Studying Independent Film Up Close at the Sundance Film Festival

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Studying independent film up close at the Sundance Film Festival
Impressions from the Sundance Film Festival 2013, COMM 494: Independent Film

A Faculty Report by Dr. Roger Pace:

Sundance Film Festival 2013 contained unique and thought provoking independent films, famous celebrities, cold temperatures, notable musicians and artists, sunny and nearly empty ski runs, and 28 committed USD students. For the ninth straight year, Drs. Pierson and Pace taught a Communication Studies course in independent film at the Sundance Film Festival. The class stayed at the Yarrow Hotel and Resort just five minutes from the Olympic Alpine ski runs and Park City Mountain Ski Resort. The course started one week before the festival and was an intense introduction to both film and independent cinema. Once the Festival begins, the course encompasses not only class work but many festival activities. Students saw approximately 20 films, attended lectures, chatted with industry insiders, and viewed a variety of cinema art instillations sponsored by the Festival. They also saw film many film celebrities including Daniel Radcliff, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansen, and Nicole Kidman. Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of the Sundance course. If you are interested in Sundance 2014, there will be an information meeting on Tuesday, April 23rd. Watch the COMMunity Buzz for more information.

A Student’s Experience by Nazin Sedehi:

I was initially interested in the Sundance program because I couldn’t think of a better way to earn units in January. I thought that I would be watching films and wearing winter clothes and that was enough for me. But I’m a (dedicated) pre-med student who walked away from the program with, as Dr. Pace warned us, a few ideas that I would explore if I ever decided to make a film.

I saw some of the best and some of the worst films of my life during my time at Sundance. I spent equal parts crying and laughing and nodding off in films. During the 30 I saw, though, I became accustomed to being packed in a theater with strangers and arriving for films a solid two hours before they began. I interacted in lines and in theaters with script supervisors, producers, filmmakers, and longtime Sundance-goers. A USD alum who works at Hulu spoke to the class a bit about the business side of the film industry. He was blunt about which films would get distributed and which ones most likely wouldn’t. It was good for me to remember that filmmakers are always thinking about more than just the artistic content and its portrayal.

Aside from films, I saw musicians perform at the Music Cafe, heard a panel of Academy Award-winning directors discuss the transition between documentaries and fiction films at the Filmmakers’ Lodge, and explored Main Street during my free time.

Dr. Pace and Dr. Pierson are incredible professors who teach a truly unique course at Sundance. The only downside of the class is knowing I will return to campus and that I will have to become accustomed, once again, to taking normal courses until I graduate.

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