Each year Eric Pierson, Ph.D and Roger Pace, Ph.D from the Communication Studies department, take a group of students to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The course, which started as an effort to get undergraduate students excited about the independent film industry has become a very popular program among USD undergraduates, with students signing up months in advance for the opportunity to attend this annual festival.
Although students go through several intense class sessions before the film festival officially starts, they are left to select their own film schedule upon arrival in Utah. All students are required to attend a minimum of ten films during the festival, selected from a cross-section of genres. From these ten films they write a critique and discussion of the potential marketability of each film. Through this experience students are exposed to both the art of filmmaking and the business side of the film industry. They use their skills as communication studies students to develop plans for how to best promote different types of films to different audiences.
For most undergraduate students this trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the film industry from a different perspective. Tashina Hernandez, a senior who participated during intersession 2010 recalls that "Independent Cinema and the Sundance Film Festival was a great experience where I not only learned about the behind the scenes aspects of movies, but had a great time in Utah with my classmates and professors."
The festival compliments student's liberal arts education, and challenges them to consider both their local and global community from a different point of view.
When you get past attendees together in one room, it is easy to see how enjoyable this trip is for both faculty and students. From the breathtaking and moving films to the comedies that just didn’t work, everyone has something to say about the memorable experience they shared. Students also get to experience a learning environment out of the classroom, and develop new skills in marketing and communication that are applicable to their post-collegiate careers.
Further enhancing the experience is the fact that many of the films truly speak to the students and educate them about places, people and experiences that are not always covered by the mainstream film industry. The festival compliments student’s liberal arts education, and challenges them to consider both their local and global community from a different point of view. Throughout their time at Sundance students work incredibly hard, pushing each other to see things from a new perspective.
According to Pace, "The Sundance Film class is the most enjoyable and educational experience I have each year. The films challenge your intellectual capacity and push you to new perspectives. The students’ enthusiasm for the experience is contagious and Park City is simply breathtaking in the winter."
- Lyndsey Scully