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Murray volunteer ranks among Sundance elite

Published January 19, 2012 1:38 pm

Film Festival • Joshua Allen is among 12 elite.
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Joshua Allen loves the Sundance Film Festival so much, he braved driving down Parleys Canyon at 1 a.m. last winter in a four-cylinder car with tires that seemed to have less traction than a Paris Hilton Oscar campaign.

Those repeated trips — along with grueling 40-hour work weeks in Park City — earned him the title of Festival Insider Pro.

"I love the festival atmosphere," Allen said. "It's one of the few times that people come from all over the world and you get to meet all different walks of life and personalities."

He started at the film festival three years ago as a part-time volunteer while working toward a degree in animation at Utah Valley University.

That gig involved being a docent at New Frontier, which includes myriad art displays that feature everything from multimedia performances to panel discussions to films. Allen said that 20-hour-a-week job helped him work toward understanding the nuances of the festival.

He said he knew at that point he wanted to volunteer at Sundance full-time.

"After the first year — at the end of the festival — we had our crew there and there was a closing party," he said. "It was a big highlight getting to meet actors and industry people."

Allen, who lives in Murray, said it's also been interesting to get a perspective on the state from those traveling from all over to visit. The two most common questions he gets asked? "Where are the liquor stores?" and "Where can I get a toothbrush?"

"Maybe the second question is a direct result of the first question," he mused.

Allen's new job as a Festival Insider Pro is an elite post — only 12 full-time people achieve that status and must undergo a series of background checks and tests before being elevated to the position, according to Kristen Coates, associate manager of information booths and Festival Insider Pros.

She characterized Allen as "an incredible volunteer."

"They basically have to be able to answer any question directed at them about the Sundance Film Festival," Coates said. "The position was created two years ago when we wanted to improve the audience experience. They're trained on every single venue and are roaming experts at the festival."

With about 1,600 total volunteers in more than a dozen areas, Coates said the Festival Insider Pros log the most hours and are usually under the most pressure.

Allen said he enjoys the challenge.

"You cram in mad hours and you're always busy," he said. "But it's also a great environment to see art and movies you wouldn't get a chance to see otherwise. And it's inspiring. You get ideas and new forms of techniques on how to do things. It's amazing."

And maybe a little less hazardous for him and his small Chevy Cavalier.


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