This January, Park City, Utah will be spared the throngs of crowds that usually descend on the winter recreational haven for the country’s largest independent film festival. As the 44th iteration of the Sundance Film Festival goes virtual from January 28 – February 3, SFTV has partnered with Sundance for the first time to provide festival passes to the Film and Television Production program’s 76 graduating seniors and third-year MFA students.
With the Explorer Pass, each student will have access to the Indie Series, New Frontier, and Shorts programs on-demand 24/7, not to mention an abundance of networking opportunities with fellow filmmakers, buyers, sales agents, studio execs, and festival programmers alike. Networking is a long game after all, and it’s never too early to start!
Students will also have access to Ignite Day on Monday, February 1, a day of events specifically customized for emerging filmmakers. Festival attendees who are 18-25 years old can join a panel on storytelling traditions in historically marginalized communities, networking events and a screening (with Q&A to follow) of winning films from the 2020 Ignite x Adobe Short Film Challenge.
Despite the ongoing pandemic-induced disruptions across the filmmaking world, there are some signs of hope as filming continues where conditions allow. Some shows have even managed to return to production in Los Angeles last summer and fall despite a maze of COVID-19 safety precautions. The industry has proven to be a resilient one, and so too are SFTV students. “Final screenings from last semester proved storytellers will prevail under even the most difficult conditions. Our students have proven themselves to be inventive and eager as ever to explore their craft this year,” said Career and Film Festival Manager, Lex McNaughton.
If there was ever a silver lining to festivals going virtual for the past ten months, it would be the increased access in many situations as we all hunker down and work from home. “Now that festivals are virtual, there are already more conversations happening online. In some ways, the industry is easier to access than ever,” McNaughton adds. “The expanded accessibility of this year’s festival means more students can view films and be a part of the Sundance Film Festival experience. I am excited to connect them with other filmmakers in the industry and expand their community.”
In previous years, when film festivals were live and in-person, students could apply for travel stipends from SFTV to attend festivals held outside the Greater Los Angeles area, including Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride. In the meantime, contests will be held in upcoming months to give away passes for festivals to expand SFTV’s ongoing mission of providing an immersive educational experience.
Su Fang Tham is a story analyst and freelance writer specializing in filmed entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, she is also a contributing writer for Film Independent and CineMontage, Journal of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.