I spoke with volunteers at the Sundance Film Festival and wrote this story:
If you walk around the Sundance Film Festival, you might spot a celebrity or your favorite film director — but it’s almost certain you’ll catch sight of volunteers.
This year, they’re wearing blue jackets (which they receive as part of the gig), and they can be seen throughout the festival selling tickets, acting as ushers, shoveling snow, answering questions, directing traffic and more.
Of the just over 2,000 volunteers at the 2018 festival, about half — 1,172 as of Jan. 16 — are Utah locals. Volunteering gives local cinephiles a chance to see films at the festival without buying tickets or passes — and to be in the action at the annual event where Utah becomes a central focus of Hollywood chatter.
“The idea of being able to be involved and also see a lot more movies than I had before was definitely enticing,” said Conor Hilton, a Provo resident who volunteered at the festival in 2016. “It was insightful to see how the festival gets put together.”
Tom Taylor teaches Welsh at Brigham Young University and has lived in Provo for the last 15 years. In that time, he has volunteered at Sundance about 10 times — whenever he has been in Utah — including at this year’s festival.
Taylor remembers one particularly surprising experience he had one year working the doors at the Sundance resort. He was holding the doors open for people as they filed in for a screening.
“And sometimes I would look them in the eye, but the doors were heavy enough that I would oftentimes just sort of look down, but I’d give them a verbal welcome,” he said. “One time I pushed the door open, and I saw some cowboy boots, and I welcomed the person to Sundance, and he said, ‘Well, thanks, I guess.’ And I looked up and it was Robert Redford. I don’t know how often he gets welcomed to Sundance, but not very often, I would assume.”