Cally Hinkle– Amazing New Experience

Sundance was definitely an amazing experience for me! Before going I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect but the atmosphere was amazing, everybody was very welcoming.

Cally Hinkle walking to film at Sundance Festival
Cally Hinkle walking to film at Sundance Festival

The Q&A’s the film directors were great about answering open and honestly about their films.

The Royal Road Cast and Crew at Q&A after Screening
The Royal Road Cast and Crew at Q&A after Screening

 

One of my favorite things about Sundance is the diversity with the films. I love how out of the box some of the plots were because it gave me a new way to view or look the creativity of film making.

The Egyptian Theatre at Night
The Egyptian Theatre at Night

I would love to go back because I feel like it will be an amazing new experience every time!

Main Street Park City, Utah
Main Street Park City, Utah

Cindy Gilpin–SUNDANCE: AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

My fist time in the west was AMAZING.  Being set in the beautiful mountains and little town of Park City, gave alternative, peaceful vibes to the fast paced perspectives of Hollywood.

SLC Mountains
SLC Mountains

Our hotel was fantastic, even having its own theater where many movies premiered.  As the days blurred, I learned that independent film is a new medium to tell a different story in a different perspective.

I would encourage future students to go to as many premiers as possible, because that is usually where the crew and cast are to answer questions after their movies.  They’re usually also cool to get pictures with you!  Also dress as warmly as you can, wear two pairs of pants if you have to!

Cindy Gilpin with Classmates
SundanceTV Lounge Photo Booth

The most memorable activities were getting a picture with Keanu Reeves walking past me at one of the premiers and getting a picture done at Sundance T.V. headquarters with my crew!

Cindy Gilpin
Cindy Gilpin (It’s cold in Park City, Utah)

Sundance gave me a new perspective on how to create movies, from the writing to the directing to the acting to all the aspects of film making.  Sundance shows audiences different ways of telling a familiar or new story!

Keanu Reeves at Knock Knock Screening
Keanu Reeves at Knock Knock Screening

Rebecca Lumbrix–Sundance 2015: Expectations & Realities

Rebecca, Ben, Dr. Hall, Cody
Rebecca, Dr. Hall, Ben & Cody at Slamdance

After spending a semester saving every penny I could and looking at countless films and directors, I realized soon after my flight landed in Salt Lake City that Sundance most likely would not live up to my expectations. I had imagined myself getting drinks with Jason Schwartzman, making it into every movie I wanted to see, and heroically fighting past my sleep deprivation to make the most of every moment I had in Utah.

Rebecca and Classmates at Acura Photo Booth having a blast!
Rebecca and Classmates at Acura Photo Booth having a blast!

My Sundance experience was not what I had envisioned. I spent much of the week cold, sleep-deprived, and constantly rushing from one place to the next with a frantic eye on the clock. I got sick on the third day and spent the rest of the week downing Sudafed, ibuprofen, and Vitamin C-infused cough drops. I waitlisted multiple films, but of my list of over 20 films that I definitely wanted to see, I only got into about five. I didn’t have any personal conversations with celebrities, and everything cost a lot more money than I had expected it to.

Opening Night Film--The Bronze Cast and Crew during Q&A after film.
Opening Night Film–The Bronze Cast and Crew during Q&A after film.

Many of the films I did see were exceptional–even if I can’t say that I liked them, I can certainly say that they took risks or made me think about things in new ways. Park City is one of my favorite cities in the U.S., with its brightly colored houses, ski slopes, friendly citizens, and amazing coffee shops. I didn’t meet any celebrities, but I attended Q & A’s with Jason Segel, Adam Scott, and Saoirse Ronan. Ewan McGregor passed me on the street so close that I almost bumped into him. And  Sundance pushed me to experience new things. It motivated me to attempt to maintain a positive attitude, even when I was exhausted and hungry. It wasn’t what I had expected, but it was an amazing experience.

At the Yarrow Theatre class photo
At the Yarrow Theatre class photo

Maggie Woodward–Sundance: An Indescribable Impact

Maggie Woodward, Leah Railey, and Dillon Ward studying the Sundance program while waiting for the Theater Loop shuttle at the Main Street depot in Park City, Utah.
Maggie Woodward, Leah Railey, and Dillon Ward studying the Sundance program while waiting for the Theater Loop shuttle at the Main Street depot in Park City, Utah.

I’ll start with the facts. Over the course of eight days, I attended 24 screenings of 23 films in ten different Sundance categories. I sat in nine theatres that spanned the eleven square miles of Park City, Utah. I watched a looping, 61-minute New Frontier “experience” that slowed down a New York City street to the tempo of a Sonic Youth guitar track, romanticizing the discarded cigarette butts free-falling into grimy cement.

