Film student talks rude actors and shoveling snow at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Film senior Austin Dolan shares his experience from Sundance 2018

A group of ASU film students recently had the opportunity to travel to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to work at the festival and see what the event is like behind the scenes.

Austin Dolan, a film and media studies senior, shared his experience attending and working at the biggest independent film festival in the country with the State Press:

What was your experience like working at Sundance?

I was one of the few students who was okay working outside in the cold, so everyone besides me and one other person worked inside a theater, but I had to stand outside in the cold and direct people as to where to go, and one day it was snowing very badly so I had to shovel snow for about six hours, which sucked. 

Did this give you a better understanding of working in the film industry?

Yeah, it gave us a better understanding of how filmmakers are, how tight their schedules are and how they need to be from point-A to point-B really fast, so they have to be really quick and efficient while also being friendly. They also have to be able to say "no" to people — a lot of people actually — because a lot of people will try to get in and say they’re part of the movie and all this other stuff and you can’t let them in.

We all did our own thing in our free time, but I personally went to some director and producer panels, and I got to see and hear some of their stories and how they came to become household names. I met a few directors and actors who were really friendly, but I also heard of a few stories of celebrities being (rude) there. For example, one of the theater managers said Aubrey Plaza was a lot of trouble. I actually like Aubrey Plaza so that was a little sad for me, but they said she was pretty mean.

However, I met Tessa Thompson and saw a screening of her film “Sorry to Bother You,” which is really good. I also got to meet her and talk to her for about 30 seconds, but for me it felt like forever. And I got to meet the director BootsRiley who was a very interesting guy.

It was a very odd film, I got some “Get Out” and “Black Mirror” vibes. I really liked it, but there’s a lot of films I like that the general public doesn’t, so I’m not sure how it will be received, it will definitely be controversial when it comes out.

Did you get to see any other movies while you were there?

Yeah, there was this film called “Hereditary” which I think is going to be talked about all this year — if you’re into horror movies. It’s an amazing experience. It’s very scary, but it has some really good actors like Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne. 


I also saw a film called “Search” which is maybe the second or third movie to be filmed on a computer screen. It’s about this guy whose daughter goes missing and the whole thing is filmed using the internet and different social media websites. It is an amazing movie, you’re on the edge of your seat the entire film. I feel like it’s going to spark a trend when it comes out, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

What did you learn from the trip?

I think the thing that I took away from the trip is that you’re going to handle denial in the film industry a lot. You have to understand that you’re going to be said “no” to 100 times, and maybe eventually someone will tell you “yes.” The film industry is not perfect, it’s a very cutthroat business. When it comes to television, there’s thousands of streaming services and channels. But in film, there’s only a couple hundreds of films that come out each year, and most of them are small scale and don’t have a lot of people working on them, so it’s a really hard business to get into.

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your experience at Sundance?

I learned that film is a very uncertain industry to get into — I can be 30-years-old and still be where I’m at right now, but it’s what I’m trying to do, it’s my dream. But Sundance was just a great experience that allowed me to connect with some really inspirational people.

Editors note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that all the students participating in the trip were in the School of Film Dance and Theatre. Dolan is in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The story has been updated to reflect this change.


 Reach the reporter at abpotter@asu.edu and follow @lexipotter04 on Twitter. 

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