Sundance Film

The Sundance class. A test of faith in today’s film industry. Will it do justice to our world’s best storytellers? What has the Sundance Festival become over the years… is is a portal to project new filmmakers into the blockbuster world? Will it toss anyone into that fray other than baseball cap wearing white men? (“No!” says the release of the late Jurassic World.) Or is the festival an end goal for independent filmmakers? Is it both a cannon and a finish line? What defines a Sundance film – what topics to they cover and how? Who is making the movie and where do they come from? How do these films compare to the Hollywood world? Around 2300 films were submitted to the Dramatic Features category in 2015. The Festival accepted 79. Is the scope of the indie world too massive to conquer these days, and what has that competitive nature done for the filmmakers vying for one of those spots? ALSO we get to go to this thing – did I forget to mention that? Who knows, this time next week I could be sharing a cheese plate with John Krasinski, foolishly reminding him of the best Office gags he pulled off.

The many many many questions we have asked ourselves within the first week of this class. My brain is exploding with tangents. Perhaps I’ve alluded to some of those answers by asking the questions…I hope so, because I hardly have definitive answers for any of them. In summary, yes, the festival has evolved into more than a screening festival, which is what we would call the Telluride Film Festival. Sundance is prestigious and selective, but does a much better job at supporting a variety of subjects and filmmakers than the Oscar/Hollywood worlds do. Today, 1.9% of Hollywood directors are women. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, 29.9% of directors are women. Still an appalling number when you say “only 29.9% of women are directing Sundance films,” but it makes me feel a lot better than that dismal attempt at a 2%. It’s one of my goals to see as many films by female directors next week as possible and bombard them my intellect so they hire me instantly. (This is very unlikely, as I sweat a lot when I try to talk to people after performances and end up exhibiting my elementary vocabulary well. “That was sooooooooo good, you are sooooooo good at stuff.”)

After watching four films this week and discussing them with my peers, it still seems there isn’t a formula for a perfect movie. Duh, right? We followed one structure to write our own 15 page screenplays (in one night – hello block plan), but still had an incredible variety of structures pop up in the results. We spent hours talking about the how the tiniest detail in a screenplay makes the entire film’s theme resonate perfectly. Hours of digging through taboo topics in the films we watched contemplating their successes and failures.


Filmmaking is a push and pull that you have to get a grasp on just long enough to connect with an audience so they’ll pay attention to you for an hour. Or even 30 seconds. It’s an overwhelming business at the same time that it’s an overwhelmingly beautiful art. In this class we are edging towards finding a balance between the two. We watch, write, talk, learn, yell, process, and start again.  We keep trudging down this path of doing, doing, doing until we can end up making something we admire. I hope to observe this admiration in the people I meet and the films I see next week, so I can be reminded again to keep doing (and stop staring at blank Word documents).

More to come! Thanks for reading.


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