I skipped the Sundance Film Festival volunteer pre-party on Wednesday night because I was exhausted and not up for the long trip to Park City, let alone hanging out with a crowd of a thousand people. I was going to meet up and carpool with my friend Jenny, who I met at last year’s festival, but I bailed on her. We’d been emailing a little and I told her I wasn’t sure about going—and then I declared my final decision via text message. To prove how cool she is, Jenny responded: “Boooooo. that’s okay, I forgive you.” I appreciated her unsolicited forgiveness and went to bed early.
Friday morning, after attending classes from 8-10am, I started driving up Provo Canyon into the mountains. I forgot to bring my camera, which is a shame because it was a beautiful day.
As much fun as I had volunteering at the awesome Sundance venue of Egyptian Theatre in Park City last year, I requested shifts at the Sundance Resort this year because it’s a much closer drive. It’s turning out to be a dramatically different festival experience than last year.
The environment itself is extraordinarily low-key. Unlike the Egyptian, which is smack dab in the middle of the busy festival on Main Street in Park City, the Sundance Resort is 45 minutes away from Park City and offers only one theater. A path starts at the base of the mountain, where skiiers and snowboarders line up for the chairlift, and winds past rustic and unadorned resort buildings, outdoor art globes that encourage environmental responsibility, and an in-ground fire pit with benches all around. The wood smoke drifting through the cold, mountain air adds a distinct aroma to the mountain resort ambiance. Bridges cross over a cold, rushing creek, and wooden signposts direct pedestrians at forks in the path. The Screening Room, as it’s aptly called, is a golden-hued wood building nestled among, and mostly obscured by, tall trees.
I walked up the well-worn wooden steps and into the lobby at 10:45am, where I was greeted by a flurry of staff members and volunteers preparing for the kick-off of the first film. Though Park City venues screen five or six films a day during the festival, from 8:30am until after midnight, Sundance screens only four films a day at set times: noon, 3:00pm, 6:00pm, and 9:00pm. I introduced myself to new faces and re-introduced myself to the people I met at the prior week’s training session, picked up my volunteer uniform, then dove right in to on-the-job box office training. Having worked at the front desk of a hotel for four years, the job itself was not a big deal.
People relaxed a little after the first film (Carmo, Hit the Road) started, and that’s when I was able to get to know some of them a little more. It’s exciting to discover new people who live in Utah County, appreciate independent film, and who are not only nice but also swear, watch R-rated movies, and drink wine. As most imports to the heavily Mormon-influenced world of Utah County will tell you, it can be a very difficult and isolating place to live if you are not Part Of The Culture. Hell, I have Mormon friends who grew up elsewhere who agree that it’s a wacked-up place to live. Anyway, it’s just nice to meet new people and not have to dance around Who I Really Am.
The director of the first film, Murilo Pasta, walked into the lobby about halfway through its screening. He gave a big hug and Brazilian besos (kisses on each cheek) to Bonnie, the theater manager, and then came over to the volunteer table and greeted the few of us with warm handshakes and “It’s nice to meet you, [each name here].” Most of the directors I saw last year barely even gave the theater manager the time of day, but Mr. Pasta (tee hee) was obviously a different brand of director. Of course he’s Brazilian, so that may have had something to do with it.
He held a Q&A session with audience after the film, and schmoozed with filmgoers in the lobby afterwards. The “box office” where I was stationed was basically a table by the entrance to the theater, so I had a front row seat to it all. The job is pretty easy—besides taking money and doing some paperwork, I just stood there looking official and answered questions as people asked them.
I had a short shift and was able to stay to watch the 3:00 film, Corazón del Tiempo (“Heart of Time”). Some parts were difficult for me to follow because I’m not familiar at all with the political situation or the Zapatista revolution of rural Chiapas, Mexico, but otherwise I enjoyed it. The rural setting was beautiful and the depiction of the tight-knit community very compelling, but I really loved the relationship between the sun-wrinkled, toothless grandmother and her preteen granddaughter.
I went home after the film and the rest of my night was kind of boring and filled with falling asleep on the couch. I had planned to go up to Park City today, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen since I have a lot to do otherwise. I’ll share more exciting Sundance events as they occur—my next shift is tomorrow morning.