Street, a new video by artist James Nares was featured in The New Frontier at Sundance
Street, a new video by artist James Nares was featured in The New Frontier at Sundance

I went through an entire bottle of SPF 50 facial sunscreen. I used up two tubes of Chapstick. I lost three reusable water bottles and ruined one pair of boots.

My instinct in summarizing a days-long experience like this is to quantify things: to answer questions like how many?, how much?, how often?. But the Sundance Film Festival was unique. No matter how many lists I scribble, photo albums I create, or numbers I tally, I won’t be able to accurately describe how this class and festival experience impacted me.

Hit Record Viewing Party
Waiting for the Hit Record viewing party with Leah Railey, Maggie Woodward, Ted Hovet, and Dawn Hall

So much of Sundance is being in the right place at the right time, a talent I always thought I was lacking. However, somehow, in Park City, my luck increased tenfold. I managed to get into a small premiere party for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord on TV and watched the show with Joe himself. I conned my way into a secret screening of the yet-to-be-released film Nymphomaniac Vol. I, shown to a small crowd in the Egyptian Theatre.

"Nymphomaniac: Volume I" (von Trier, 2013) was a secret screening at 2014 Sundance
“Nymphomaniac: Volume I” (von Trier, 2013) was a secret screening at 2014 Sundance

I met my TV heroine, Aubrey Plaza, and I successfully saw every film for which I was on the waitlist. I met the lead actress (Carla Juri) for my favorite World Cinema Dramatic film (Wetlands); the director of my favorite US film (Gillian Robespierre/ Obvious Child) hugged me after I told her how much her story meant to me.

Popcorn at Sundance

I’m not sure how to encapsulate the joy and surrealism of attending this festival except to say that I don’t know how I’ll not go back. Despite the severe lack of sleep, meals skipped out of business, and frozen toes, I would do it all again tomorrow. I count the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as a singular experience that will continue to influence my creative and critical abilities.

Maggie, Leigh, and Ryan waiting to see MEMPHIS.
Maggie, Leigh, and Ryan waiting to see MEMPHIS.

Nathan Gjerstad–Sundance: “What Cinema is about after all–Dreams”

Wes Manakee and Nathan Gjrastad at Sundance
Wes Manakee and Nathan Gjerstad at 2014 Sundance

For me, this Sundance isn’t about how many stars I could see or how many movies I got to. It isn’t about the panels or the Q&A’s with the filmmakers. It isn’t even about the revolutionary art or the state of the art technology. No, Sundance is much more than the physical existences of being in Park City, Utah.

Nathan at Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Glasses at New Frontier in Sundance
Nathan at Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Glasses at New Frontier in Sundance

As film students, we dream about going to Sundance. Normally our dreams involve our films being screened and sold to distributors, but for us, on this trip, we lived our dreams. Despite the 15 films, 5 panels (including one that took place in a hot tub), 11 art exhibits and 9 lounges, Sundance allowed me to live my dreams, no matter how perverted it may have appeared. That is what cinema is about after all–dreams. Each film projected on those 18 Park City screens is a dream. The filmmakers behind the images worked tirelessly dreaming those pictures into reality. This trip to Sundance showed me that you should never quit dreaming.

Slamdance Hot Tub Summit
Slamdance  Hot Tub Summit

Even though I’ve been able to have such the experience the 10 days we were in Park City, there is always more that can be dreamt. Perhaps next is Cannes, or Toronto, or Berlin. Perhaps the next dream is simply to experience Sundance again, perhaps with my own film. Even if the dreams have nothing to do with the independent film world; even if they are just a story; Sundance has given the hope to dream once more. I sometimes question why I am a Film Major. What will I amount to? What will I do? I stop dreaming from time to time. I stop telling stories because I’m scared as to what life can bring to me. After Sundance, I have less fear. I can tell stories again. I can dream.

WKU Class Photo at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre
WKU Class Photo at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre

We made a comparison of Sundance to Disney World. There are characters in costumes, parades of liberal activists and commercial representatives, a collection of different theaters to visit with their own theme, and hundreds of films that take you for the ride of your life. Yet, beyond the forced metaphor is the one true similarity between the two: being the happiest place on earth. Perhaps this will change as I experience more and dream further, but in this moment, Sundance truly made me happy. And the memories and lessons and advice I have been given at Sundance will provide me with happiness for the rest of my life. Even if I never physically go again, I will go again. Even if it is just in my memories, I will go again.

