April 25th – 28th 2013 saw the O2 host the 2nd Sundance London Film Festival; four days of live music, the UK premieres of American independent films fresh from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, plus panel discussions, filmmaker Q&As and special events.  One of the Smart Teachers team volunteered backstage and here’s her inside guide to the festival.

The Sundance Institute is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences which helped the careers of film makers such as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino. When they announced that they were bringing the Sundance festival to London in 2012 I bought a ticket and went along to watch a screening.  This year when they announced it was coming back for a second year I wanted to be involved in a more active way so I decided to volunteer. I’m not new to volunteering, I also worked at the London 2012 Olympics, but I love film and wanted to be a part of Sundance London. I registered for the volunteer programme back in September and I was then sent an application when it opened in early 2013.  It wasn’t until the beginning of April that I found out I had been successful!

I was assigned to the ‘Festival Insiders’ team which meant meeting and greeting visitors and providing information on the festival and what was showing, but also more general information like travel and entertainment in the venue.  Being on your feet for long hours is no easy feat especially when the O2 is basically a big tent; even with the sun shining it is bitterly cold inside!

Sundance

The other volunteers were a range of ages and skill sets; many were film students who were looking to meet other film makers and share knowledge but also many people who just wanted to be a part of the festival as they love film!

Being a volunteer tested me in several ways; you have a lot of information at your disposal and the public want that information quickly so you do have to be able to think on your feet (even if you can’t feel them anymore!) and be as friendly and courteous to the first person you see in the day to the last one before you go home. You need to have patience, tact and a good sense of humour to survive some of the more difficult people you may encounter.

The greatest thing about being part of the festival, aside from talking about films all day long, was getting to see several film screenings.  I was lucky enough to see four of the feature films, each with a Q&A with the film maker afterwards, as well as sitting in on a panel discussion.  Of the films I managed to see I would definitely recommend ‘The Kings of Summer’ – a coming of age story reminiscent of ‘Stand By Me’ in which three teenagers take off into the woods for the summer in the hope of leaving their childhoods behind and becoming men.  It’s a funny and truthful portrayal of a summer they will never forget!

The director of ‘The Kings of Summer’, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, in his Q&A

Picture courtesy of Sundance London 2013

I strongly recommend volunteering, whether you want to improve your CV or just because you are passionate about something.  It’s a great way to meet other people interested in the same things as you and gain some useful skills at the same time.  I will definitely be volunteering my time again at Sundance London next year – I’m holding out on meeting the next Quentin Tarantino!

Victoria Bull
UK Administration
Smart Teachers

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