Sundance 2020: Day 9

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

Festival Day 7

After a very good party last night, I thought my venue duties were over, but I got a text this morning at 9am from Terry asking me to go out to Redstone once more to help one of our filmmakers at the second screening of the New Frontier shorts program. One of the filmmakers uses a wheelchair and Terry wanted to make sure she was introduced to the venue manager since for the Q&A she’d have to be brought out of the cinema in order to access the front of the theatre so she could participate. Our driver Paul was on duty but his contract with the festival ended precisely at noon. I was picked up from the Park Avenue theatre (after grabbing my customary coffee at Starbucks) at 11:00am and got out to Redstone by about 11:20am. To my chagrin, none of the filmmakers showed up until about 11:50am (ten minutes before the scheduled start time) and that was not the one I was waiting for. Instead, she was waiting for her producer to arrive and had her ticket, but the producer was going to be late. The venue manager wouldn’t hold onto the ticket and I told her I needed to leave right at noon. I was about ready to leave when the filmmaker I was waiting for arrived, along with a bunch of other people who had been on the festival shuttle. For some unknown reason, a group of about 50 middle school kids also arrived, making the lobby crowded and hard to navigate. I tried to notify the venue’s STOPs (special theatre operations) person but it was taking her a long time to respond. Finally the theatre manager arrived and accompanied our filmmaker to her screening. Paul drove me back to HQ where I gratefully returned my walkie to the charging station and went for lunch at Este Pizza.

I wanted to attend a panel at the Slamdance Film Festival at 2pm and left HQ around 1:15pm but my shuttle took a longer route and I found myself walking up Main Street with only about ten minutes to spare. Luckily I made it to the Treasure Mountain Inn (site of all the Slamdance screenings and events) just in time. The panel was a discussion of last year’s award-winning dramatic film The Vast of Night with its writer/director/editor Andrew Patterson. I saw the film at TIFF back in September and really loved its originality, inventiveness, and performances. Patterson talked about how the film was made, and how it arrived at Slamdance with no connections at all. Since he’s based in Oklahoma City, he didn’t really have any connections to the larger film scene in LA, and festival programmer Paul Rachman stressed that it was a blind submission that just rose to the top. After its awards at Slamdance, the film was acquired by Amazon and will be streamed on Amazon Prime (beginning this May). It also played a few other festivals (including TIFF). It was wonderful to know that truly independent stories can still get to audiences, and when Patterson showed us the trailer a week before its official release, I found myself tearing up. Good storytelling and craft still move me, and that’s why I’m a festival programmer and director.

Before the panel, I’d met one of Slamdance’s feature documentary programmers (Karin Hayes), and when I told her I programmed a shorts festival in Toronto, she suggested I go into the office and ask if they could share links to the short films. And so I did. They were willing to share filmmaker contact information so I will have to email the filmmakers individually, but it would be great to see what Slamdance has programmed this year.

After the panel, I had arranged to meet up with Indy Film Fest executive director Dan Moore at the Wasatch Brewpub, but before that I ducked into the SundanceTV venue for a free Americano. Dan and I chatted for about an hour before I headed home.

I had several choices tonight. The multi-director hydra beast that is Omniboat was playing at 8:30pm at the MARC but after I found out there would be no Q&A, I decided on another choice. I also could have accompanied Terry and Drew and Bryan to a screening of the award winning short films at the Prospector (also at 8:30pm) but in the end I decided to attend the Volunteer Appreciation party at the ASCAP Music Cafe venue on Main Street. It was close to home for me, and since I’ve run out of some groceries, I was counting on the food to be good and filling. It was (hot pasta and meatballs, etc.). I had the chance to talk to some volunteers I haven’t seen for several days (Artist Relations colleagues, as well as my friend from home Grant). I even ran into Ilias Tahri, whom I met here in 2018 and who hosted me in his hometown of Clermont-Ferrand after Sundance that year.

That wrapped up at 10:30pm and I came right home and did a load of laundry, which should see me through the rest of the festival. It’s a bit late now (1:30am) but I’m caught up on blog entries, laundry, and I even have a somewhat solid plan for tomorrow. Goodnight!