Every year the Sundance Institute receives more than 12,000 film submissions for the annual Sundance Film Festival (January 19–29). Since every submission is screened by Festival programmers, we suspected they had a strategy for getting through what equates to almost 30,000 hours of screentime. Turns out we were right, for the most part.
Sundance Senior Programmers Kim Yutani and John Nein each watch around 600 movies annually to help determine what makes it into the festival. And though screening films all day long sounds like a pretty cush job, in reality it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. “Yes, you get paid to watch movies, but not all of them are good,” chuckles Nein, who does most of his movie watching in his “man cave.” While there, he refuses all interruptions (phone on silent, no email, etc.) and gets through longer stretches with a system of rewards. “Like, I can have a snack once I finish a movie,” he explains.
To maintain a critical perspective, Yuntani and Nein try to avoid watching movies too late into the evening. That said, both agree that when they come across a film they like, they stay up to watch it, no matter what time it is. For Yutani, there’s no real rhyme or reason to how she chips away at her screening load, except one. “I watch movies in a variety of ways,” says Yutani. “On the computer, a big screen, with other programmers, and alone. But lately, my favorite approach is to watch them at home on my TV with my cat Scrumbles on a pillow next to me.”