School of Filmmaking makes the scene at Sundance 2017

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is making the scene at the Sundance Film Festival again this year, with 15 films that feature alumni work, an alumnus as juror, another as a Women at Sundance Fellow, and an official panel discussion with leaders from the virtual reality entertainment industry hosted by Film Dean Susan Ruskin. The country’s elite festival for independent films, Sundance takes place Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah.

UNCSA also will be represented at the alternative Slamdance Festival, a showcase for raw and innovative filmmaking self-governed by filmmakers, for filmmakers, which takes place at the same time in Park City.

“Sundance is absolutely the place to be for young filmmakers,” Ruskin said. “The screenings create interest and often lead to lucrative deals, and the workshops and panel discussions are terrific opportunities to learn and to network with industry insiders.”

Susan Ruskin

School of Filmmaking Dean Susan Ruskin 

On Monday Jan. 23, Ruskin will host an official panel discussion offered by the Sundance Film Institute. “Immerse Yourself: Your Next Steps in Virtual Reality” will offer up-to-the minute perspectives from industry professionals who are on the forefront of creating, distributing, and protecting content in emerging media that include 360 degree videos, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

“Immersive entertainment continues to rewrite the rules of cinema and storytelling,” Ruskin said. “The UNCSA School of Filmmaking is at the forefront of training artists who will create the future of new media. By hosting this highly interactive panel, we believe that universities, and UNCSA School of Filmmaking in particular, need to be leaders in creating this new lexicon. We need to share our experiences as the rules shift in every aspect of content creation, distribution and protecting artists who work with this new technology.”

John Horn, host of NPR’s “The Frame,” a daily chronicle of creativity in film, TV, music, arts and entertainment, will be moderator for the panel discussion. The panel includes Jacquie Barnbrook, producer of “The Martian VR Experience” and visual effects producer for “The Jungle Book” and “Hunger Games,” and Jessica Kantor, a VR filmmaker. Barnbrook and Kantor were visiting artists at UNCSA in December 2016, working with film students and faculty on a virtual reality movie.

Additional panelists are Marcie Jastrow, head of VR for Technicolor; Matt Hooper, attorney with Interactive Media and Entertainment Law; and Ruth Vitale, chief executive officer of Creative Future, Creative Future, an organization funded by the studios and filmmakers to promote the value of creativity in today's digital age and to oppose for-profit theft, advocating for policies and solutions to stop piracy.

Also at Sundance, Jody Hill (’99) joins actors Gael García Bernal, Golden Globe winner for “Mozart in the Jungle,” and Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” as a juror in the U.S. Dramatic category. Along with Danny McBride (’99) and David Gordon Green (’98), Hill founded Round House Pictures. He is producer of HBO’s “Vice Principals” and “Eastbound and Down” and films including “Joe,” “Manglehorn” and “Prince Avalanche.”

Hill and McBride

Jody Hill, left, with Danny McBride, is a juror at Sundance. 

Sundance jurors are film and culture leaders who screen all films in their respective sections and jointly decide which standout artistic and story elements to recognize with prizes.

“Jody’s selection as a Sundance juror signifies that he has earned the respect of his peers in the film industry,” Ruskin said. “It is a tremendous honor for him.”

Another UNCSA film graduate, Rebecca Green (’01) is a Women at Sundance Fellow. The fellowship supports emerging and mid-career filmmakers by providing year-long mentorship by industry leaders. Fellows receive a stipend to attend the Sundance Film Festival, where they participate in one-on-one industry meetings to advance their projects, group seminars with industry experts, and sessions with professional coaches, as well as screenings and events.

Rebecca Green

Rebecca Green is a Woman at Sundance Fellow.

Green is co-founder of the production company Two Flints, launched with the independent horror sensation “It Follows.” The film premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and went on to screen at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Two Flints also produced the critically acclaimed “I'll See You In My Dreams,” which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Green was named on Variety’s 2015 10 Producers to Watch list and nominated for the Piaget Producer's Award at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

“Rebecca is a prolific and successful young producer with a brilliant career in the film industry ahead of her, and the prestigious Women at Sundance Fellowship will be another jewel in her crown,” Ruskin said. “I wish her the best of luck and will watch her progress with pride and admiration.”

UNCSA has connections to five of the 16 films screening in Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition, which highlights narrative feature films representing groundbreaking new voices in American independent film. Alumni connections, from the School of Filmmaking unless noted otherwise, are:

Burning Sands
Isiah Donte Lee 14, cinematographer; Kyle Frank 16, first assistant camera, B camera; Caleb Tou ’15, additional photography; and Ayinde Anderson ’16, second assistant camera, “A” camera. 

“Golden Exits
Mary-Louise Parker, School of Drama’86, is in the cast.

“The Hero
Brett Haley ’05, writer, director and editor; Rob Givens ’05, cinematographer; Alex Bickel 04, color correction; Matt Verschelde ’08, key grip; and Linda Lee McBride Drama ’06 in the cast

Brett Haley

Brett Haley wrote, directed and edited "The Hero," screening at Sundance.

“To The Bone
Justin Davey ’08, supervising sound designer and mixer; and Zach Seivers ’06, supervising sound editor; and

“Walking Out
Seivers, sound designer and re-recording mixer.

In the Next category featuring pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling, UNCSA connections include:

“Dayveon
Produced by former faculty member Lisa Muskat along Green, Hill and McBride; and Callie Martin ’10, assistant production coordinator.

“Lemon
Drama alumnus Brett Gelman ’99 in the cast.

In the Premieres category, presenting highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year, UNCSA connections include:

“Fun Mom Dinnerand “The Incredible Jessica James
both with Sean McElwee ’04, cinematographer;  

“The Polar King
with Joey Poach ’12, associate producer.

In the new Special Events category featuring one-of-a-kind moments highlighting new independent works, UNCSA connections include:

“History of Comedy” and “Hot Girls Wanted
both with Seivers as sound designer and re-recording mixer.

“Shots Fired
filmed in Charlotte, with Clint Buckner ’09, second assistant director; and Matt Storm ’06, location manager.

In the U.S. Narrative Shorts category, UNCSA connections include:

“Hold On
with high school graduate Jimmie Jeter Drama 12 in the cast.

“I Know You From Somewhere
with Sing Howe Yam ’08, cinematographer.

Slamdance’s Narrative Shorts category will include “Birds with Human Heads,” created by a Winston-Salem-based team that includes Max Wilde ’15, writer and director; Matthew Brown, producer; Tori Lancaster ’15 and Zelda Vyssotsky ’15, production designers; Donald Monroe ’15, director of photography; Tyler Harmon-Townsend ’15, gaffer; Dalton Price 16, sound; and cast members from the School of Drama, Emma Kikue Munson ’16 and Emma Factor, currently a senior.  

by Lauren Whitaker

January 18, 2017