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Sundance 2019: Day 3

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.