Reflections from Sundance 2024
January 30, 2024
Since 2018, JPCatholic has offered an elective credit experience traveling to Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT. Students and faculty stay with host families, network with other filmmakers, and attend a wide variety of film screenings at the largest independent film fest in the nation. A unique highlight of the trip is the Windrider Summit, which features panels bringing together Christian universities and filmmakers to discuss how to effectively incorporate Christian values into film.
This year, Prof. Nathan Scoggins and Production Manager Kaitlyn Krikorian accompanied eight students to the festival. Below are reflections from several students on their experiences:
Senior, Film Production
Main takeaways: It was so cool to be at Sundance and experience the more glamorous side of the film industry. One night we’d meet an Oscar-winning actor, the next day we’d hear about a film we watched being acquired for distribution. It’s easy for Hollywood to be a vague concept, but here it was relevant and immediate. It was also great to hear directly from the filmmakers and realize that they’re normal people doing their best to tell the stories that they’re passionate about. It makes me confident that I can make films authentic to myself and one day find success.
Favorite film of Sundance? I really enjoyed ROB PEACE, the story of an African-American man achieving success in both academics and athletics while simultaneously building a drug empire to fund research for his father’s brain cancer. There’s so much going on, but the movie successfully balances all of it, with crisp editing and compelling performances as the cherry on top.
Main takeaways: My biggest takeaway from the Sundance Experience was seeing so many different people come together who had a passion for film. Being a part of that audience allowed for a particular atmosphere and energy in the theater, which was exciting. Being in that space; being changed by the films along with everyone else, that really is something special, and I am glad that I got to have a taste of it.
Favorite film of Sundance? My favorite film from the week was DÌDI, a coming-of-age story about a Chinese American boy growing up in the Bay Area in 2008. The film was crafted from a deep place of love and experience. The Director, Sean Wang, described it as, “A love letter to his friends and family.” The movie was so insightful, so real, and so funny, it was just a true slice of life. Our group also got to meet the director and ask questions as well, so that added to the excitement of being able to connect with the film.
Main takeaways: It was really eye opening and inspiring to see all the different writers and directors in-person and get to hear from them during the Q&A portions. I'm really glad that I went to this event because it gave me a great opportunity to see behind the scenes of film festivals and the people that I am aspiring to work alongside. I got to go to a whole bunch of different events by Windrider and Sundance that gave time to professionals to share their experiences and origins in the industry. This was definitely a worthwhile experience and I'm glad that I got to participate!
Favorite film of Sundance? I really liked both THELMA and GHOSTLIGHT but I'd have to pick THELMA as my favorite because it was both really funny and it felt relatable to the human experience, even though it was about people way older than me. I would rewatch this movie anytime and anywhere; it's just that fun and feel-good.
Main takeaways: This experience broadened my horizons to the filmmaking world. There were moments where I would start up a conversation with the person next to me in line and they would talk about the things they’ve directed or produced. This created a sense of fellowship with people who are out there making it in the world. It didn’t stop in lines or at bus stops. During Q&A, seeing a person responsible for the film, or who I just saw onscreen come out and be a real person helped demystify Hollywood and make it tangible and attainable.
Favorite film of Sundance? Naming a favorite is so difficult because they were powerful in diverse ways. One that stuck out to me for its simplicity and uniqueness was Steven Soderbergh’s film PRESENCE. The entire film was shot in the first person perspective of a ghost. It used unconventional techniques to give the film a distinct aura. This reminds me that the ways movies have always been made is not how movies need to be made. Innovation is not only an option, but a necessity.