Volunteers keep Sundance rolling
For some locals, the Sundance Film Festival just means traffic jams and long lines at Starbucks, yet for others Sundance offers excitement, glamour and a chance to get close to the action. And, no one gets closer to the action than those who choose to be Sundance Film Festival volunteers. It requires long nights and dealing with some uppity out-of-towners, yet to Brenda Lake and Terry Moffitt, volunteering at Sundance reveals a part of the Festival they would otherwise never get to see.
Eleven years ago Sundance wasn’t the huge celebrity gala it is today, but Lake and Moffitt started thinking it would be fun to participate and, in the meantime they would get to see some good movies for free.
"We have seen a few good movies,"said Lake, "mostly we have just received a lot of fleeces, vests and hats."
However, the volunteer swag is nothing to be taken lightly. The outfits must be earned with a minimum number of hours, some of which may be spent tending a parking lot in a blizzard. Usually the logo wear is sponsored by someone like Kenneth Cole and Sundance groupies are eager to snatch up the volunteers’ coats for a hefty price.
Volunteers also get a handful movie vouchers. These require the holder to wait in line and don’t guarantee a seat, but it’s a less expensive way to get into some of the screenings.
Volunteering at Sundance, though, isn’t all fleece and films. To be a part time volunteer requires working seven-hour shifts for four days, full timers must work 10 days.
"We are on the theater team at the library, our duties range from ushering, taking tickets to making sure people don’t sneak in," Moffitt said.
Although both Moffitt and Lake are grateful to be indoors and be able to watch bits and pieces of movies, some nights are more fun than others.
One time, Lake was required to sit in front of a door in a deserted hallway to make sure no one came in, a boring but crucial role. As the festival has grown in size and reputation, the volunteer duties have become more rigorous.. Moffitt’s only complaint about volunteering is that "there are a lot of late shifts you must work, and they sometimes take advantage of you since you are a volunteer."
Despite the long hours and hard work the volunteers put in, they sometimes get a chance to peer inside the world of the rich and the famous. Moffitt once helped a movie star find her husband’s wallet that he left at the Eccles Center. "I saw Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck making out a while back, and I always see Roger Ebert," Lake said.
In addition to the star sightings, both agree the best part of helping at Sundance is the star-charged atmosphere.
"People are so excited to be there, everyone gets so into it," said Lake.
As locals, both find themselves being constantly asked for tips about good places to eat and hang out. "You get to show off your town to tourists who are fascinated by it," said Moffitt.
While both have seen a lot change over the 11 years they have volunteered, each year brings new celebrities and films. What keeps them going back after all those late nights? "It’s kinda fun," said Lake," its tradition, and you get to see these people who come back each year from out of town just to volunteer."
Moffitt’s motivation is "to experience another slice of life."
Being part of such a fast growing event is exciting and knowing that they, along with hundreds of other volunteers, are what keep the festival going each year, they say is an added bonus to an otherwise hectic two weeks.
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Hotel occupancy in the Park City area during Sundance is projected to drop dramatically from a typical year as organizers shift the event online.