Labor of Love v. Labor
November 29, 2007 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Any insight on volunteering at Sundance?

So I submitted my first documentary and didn't get in. Alas, a bummer, but barely unexpected.

Moving on: in addition to submitting to other festivals, I've heard that volunteering is a good way to experience Sundance (get in for free/cheap, meet programmers, staff, and industry people that could benefit future projects).

Does anyone have experience or recommendations? I have read Chris Gore's seminal book.

Also, I'm trying to decide which of these program areas would be most beneficial:

Crowd / Transpo / Venue Support
Marketing / Press
Theater Ops
Ticketing / Box Office

I have ideas on some of these, but really don't know, for example, what Production would involve. Any insight is most appreciated!
posted by asuprenant to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know for sure, but production in film stuff usually involves carrying stuff. Heavy stuff. Probably setting up tables or carrying film reel canisters. Just a guess though.
posted by sharkfu at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2007

Two questions, asuprenant: have you ever been to the festival? (I ask only to get a sense of your familiarity with Park City.) Also, how do you deal with freezing cold?
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:51 AM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: roger: I've never been to Sundance, nor that neck of the woods at all. In fact, the only festivals I've attended are Toronto and Chicago.

As far as the cold is concerned, I'm from Chicago :)
posted by asuprenant at 11:14 AM on November 29, 2007

I have a friend who did it, who loves film, and was absolutely miserable the entire time. She's a naturally gregarious person who found every one incredibly unfriendly, she didn't get into any good films. She warned everyone away from the experience. Not that this would happen to you necessarily, but just a note that some don't enjoy the experience or get much out of it. She thought she was going to love it.
posted by sweetkid at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2007

I have a friend who used to work for Sundance ... I could try to put the two of you in touch, if you'd like. Please let me say straight off, though, that I don't think she has any particular pull or ability to get you anything. (She doesn't work for them anymore ...)

But she might be able to answer your questions and offer some insight.

MeMail me the best way for her to contact you and I'll try to make it happen!
posted by mccxxiii at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Never been to Sundance but I have run a theatre conference two years in a row. I promise that Theatre Ops is the way to go. You'll be closest to the VIP's who's movies are playing, get to interact with the people who run the festival and you'll be doing the least ammount of manual labor.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:16 PM on November 29, 2007

I looked into volunteering for Sundance about 7 years ago. I have done some work for the film festival here in Chicago and knew a few people. They said that the days are long(at least 12 hour days) the access is limited (the folks that you want to talk to--want to talk to people who are not you), the ability to see "hot" films is pretty non-existent (unless you have bought your own tickets)and that the accommodations could be "not so great" as all housing is pretty pricey (read:split a hotel room with other volunteers).

So, if you want to volunteer to see how this stuff works--great. If you want to get access--probably not so great.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:14 PM on November 29, 2007

In my experience, if you offer to volunteer, almost anyone will take you, but you may just be tossed into any random job without choosing.
posted by divabat at 4:14 AM on November 30, 2007

Best answer: I volunteered there a couple of years ago, let me see what I can remember:

I was staying with relatives, so I was a "local, part-time" volunteer rather than a "full-time" volunteer. Since you're coming from out of town, you'd be full-time and I believe they'd give you lodging (free or reduced rate or something). I think they get more applications for full-time volunteers than they have slots, so you'll want to get on it as quickly as possible.

The volunteer department staff was very nice, gave me my choice of positions, and tried to answer my questions about what each one would entail. I ended up working in "The Filmmaker Lodge," which was basically just a lodge-y kind of space with a room with couches for hanging out, and a back room set up to be a lecture space, where they held little Q&As with some of the filmmakers. My tasks included: counting people at the door, answering questions, taking out the trash, manning the mike for Q&As, and stuff like that. The only access I got to anyone famous was counting Werner Herzog when he came in, and showing Kyra Sedgwick to the waiting room.

If I were doing it again, I might try to work at one of the theaters. It's indoors, and sometimes you can watch parts of the movies you're working. But you'd probably also have to deal with irate people who want to get into sold-out screenings.

For every 8 hours I worked (or something like that) I got a free ticket. I ended up getting 6 or so, and didn't use all of them. I didn't really have time. Full-time volunteers (I believe) get unlimited free tickets, but I don't know when they find the time. They set aside a certain number of seats at most screenings for volunteers, and there's a separate line for volunteers, so you're slightly more likely to be able to get into the hot movies, but not much.

One great volunteer perk: there's a volunteer lodge, with tons of free food. I think they also have some volunteer-only parties.

Ultimately, it wasn't a pretty good experience, but I did have to deal with many difficult attendees, and it was very cold and crowded. I didn't feel like a particular "insider." If you were really proactive about schmoozing, and weren't looking to schmooze with the really famous people, you might be able to make some contacts, but I wouldn't count on it. You'll likely be too busy hauling garbage or something.
posted by doift at 8:33 AM on December 1, 2007

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