Studious Nathan on the bus right into Park City, UT
Studious Nathan on the bus ride into Park City, UT

This trip has been a jumping off point for me. I’ve meet people I would have never meet before. I’ve made new friends, experienced new things. I learned more in the ten days than I ever thought possible. I feel confident moving forward in my career and in my life having been on this trip.

Nathan crashed at the YouTube Lounge after films and panels all day at Sundance
Nathan crashed at the YouTube Lounge after films and panels all day at Sundance

Coleman Martin–Sundance Satisfaction

coleman with Director of Dawn
Coleman Martin at Shorts Program I with director Rose McGowan. Eight members of the class attended the 11:30pm screening of her short film DAWN.

While packing for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, I became filled with anxiety. What’s it going to be like? How on Earth do I compile a schedule for myself from a catalog of dozens and dozens of films? Would I get completely overwhelmed and shutdown? None of these things happened to me.

Once we got to Park City the first day and got acclimated, everything began falling into place. I learned how to schedule my days out so I could take events hour by hour and knew what films I’d be tackling for the day. I became a professional at the eWaitlist on the Sundance App. (Yes, there’s an App. for Sundance). It even became manageable to get around Park City on the transit system.

Coleman Martin with  Joe Manganiell after his film premiered at Slamdance.
Coleman Martin with Joe Manganiell after his film premiered at Slamdance.

Park City is a breathtaking city with views of mountains and wonderful little restaurants, shops, and art galleries. There’s lots to see and do that’s affiliated with Sundance like visiting the YouTube Lounge or the Music Café downtown Main Street. Be prepared while walking on Main Street because you could run into various celebrities like True Blood actor, Joe Manganiello, like I did or encounter Robert De Niro at a screening and be able to ask him a question. It’s always nice to have your camera phone or handheld camera ready for these spottings that could happen at any given time.

The Egyptian Theatre on Main Street.

The Egyptian Theatre on Main Street.

The films are probably the best part of the experience. Not only are you seeing films with like-minded people who have a passion for film and entertainment like you, but also most times during the festival, the cast may show up as well as the director and producer of the film. These are the best times to pick directors brains and see what the process of filming a movie is like. It seems that no question is off-limits like what did you leave on the cutting room floor or why did you cast a specific actor or actress in a role?

WKU class photo at Yarrow Hotel Theatre

WKU class photo at Yarrow Hotel Theatre

Overall, I couldn’t think of a more hands-on film experience than attending the Sundance Film Festival. I’m leaving here feeling more creative and inspired than I have in years. I’m even considering volunteering at next year’s Festival. I have made some contacts here that I hope to keep and eventually use after graduation from WKU in May of this year. If there’s another class coming to Sundance next year from WKU, jump at the opportunity! It’s so rewarding!

Tyler Cobaugh– Sundance: A Foothold into the Industry

Tyler Cobaughat 2014 Sundance trying out his celebrity/director look.
Tyler Cobaugh at 2014 Sundance striking his celebrity/director look.

I had a blast at Sundance. I feel strongly that anyone who is really serious about having a film career should take this class. It opened my eyes to how distribution companies, like Focus Feature, go about acquiring the films to be distributed to theaters and the public.

Philip Seymour Hoffman at a Q&A after his film God's Pocket at 2014 Sundance
Philip Seymour Hoffman at a Q&A after his film God’s Pocket at 2014 Sundance

Being amongst people who are in the industry was inspiring to me. It got me thinking on how I could get my foothold in the industry. I came to the conclusion that I would do a short film and submit to Sundance. I see Sundance as my springboard into the industry.

Lessons Learned Panel with Joe-Gordon Levitt
Lessons Learned Panel with Joe-Gordon Levitt

One of my favorite moments was going to the film panel talking about media distribution with Joseph-Gordon Levitt. I got to ask him what it is like directing an independent film like Don Jon. He told me that you shouldn’t shoot for a feature your first try. Shoot little by little and keep on improving on your work. He also said that if you keep being tedious with your editing and directing then that is an indication that you are in it for the long haul and the movie industry is the place for you. That was inspiring to hear because that is exactly what I have been doing to this point. I am constantly honing in on my editing skills each time I do a video. So that was a great indication for me that I am in it for the long haul and I told myself I won’t give up on my dreams of a  bright future in the industry.

Dakota Bragdon–Sundance: An Enlightening Experience

Dakota Bragdon with WKU Class after a Film Crashing 101 session with Dr. Eric Pierson of USD
Dakota Bragdon with WKU Class after a Film Crashing 101 session with Dr. Eric Pierson of USD

I was hopeful when I came into Sundance, but enlightened when I came out.

