Maggie Woodward–Sundance: An Indescribable Impact

Maggie Woodward, Leah Railey, and Dillon Ward studying the Sundance program while waiting for the Theater Loop shuttle at the Main Street depot in Park City, Utah.
Maggie Woodward, Leah Railey, and Dillon Ward studying the Sundance program while waiting for the Theater Loop shuttle at the Main Street depot in Park City, Utah.

I’ll start with the facts. Over the course of eight days, I attended 24 screenings of 23 films in ten different Sundance categories. I sat in nine theatres that spanned the eleven square miles of Park City, Utah. I watched a looping, 61-minute New Frontier “experience” that slowed down a New York City street to the tempo of a Sonic Youth guitar track, romanticizing the discarded cigarette butts free-falling into grimy cement.

Street, a new video by artist James Nares was featured in The New Frontier at Sundance
Street, a new video by artist James Nares was featured in The New Frontier at Sundance

I went through an entire bottle of SPF 50 facial sunscreen. I used up two tubes of Chapstick. I lost three reusable water bottles and ruined one pair of boots.

My instinct in summarizing a days-long experience like this is to quantify things: to answer questions like how many?, how much?, how often?. But the Sundance Film Festival was unique. No matter how many lists I scribble, photo albums I create, or numbers I tally, I won’t be able to accurately describe how this class and festival experience impacted me.

Hit Record Viewing Party
Waiting for the Hit Record viewing party with Leah Railey, Maggie Woodward, Ted Hovet, and Dawn Hall

So much of Sundance is being in the right place at the right time, a talent I always thought I was lacking. However, somehow, in Park City, my luck increased tenfold. I managed to get into a small premiere party for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord on TV and watched the show with Joe himself. I conned my way into a secret screening of the yet-to-be-released film Nymphomaniac Vol. I, shown to a small crowd in the Egyptian Theatre.

"Nymphomaniac: Volume I" (von Trier, 2013) was a secret screening at 2014 Sundance
“Nymphomaniac: Volume I” (von Trier, 2013) was a secret screening at 2014 Sundance

I met my TV heroine, Aubrey Plaza, and I successfully saw every film for which I was on the waitlist. I met the lead actress (Carla Juri) for my favorite World Cinema Dramatic film (Wetlands); the director of my favorite US film (Gillian Robespierre/ Obvious Child) hugged me after I told her how much her story meant to me.

Popcorn at Sundance

I’m not sure how to encapsulate the joy and surrealism of attending this festival except to say that I don’t know how I’ll not go back. Despite the severe lack of sleep, meals skipped out of business, and frozen toes, I would do it all again tomorrow. I count the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as a singular experience that will continue to influence my creative and critical abilities.

Maggie, Leigh, and Ryan waiting to see MEMPHIS.
Maggie, Leigh, and Ryan waiting to see MEMPHIS.

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