Words from Sundance Staffers: Elizabeth Duran

Hilary Hart January 28, 2010

What is your job at SFF?
Volunteer, Board Support, Executive Director’s Office

What do you do the rest of the year?
I work in the Development Department of the California Film Institute. We present the Mill Valley Film Festival and year-round programming at the Rafael Film Center, a beautifully restored art-deco movie house located in downtown San Rafael. I’m pretty proud of the work we do there; the programming for both is really solid.

Why did you decide to start working at the Sundance Film Festival?
I tend to spend most of my year primarily focused on one film fest, but if an opportunity comes along to be part of another festival, I will definitely take advantage of it. Perspective! As luck would have it, this year I had a lot of friends working and attending SFF, making the whole trek to Park City seem far less daunting. I probably wouldn’t have attempted it if it were not for their encouragement. CFI was really supportive as well.

If you have worked at SFF in previous years why do you return?
I’m a Sundance Film Festival freshman!

What film are you most looking forward to seeing at SFF?
I don’t have my heart set on any particular film, though there is a lot in the program that look really promising. My film guide is littered with stars and circles on nearly every page. Unfortunately, I only have a few days, and my first priority here is to get a sense of how the Festival is run, and its secrets of success. Seeing films was just a bonus! A big bonus. Also, I’m banking on the likeliness that the best films here will eventually make their way to the Bay Area through either festivals, or CFI and SFFS Member Screenings.

If you’ve had a chance to preview any of the festival films, which ones are you recommending to friends?
So far I’ve only seen panels and shorts, and if I had more time, I would try to attend a few more panels. The guests have been inspiring, the discussions lively and insightful, and I walked away feeling that I got a lot out of it. I wasn’t expecting to be so captivated.

How many films do you hope to see?
Five, maybe. It seems unlikely that I’ll even see that many. Coming into this gig, I knew it was going to be a challenge to commute from Salt Lake City, work everyday AND see an abundance of films. You factor in some Q&A time, a shuttle buffer and the need to be at venues an hour ahead in order to redeem your volunteer badge for free tickets, and you’re lucky to see more than one a day! I’m sure if I were more aggressive, I would have made it to more screenings, but goodness, just thinking about it makes me sleepy. Can I blame the altitude?

What are your strategies for selecting which films to see and getting into screenings?
I tend to pick whichever screenings are conveniently situated near my current location, especially if the film hasn’t been poo-pooed by someone whose opinion I trust. I know, it’s not much of a strategy, but I could live with that.

How does SFF differ from other film festivals that you have attended or worked at?
Goodness, I wouldn’t know where to begin! Badges, lots and lots of badges. There is so much industry here, that it makes me miss the real film nerds those folks who stand out in the cold simply for the love of film. I imagine week two will be less badgey.

Honestly, the differences are many, and I don’t have enough space to list them all out. Perhaps we can chat about it over a beer, and really hash it out. Come on Internet, beers on me!

If you have to choose between going to a film or a party how do you decide what to do?
Who is throwing the party, who will be attending, what is the venue and is it open bar? If the answer to all those seem agreeable, then odds are I might forgo a movie. Of course, that being said, I have really enjoyed the screenings to most of the parties I’ve attended.

How do you deal with the cold and altitude in Park City?
Not very well, I’m afraid. I was a coughing, hacking mess for the first five days here. However, three things have been pretty helpful: salt water gargles in the morning, and a good steam, followed with some High West rye at night. Ahhh, the good volunteer's hip-pocket panacea.

Will you be back for next year?
I would love to give it another go but only if I could secure free/exceptionally inexpensive housing in Park City. No more SLC!

Hilary Hart, who annually holds down the late-night shift at the Egyptian at the Sundance Film Festival, will be offering interviews with fellow workers from the San Francisco Bay Area during the course of the festival.