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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.