By Kayla Scott
Sundance Film Festival 2015: a sensory overload of filmmaking awesomeness!
Last week, I had the special privilege of being invited to join the 2015 Sundance Ignite Fellows program for film students. Everywhere I turned was an opportunity to delve deeper into the world of filmmaking. This included going to 10 screenings and attending panels with Sundance filmmakers.
My favorite films included: Songs That My Brother Taught Me, an emotional story of a brother and sister on the Pine Ridge Reservation; Grand Jury Prize Winner Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, in which a boy is forced become friends with a girl diagnosed with leukemia; and Dope, a thought provoking comedy of a 90s geek who accidentally gets into selling drugs (I immediately texted my sisters and told them that they must see it once it hits theaters).
Not only are there films but panels and discussions as well, along with exhibitions, specifically the New Frontier, which featured gaming technology that would affect the film industry in the way we experience film.
One of these panels included the Meet the Industry panel, where industry professionals discussed how honing your craft and finding your voice as a filmmaker was important. Equally important is to do your research (as Earl and Gregg would repeat to Mr. McCarty from Me, Earl, the Dying Girl, “Respect the research”) You must do research to gain support and sell your film. The more you know the more you can narrow down the pool and find people who support not only your film and vision, but also as a result, your career. The discussion flowed into that while Los Angles is the center of the filmmaking world, it is all about finding the place with a filmmaking community that will support the films you want to make and your needs as a filmmaker.
Community was a point brought up in another discussion between Mentors and Fellows. This year’s mentors for the Ignite program included Jason Berman, producer; and filmmakers Kat Candler, Sultan Sharrief, and Malik Vitthal. The mentors touched upon the point that it’s important that when shooting in a new community, to integrate yourself into that community so as to have their support as well as find ways to support them and the key to making a great film… you and everyone on your team knowing what the intentions are of not only the film, but also its elements because these intentions will be known by your audience if they are known by you.
The most amazing thing of this program (aside from seeing the George Lucas and Robert Redford panel) was hearing from filmmakers who screened at Sundance. I was able to attend the conversations of director of Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; as well Dope director, Rick Famuyiwa, who shared insights about knowing your habits as a writer, the points where you get stuck and knowing how to address them.
I learned that everyone experienced a little pain when making their films – reaching a point when they thought it might not happen – but with a little persistence they were able to end up a Sundance or advance their filmmaking careers. What this comes down to is…making a good film with a unique point of view.