I fully believe that these words could accurately describe the experience that the Sundance Film Festival gave to every single person that attended.

This Study Away course gave me the opportunity to experience the world in ways that I never thought possible. People from different countries like Argentina and The United Kingdom, or Brazil, presented beautiful films that showcased their work, their stories, and their dedication to the craft of filmmaking, thereby solidifying the following statement: The Sundance Film Festival is a festival for the world and can serve as a root of inspiration for future filmmakers to seek out the world and all the beauty in it.

The Babadook Q&A session with director Jennifer Kent and lead actress with producer.
The Babadook Q&A session with director Jennifer Kent and lead actress with producer.

This festival doesn’t give you the “everything is going to work out for you” speech that people love to give. The Sundance Film Festival brings the reality of an industry instead of the glorified expectation that so many film students are currently getting. It shows you how difficult the filmmaking process is, how many people are involved, the time, the money, and the patience it requires. Filmmaking isn’t an easy job. It’s one of the hardest jobs. But as film students, I think it’s important for us to understand that it isn’t a hopeless endeavor, but rather something to work toward.

In my experience, I didn’t get autographs or walk around simply watching films all day. I think that is on what some people expected us to do. But what I was doing was getting real world advice on cinema from people in the industry. I was making small connections, small simple strides to help me. I didn’t get a producer’s phone number or a picture with them or anything like that. That wasn’t the point of coming here. The point was to understand the filmmaking process, and by watching these independent films I understood what it takes to go through with creating this kind of art and having it appreciated by so many people.

WKU class photo at Yarrow Hotel Theatre
WKU class photo at Yarrow Hotel Theatre

In short, advice, understanding, and humanity. Those three simple, basic, but fundamental concepts that are so essential, is what the Sundance Film Festival teaches. It’s about experiencing people in the industry and taking (and learning from) advice they give you. Advice really, is the most important thing I could get out of Sundance, because that stays with a person the most. An autograph or a picture fades into memory, but advice that I can use is something that can have a real impact on me.

I was hopeful when I came in, but enlightened when I came out.

Enlightened.

I think that’s a fair description.

Caleb Peyman–Cinematic Immersion

Sundance Festival at Night
Sundance Festival at Night
 The Sundance/Slamdance experience has proven to be a week-plus immersion into U.S. and international cinema.  Through persistence, sleep deprivation (3-4 hours of sleep per night, with the occasional mid-day nap), and walking with purpose I was able to attend 23 features, 10 shorts, 2 panels, and several New Frontier installations.
Michael Nowlen, Tyler McDowell, and Caleb Peyman at the Sundance box office
Michael Nowlen, Tyler McDowell, and Caleb Peyman at the Sundance box office
The post-film Q&A sessions were insightful and generally increased my appreciation for the films.  While I did see several films that I had sought out specifically for the cast and crew involved, for the most part, the standout films were those that I had little to no familiarity with beforehand.  Taking a chance and being introduced to the work of emerging and first-time filmmakers was definitely refreshing and fruitful.
The Source at New Frontier 2014 Sundance
The Source at New Frontier 2014 Sundance

Ryan Duvall–Dreams of the Film Industry

Ryan Duvall after panel session on The Beauty of Failure in the Creative Process with Richard Ray Perez (Cesar's Last Fast)
Ryan Duvall after panel session on The Beauty of Failure in the Creative Process with Richard Ray Perez (Cesar’s Last Fast)

The WKU Sundance study away course is a dream come true. Being a film student, it’s been my dream to attended one of the most famous film festivals n the world. The knowledge and networking you gain here in Park City, Utah is great for anyone who dreams of being involved in the industry.

Ryan Duvall, Nathan Gjerstad and Ted Hovet at the YouTube lodge
Ryan Duvall, Nathan Gjerstad and Ted Hovet at the YouTube lodge

Attending this event has reenergized my passion for filmmaking. I have gained so many memories and friends along this trip, one of my favorite memories is when our group stormed the stage at Elijah woods Cooties Premiere and we got photos with the cast!

Jeff Shroeder from Big Brother with Ryan Duvall's Company Card
Jeff Shroeder from Big Brother with Ryan Duvall’s Company Card

The opportunities offered to aspiring filmmakers here at Sundance is unbelievable. I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of the Hollywood industry and networked with some very big names. One of the unique things about Sundance is the Q&A sessions that follow the movie. Here, we get a glimpse of what it was like to create the movie. Being able to talk with fellow directors gives me hope that my dreams are more than just fantasy. I hope that other Western Film students will have the opportunity to try this unique study away experience and that it will continue for many years to come.