church and the 4th Estate, about a sexual abuse scandal within the Boy Scouts that also implicates the Mormon Church. Director Brian Knappenberger made a feature documentary a few years ago about Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who tragically took his own life after being hounded by law enforcement. I actually met Aaron and have some poignant memories of his intelligence, so I chatted with Brian a bit about that.

We returned to HQ for a few hours and I found lunch at an amazing place. Anaya’s Market is a Mexican grocery store that looks like it’s housed in a shipping container. It also contains a rather excellent taqueria, and I enjoyed two tacos al pastor and a drink for about $6. The Sundance crowds haven’t discovered it because you have to enter the supermarket and go all the way to one end of the store, so it’s kind of a hidden treasure.

Back to the Temple by 4:45pm for Shorts Program 4 which started at 6pm, followed by Shorts Program 5 at 9pm. These were more complicated because there were 7 film teams in each program, and some had quite a few people wanting to access the theatre lounge (“green room”), and we also had a few issues with trying to get last minute tickets for some of the filmmakers. We even had an unauthorized “crasher” who was filming everyone on his phone. That was annoying more than anything and we were able to track him down later and hopefully he’ll have his credential revoked.

Everyone was quite tired by 9pm but Terry, my liaison, was asked to cover a Q&A out at Redstone at 11pm. I felt bad not going with her but she was excited because it was going to be for a film with St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein, and she is a fan. I hope it went alright. She was able to drive her own car out there so at least she could get home quickly afterward.

I was going to go home but the International Shorts volunteer Bryan convinced me to come to the Ray to try to get into Blast Beat, a film in the US Dramatic competition. Amazingly, we got in even though we arrived 15 minutes before the 9:30pm start. We also saw other volunteers Marci and Darline (not in Artist Relations this year) but couldn’t sit with them. In fact, even Bryan and I sat in different rows. I almost fell asleep a few times but managed to stay awake, even though I found the film just okay. I didn’t stay for the Q&A because I really wanted to get home to my bed, but as I came out of the cinema, it was snowing in big heavy flakes. Luckily I found a shuttle pretty quickly and ended up speaking with a filmmaker from Arkansas named David who had also seen the film. He was trying to get to the Egyptian for an 11:45pm film, and I think he just made it. I still had to wait a few minutes at the transit hub for a bus to Deer Valley, and the one I finally got on had put on its “Not in Service” sign but luckily the driver agreed to take us all home. Deer Valley is proving to be a tough place to get home to.

Sundance 2020: Day 5

Slamdance Posters

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

Festival Day 3

Today was our day of “Shorts Before Features” with three premieres scheduled. First up was Dia de la madre at the Egyptian. It was paired with the Chilean documentary The Mole Agent and it was a pretty straightforward and easygoing event. The filmmakers told me their short was originally just a clip from a feature documentary they’re hoping to make, and so getting into Sundance will likely increase the chance of that happening successfully. They seem genuinely surprised and grateful to be here. I hope the audience liked this charming and quirky story as much as I did.

Since I’m staying much closer to Main Street than I have in the past, I was able to just meet Terry at the Egyptian at 10am. I headed down about an hour earlier to check out what’s going on at Slamdance, Park City’s “other dance.” As always, their program looks really interesting and it’s all concentrated in one place, the Treasure Mountain Inn. SNP alumna filmmaker Supinder Wraich is there with an episode of her excellent short series The 410 which is available to stream on CBC Gem.

I continue to fight off a sore throat and cough, but at least it doesn’t seem to be getting worse. After the Egyptian, Terry and I headed back to HQ and then I grabbed lunch at Este Pizza before we headed off to the Prospector for our second premiere, See You Next Time before the feature documentary Time. This feature had a huge group on the press line and so was a bit more complicated to navigate, but we got everyone in on time. Our filmmaker, Crystal Kayiza, was also here last year with a short film I enjoyed very much called Edgecombe. I predict a strong feature debut is not far away.

A gap in my schedule meant I could come home and have a short nap and some dinner before meeting up with Terry again to go to the Temple Cinema for the first time this year. That was for the short Meridian, which preceded the New Frontier feature Sandlines, the Story of History. Both film teams were very easygoing and we ended our night just after 9pm. Our Artist Relations driver Paul dropped us back at the Park Avenue Hotel and I decided to stop into the bar to have a beer. I was joined a bit later by Marci, who I’ve volunteered with for three years now. She was meeting a friend who drives all the prints to the cinemas for the festival, so we had an interesting conversation. Other people were dropping by all the time, so I was able to say hello to shorts programmer Jon Korn and have a fuller conversation with my friend Tom Hall, programming director of the Montclair Film Festival. Marci and I left around 11:35 and although I was able to get a fast shuttle to the transit hub on Main Street, I had to wait another 45 minutes for a bus to take me to Deer Valley. I could have walked it in 15-20 minutes but it was dark and cold. It’s now 12:50am and I need to be back at HQ by 9am tomorrow. So much for getting more sleep. Goodnight Park City!

