Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival

2011: My first year volunteering for the Sundance Film Festival. I took as many volunteer hours as I could and I loved working at the Main Box Office and at the Broadway Theater. The volunteer jacket for this year was a sleeveless blue vest.

2012: My position was moved and I was able to be on the Theater Team for the Salt Lake City Library during it's first year of the festival! The bright tangerine jacket was my main jacket/coat for the rest of the year. It even traveled to Costa Rica with me.

2013: I nearly didn't volunteer for 2013, knowing I would be very pregnant at the time. The volunteer coordinator was quite eager to find a way to make it work, though, and I would rather not miss a year. In order to make it possible for me to volunteer, Abe volunteered, too. We were both assigned to the Main Box Office and we managed to work it out so we both have the exact same schedule. This way, he could drive me to and from my shifts and I always had someone with me who knew what was going on with me medically. The jackets for 2013 were the same cut and style as 2012's tangerine jackets. They have zip off/on sleeves that I love. The vest portion of the jacket is bright red and the sleeves are black.

2014: The jacket design from 2012 and 2013 returned, but the color changed. Ice blue for the vest and black detachable sleeves. Abe returned to the festival with me this year and we resumed our posts at the Main Box Office in Salt Lake City. Sundance Kids was introduced and we used our Locals Ticket window to order tickets for "Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang", "Life After Beth" (which we missed. Long story.), and "God Help the Girl". We took our daughters to Zip & Zap and they loved it! We stayed for the Q&A after the screening and were able to get a photo of our daughters with the director. Our eldest couldn't wait to get home and email her boyfriend about it.

My goal has been to serve 5 years with Sundance. I had somehow decided that this was my goal before I ever worked a single shift. There have been times when my personal life has tried to corrupt this goal, but it's never succeeded. I've never called in sick. I've never been more than 10 minutes late (and both times I was 10 minutes late were due to unforeseen parking issues. Welcome to the festival!) I've never wanted to pawn off my work while I've been on shift. This is not because I'm some sort of saint: It's because Sundance treats their volunteers well. I've never felt unappreciated. I've made friends that I adore. In fact, now that the next festival will be the end of my 5 year mental commitment, I can safely say that I'd be comfortable serving another 5, 10, or even 20 years - as long as we're living in Utah.

My Sundance FAQs:

1. Do you get paid?

No. I receive benefits (like film vouchers) for my hours served. Which benefits I receive are decided by how many hours I work. Volunteers can work as few as 24 hours and as many... well... I've never heard a full-time volunteer complain that they don't get to work enough. All volunteers receive their exclusive volunteer jacket (which they get to keep) and a selection of other items that can change from year to year. Every year that I've volunteered we've had Brita as a sponsor and they've provided us with wonderful water bottles. Sundance and Brita work together to help eliminate plastic water bottle waste by encouraging volunteers to use their Brita bottles during their shifts. L'oreal is another repeat sponsor. They've given us things like mascara and nail polish in the past. We never know for certain what we'll get. This year, they had a lipstick vending machine in the Volunteer Hub up in Park City! You'd just tweet with the code displayed on the digital screen on the machine... and POP! out comes a free lipstick. Super cool promotion!

L'oreal offered free mini makeovers including hair and makeup in Park City throughout the festival. 
They also offered free nail polish for people who tagged them in Instagram posts. 

2. Do you get to see free movies?

They ask us not to answer these questions (in part because different people answer the question differently, causing confusion) but I'm going to do my best. This goes back to those vouchers I mentioned in my last answer. We are compensated based upon the hours we serve. Sometimes we are able to see films with our vouchers. Sometimes we can earn very special vouchers for our friends and family (This is NOT common and it takes a ton of hours, so don't ask a friend for vouchers. Seriously. Don't do it.) Full time volunteers are eligible for special passes, too. Here's the big thing, though: A volunteer with a pass is NEVER going to take your seat. Sundance cares about their patrons and every volunteer knows that they can be bumped from a screening. The festival organizers work hard to help us see films, but that doesn't always mean that we're attending regular festival screenings. We have occasional free volunteer screenings. This year there were volunteer screenings of "The Babadook", "Dinosaur 13", and several other films. In addition to these screenings, locals (including volunteers) can pick up Best of Fest tickets. These tickets are released to the public before the festival and are good for Best of Fest: A day of screenings the day after the festival has ended. The films are not chosen until late in the festival so you never know what you'll see! This year we saw "The Case Against 8" and "Whiplash" at Best of Fest.

None of this has stopped us from purchasing Locals tickets.

3. Do you get to hang out with celebrities? 

Don't volunteer to hang out with celebrities, please. It does happen, but that's not why we are a part of the festival. Yes, I have stories I could tell. I had coffee with Bobby Kennedy, Jr. during my first year as a volunteer. I was in the wings during the Q&A with the director of "The Raid 2" this year.

I took this for him after he mentioned he didn't have many festival photos to show his Mom.  

But that's not why I do this. In fact, my favorite Sundance stories often involve other volunteers or the absence of celebrities. Our 2012 screening of "West of Memphis" was on the night that Damien Echols got snowed in up in Park City and couldn't make the scheduled Q&A. Several people had poor attitudes about this, but as Abraham and I walked back to our car, we watched the snow fall and discussed how beautiful it must be for Damien to be in one of the most beautiful resorts in the world with his wife during this storm. After all those years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, he could be free to spend this time with his wife. How could we be upset? 

4. What's your favorite movie? 

Sundance or otherwise? I'm pretty sure my favorites are mostly Sundance films anyway. I don't know that I can pick just one, but I'll list a few of my ultimate must-watch films:

"Jess+Moss" (Not everyone's cup of tea, but it's on Hulu right now... so... go watch it? I loved it.) 
"West of Memphis" (Graphic, but amazing.)

and from this year: 
"Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang"
"God Help the Girl" (If you like Belle and Sebastian, you'll love this. I pray it gets a wide release.)

Non-Sundance films I love: 
"Clue: The Movie" 
"Ghostbusters" and "Ghostbusters 2"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"What Dreams May Come" 
"Undercover Blues" 
"Lilo and Stitch" 
"How to Train Your Dragon" (Don't get me started. I'll talk your ear off about this one.)
and, who could resist it... 
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" 

5. Why do you volunteer? 

I love it. 


  1. How much fun is that! It looks like you have a great time volunteering for this event yearly.

  2. This is GREAT! The experience alone and the memories make it worth it!

  3. It sounds like you really enjoy participating :). I follow a few youtube movie channels that talk about sundance - I'd love to go sometime.

    1. I really do enjoy it. One thing that people tend to be surprised by is that you can enjoy Sundance without being a celebrity. It's super easy to come and attend the festival! Every Sundance screening utilizes a wait list and 2014 introduced an eWaitlist feature that can be accessed with your smart phone! Waitlist tickets are cheaper than advance purchase tickets, too. Absolutely worth a shot. I highly recommend coming to visit during the festival. If you can stay in Park City, fantastic! But if not, that's okay - Salt Lake has wonderful Sundance screenings and events, too!

  4. What an interesting experience! We don't like every independent film that comes out but we love the occasional gem!