Unchained at Sundance 2012: The Recap


It’s hard to believe I’ve left Park City already, but yes Sundance 2012 has really come to a close. It feels like the last day before summer break, where you repeat countless times “Stay in touch”, snap last minute photos that you were too busy to take earlier, pack crammed suitcases hours before your flight and truly soak it all in one last time.

I’ve never met anyone who volunteered for the festival before and luckily I was given a ton of tips from the volunteer Facebook group. I can’t recommend more signing up as a full-time volunteer for the festival, if you find the time and money. It is truly the epicenter for independent film during the month of January. As a emerging filmmaker, there wasn’t a square foot of Park City that I didn’t get am “I love Indie Film” contact high. It was absolutely an experience of a lifetime for me.

According to the tickets stubs in my orange Kenneth Cole volunteer uniform jacket, I saw:

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

YOUR SISTER’S SISTER

FILLY BROWN

AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY

MOSQUITA Y MARI

RED HOOK SUMMER

2 DAYS IN NEW YORK

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

FISHING WITHOUT NETS (included in SHORTS BLOCK 1)

EXCISION

LUV

SOMETHING FROM NOTHING: THE ART OF RAP

THE AMBASSADOR

MONSIEUR LAZHAR

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER

SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN

SMASHED

That’s 17 films (13 narrative features, 3 documentaries and 1 shorts block to be exact) in 12 days, folks! I think I’ve filled my quota for the year. I’d gone in with the intention to see every film produced by, starring or about people of color. Of course, I didn’t get to see everything on my must-see list like SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME or WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but I’m pretty happy with my final tally. There were some ah-mazing films like BEASTS, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION and FILLY BROWN that I’m still reeling over them as I type. Others like SMASHED and THE AMBASSADOR were eh-just-okay. I was surprised by a couple of wild cards like CELESTE & JESSE, MONSIEUR LAZHAR and ART OF RAP, which were definitely refreshing in so many ways.

Throughout my time volunteering, I kept making a list of observations I wanted to share with you all. Yes, for almost every filmmaker, getting into the festival is like winning the lottery. But far beyond that, the entire event, if you’re able to stay both weeks as a non-official selection filmmaker, is kinda overwhelming. Here’s a brief breakdown if you’re game for volunteering at Sundance 2013:

  • It pays to be full-time. Each screening ticket is $15 and full-time volunteers (80+ hours or two week assignment) get access to an allotted number of complimentary tickets to each screening, depending on the theater venue. You just make your list of films and get to the theaters an hour before to stand in volunteer line. It’s a hit or miss sometimes depending on the popularity/time of the film. I’d say I made it into 10 films I wanted to see just by getting to the volunteer line early. There’s also a waitlist line that starts 2 hours before. Everyone gets a number and if there’s enough seats left by the time they call your number 30 minutes before the film starts, volunteers get a free ticket. At the screening of MONSIEUR LAZHAR, I was at the back of an extremely long line and all hope was lost. A woman at the front was able to buy a ticket and gave me her waitlist number. It was number 5 and of course they only ended up letting six people into the film. Never underestimate the waitlist.
  • Mountain sickness is no joke. It will get annoying but at every corner, people will tell you to drink lots of water. I mean LOTS of water. For the first week, I would say drink it even if you’re not thirsty. The altitude gave me several headaches and I felt really out of breathe for the first few days, so I was chugging the H2O like crazy. It will save you in the second week, I promise. Everyone was also downing Emergen-C in fear of the dreaded Sundance sickness that spreads all too easily in such wintery sleep-deprived weakened immune system conditions.
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting. One patron in line called Sundance “the waiting festival”. There is nothing glamourous about getting to see your highly anticipated films. You have to wait in the cold for the free shuttles to get you to the theater. You wait in line to get a ticket, sometimes outside in the cold or in a white tent with space heaters/body heat from strangers. You wait in the ticket holder line to be admitted to the theater amidst the scalpers and folks holding handmade cardboard “NEED TICKETS” signs. You wait for the screening to start. You wait to find the perfect seat to see the entire screen and possible subtitles. And, yes you’ll have long waits in line for restrooms and restaurants too. REPEAT daily for two wonderful weeks.
  • It’s more than just watching films. Sundance offers insightful industry panels, vendors with free swag, sponsor brunches, run-ins with down-to-earth celebrities away from the red carpet, inspiring filmmaker Q&A’s, live music performances, the latest “Who got distribution?” buzz, film/art installations, VIP/volunteer parties, networking opportunities and let’s not forget the most important part — 12 days of concentrated independent film love. It was hard for me to find a balance at first with so much going on especially in the first Week A (although things did dial down in the second Week B). To me, trying at least one different event outside of a film screening everyday helped make each day memorable. Anything can happen at Sundance and you don’t want to miss it sitting inside the theaters all day.

Until next year, Park City!

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3 thoughts on “Unchained at Sundance 2012: The Recap

  1. revjonflores says:

    I am SO GLAD that you had this opportunity! Can’t wait to see what’s ahead for you, Christina.

  2. Laura P. says:

    Yay for good times! I’m so proud of you kid, you did it! Hope you can get your creative juices flowin after all that inspiration.

  3. […] my plunge into full-time film festival volunteering at Sundance (read here) and SXSW (read here), I’m now trying to figure out just how I can do this amazing work with […]

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