Sundance 2020: Day 4

Kareem Tausch and Cristina Costantini, Directors of Mucho Mucho Amor

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

Festival Day 2

This was a very long day. Up at 6am to get to the Prospector Theatre for a second screening of Shorts Program 1 at 8am. Not much for us to do really, so we got over to HQ by about 9am. Then just an hour later, I was back to Prospector on my own to cover a “short before feature” screening. Our short film The Shawl was screening before the documentary feature Mucho Mucho Amor, which is co-directed by Kareem Tabsch, the boyfriend of my old friend Ernie Hsiung. I met Ernie way back in 2001 at SXSW Interactive, and we hadn’t see each other for maybe 10 or 12 years. It was also lovely to meet Kareem in person for the first time since we’d only been Facebook friends up to this point. Both the short and feature were fantastic. That’s a picture of directors Kareem Tabsch and Cristina Costantino above, wearing original Walter Mercado capes. You can also see Dusty Childers in the background, one of the subjects of The Shawl. I grabbed a volunteer ticket and sat through the film, which isn’t always possible. But as a result, I didn’t really take any lunch break, subsisting on HQ snacks and coffee until 5:30pm, when we had to head out to Redstone for the first of three back-to-back shorts screenings.

Redstone is an unusual venue in that it’s a multiplex and quite far from the other venues in Park City, so they don’t hold any premieres there, although these were technically first screenings so we needed to be there. Shorts Program 2 (6:30pm), Animation Spotlight (7pm), and Shorts Program 3 (9:30pm), with a break in between for our shorts team to eat at Ghidotti’s, a nice Italian restaurant right next to the cinema. Then we were picked up by our Artist Relations driver (who also drove us out to Redstone, a welcome change from last year) and driven to Prospector for the premiere of the Midnight Shorts program at 11:30pm. Our press line finished around 11:15pm and Terry let me sneak out a few minutes early so I could catch a shuttle back to Deer Valley. I was home just before midnight. Excluding my 90 minute break to see a film, I worked 14 hours today. So I’ll stop there and get some sleep. Tomorrow is a pretty busy day for us as well, but at least I don’t need to report to HQ until 9am.

p.s. I had a nice conversation with one of the shorts programmers tonight and got a bit more insight into their process.

Sundance 2020: Day 3

Morning View Sundance 2020

Festival Director James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 21st to February 2nd.

Festival Day 1

Today started very early with a 6:00am alarm and out the door by 7:00am to get to HQ by 7:45am (that’s my view on the way to work in the photo above). I wanted to make my usual Starbucks stop and did but then things were complicated by a car accident right in front of Fresh Market. They were diverting all the buses before the shuttle stop and so I ended up walking nearly all the way. I still got there on time (in fact, I was there before Terry, my Artist Relations Liaison). We expected to check in at least half of our 33 film teams, but I think we only ended up getting to about 12 or 13. As always there are periods of great activity followed by nobody coming in for hours. Luckily, all of our Shorts Program 1 teams came in, since their premiere was at 6pm at Prospector. And at some point during the day, I was sitting just three feet away from Aragorn! Yes, Viggo Mortenson is here with a film he directed (Falling) and I got to watch another volunteer check him in. I also saw, waved at, said a quick hello, or briefly hugged a few familiar faces, including Tom Hall (Montclair Film Festival), Robert Greene (filmmaker of Actress and Bisbee ’17), Sam Fragoso (host of the great podcast “Talk Easy”), and Kathleen McInnis (programmer and publicist extraordinaire).

Our first premiere went pretty well, considering the two liaisons are new. One of our short film teams (for Blocks) had a film crew from the LA Times following them everywhere (even at check-in) for a show called “Road to Sundance” or something. Luckily, I don’t think I appear in any of the footage.

We wrapped up by 6:30pm and although Drew and Terry (and possibly Bryan) were going to check out the Filmmakers’ Welcome Party, I decided to just come home, eat, catch up on this blog and some short film watching, and head to bed early. Tomorrow is an epically long day. Up at 6am and then going until around midnight. So sleep is needed. My voice is also completely gone, so resting it is a good idea.