“I can see six or eight movies in a day. It can be exhausting or it can be exhilarating.” – Levi Elder
by Christie Marcy
Levi Elder uses a spreadsheet to choreograph his Sundance schedule. Seriously.
Elder, the programming director for Salt Lake Film Society, says he sees at least 40 Sundance screenings each year. “That’s a conservative guess,” he says. “In a really good year, when there’s a lot of titles I want to see—I can see six or eight movies in a day. It can be exhausting. Or it can be exhilarating.”
Elder’s job at the festival is to view films he would later like to put before SLFS patrons. But, how does he pick the movies worth his limited time at Sundance? “Mostly by director, if I like the work they’ve done before. Or if I like someone in the cast,” Elder says. “If I don’t know anybody in the cast—what is it they say about there only
being seven original stories? I’m really looking for something I am not familiar with.”
And because he’s going from Salt Lake to Park City and back again to see films, time is the premium commodity at Sundance, Elder says. “It’s a lot of standing in the cold, waiting by the bus stop to get to the next venue—even people like me have to stand in line just like everyone else.” And once he gets to a venue he’s not guaranteed a seat. “I get a pass, but I still sometimes don’t get into the screenings.” Even after that, if the movie’s not something he’s interested in, he’ll bail and and head to the next theater on his spreadsheet.
Most anticipated movie: Brigsby Bear (filmed in Utah, including scenes at The Tower Theater)
How to keep your dance card together
Novice movie-watchers fail to do their homework, Elder says, even if it’s simply reading the intel put out by festival organizers. “They produce a lot of information about how to festival correctly. How to get tickets at the last minute, how to ride their shuttles, et cetera. But, no one ever reads it. If you really pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you, they make it easy. But if you’re just trying to wing it, it can be a nightmare. Don’t try to wing it. Do your research.”
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