Words from Sundance Staffers: Jesse Dubus

Hilary Hart January 28, 2010

What is your job at the Sundance Film Festival?

Theater Operations Runner.

What do you do the rest of the year?

I work in the Programming Department at SFFS and at the Berkeley Home
Office of the Telluride Film Festival, among some other things.

Why did you decide to start working at SFF?

Last year I had a break in my schedule in January for the first time,
and I decided to see what the fuss was all about. Honestly, attending
Sundance was never a priority for me since my taste in films tends to
run counter to the Festival’s strengths and programming tendencies.
But, that said, as I’ve gotten to know the people who work most
closely on the Festival, I’ve been impressed by their passion and
integrity. I’ve come around to being able to really enjoy the Festival
on its terms and not fret so much about what it isn’t…all right,
taken on the whole, I can admit I love it!

If you have worked at SFF in previous years why do you return?

Sundance is the closest thing there is to getting all of my friends
from various circles and locations together in the same place at the
same time. It’s wonderful to be constantly running into good friends I
haven’t seen for a while, or just seeing Bay Area friends in the
context of the Festival. Everyday I seem to run into friends and
colleagues I didn’t even realize were here!

What is your most cherished memory from previous festivals?

I’m not sure it’s the most cherished, but being summoned out of bed at
midnight last year to help erect the behind-schedule Music Cafe tent
the night before the Festival started was one of those crazy film
festival nights that no one who was a part of will ever forget. We
were exhausted, it was freezing and dark, and we were racing to put up
a huge structure with creaky jacks and a long wooden beam that seemed
ready to snap and take someone’s head off at any moment. But working
on festivals you kind of feed off the crazy moments like those.

What film are you most looking forward to seeing at SFF?

Probably ODDSAC since I’m an Animal Collective nut. I find the New
Frontiers section in general to be the most interesting in the program
and probably the best expression of what the Festival tries to be. And
every year New Frontier on Main is amazing both in concept and in
execution. I’ve never seen anything like it at other film festivals
and really wish I did.

If you’ve had a chance to preview any of the festival films, which ones are
you recommending to friends?

I’ve seen a handful of titles through screening Telluride submissions
and whatnot, but mainly I leave the recommendations to my friends who
work long term for the Festival or who otherwise have access to
screeners beforehand. I think having scouts whose opinions you trust
goes a really long way towards making seeing films at this festival

How many films do you hope to see?

I’m shooting for 20 with my work and social schedule!

What are your strategies for selecting which films to see and getting into

More than any other festival I take the advice of friends and
colleagues. My taste is on the adventurous side, and I don’t see the
point of trying to see things that will be widely distributed soon, so
the films I pick are typically easier to get into than titles with big
names attached to them. And if I do get shut out, there’s always
someone to get a drink with to pass the time!

How does SFF differ from other film festivals that you have attended or
worked at?

The glorious snow! And, in general, the odd dynamic that comes from
the Festival trying to serve emerging filmmakers and that slippery
category of "independent" film while also delivering the glitz and
sexiness that’s become expected of it.

If you have to choose between going to a film or a party how do you decide
what to do?

This is probably the one festival I go to where time spent with
friends takes precedent over seeing films. It’s fairly rare that
there’s a Sundance film I want to see that I can’t catch up to later
fairly easily, and, in any case, I can pretty much manage to see what
I want to while also partying plenty.

How do you deal with the cold and altitude in Park City?

I’m a tough Pittsburgh boy, so this dry cold doesn’t faze me. And
7,000 feet is a cakewalk for someone who spends a month a year in

Will you be back for next year?

We’ll see, but I definitely wouldn’t mind it!

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.