The Sundance Film Festival often conjures up an image of a destination that sits on top of an insurmountable mountain. A goal that most filmmakers have very little chance of achieving because one has to be well connected and "in-the-know." Unfortunately, for many aspiring directors, producers, screenwriters and actors, they believe Sundance is nothing more than a dream that dwells underneath a layer of dust in an empty box buried in one's imagination. Well, that's not true anymore!
On Thursday, June 7, 2018, Sundance came to Detroit. CCS (College for Creative Studies) and the Knight Foundation hosted the Sundance Institute Creative Producing Program's Creative Producing Master Class. This 4-hour workshop had one message in mind: SUNDANCE IS LOOKING FOR YOU! A slide presentation featuring the President and Founder, Mr. Robert Redford, opened the workshop with the following quote:
"There will always be new terrain to explore as long as there are artists willing to take risks, who will tell their stories without compromise. And Sundance will be here to provide support and a creative community in which a new idea or distinctive view is championed."
The truth of this mission was on full display as two very informative panel discussions took place: Producing the Micro-Budget Feature and Developing Audience & Partnerships: Lessons from Doc Filmmaking.
Anne Lai (Director, Creative Producing Program & Artist Support) was an outstanding moderator for the first panel discussion. Anne's ability to read the room and adjust to the energy of each guest on the panel was astounding, as she deftly navigated the conversation in a manner that remained entertaining as well as informative. I had the opportunity to speak with Anne briefly in between the two panels, and her passion for identifying and nurturing emerging independent writers, directors and producers in U.S. fiction film was very genuine. Anne gladly accepted a copy of my award-winning short, SWING LOW, and gave her assurance that she would watch it. As a filmmaker, I was completely overcome and awash with gratitude and appreciation.
Karim Ahmad (Director, Outreach and Inclusion) and Richard Ray Perez (Director, Creative Partnerships: Documentary Film Program) followed with the second panel. Karim's forthright technological vision for the day was apparent when he became emotional while witnessing the successful live online interaction as 200-plus audience members had the chance to participate in instant surveys and submit questions for the panel during the course of the workshop.
Other notable Sundance personnel included, Amber Espinosa-Jones (Coordinator, Outreach and Inclusion), Holden Payne (Director, Technical Exhibition and Production) and the director of Operations for Sundance Institute's artist programs, Eva Rinaldi. Besides her infectious smile, Eva oversees operations for residency labs and workshops that support filmmakers, theatre makers and new media storytellers. She also manages the Institute's community screening program and various aspects of the Sundance Film Festival.
In the event that you were unable at attend, fear not. Sundance plans on returning to Detroit in September. In addition to Detroit, the Knight Fellows Project currently works with independent storytellers in seven other U.S. cities. You can look up this and all other upcoming events at sundance.org/knight.