From Jan. 17 – 27, UNLV film department students and staff attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. They met movie mavens, film freaks and demystified the silver screen. They came back with inspirations, anecdotes and answers to our questions. The Rebel Yell’s Danielle McCrea and Chantal Ashford talked to them.
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The Rebel Yell: Why did you go to Sundance?
Grayson Orr: I went because it was the perfect opportunity to watch a few films that will be released or not be released. It was a good confidence boost and opened my eyes to what I want to be. It was an honor to represent UNLV with being hand picked to go … It was a humbling experience to go at the age of 19. All the work I’ve done felt like it paid off.
RY: Was the event worth the hype?
GO: Yes and no. The problem is the industry isn’t worth the buzz because you can have a great indie film, but [not] have a big star as the starring role. The film Halley, made in Mexico, was in my opinion a great film, but overshadowed by Shia LaBeouf’s film, A Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, that was filled with all style and no substance. Overall worth the hype, but suffers [from] favoritism.
RY: Did you get to meet any filmmakers, actors?
GO: Yes. The one that stuck in my mind is Robert Rodriguez, director of El Marachi and Spy Kids. I got to speak to him and took a picture before the twentieth anniversary showing of El Marachi. Walking by Joseph Gordon-Levitt three times and not knowing it was him, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Dakota Fanning, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, LaBeouf and more. Everywhere you go, you saw someone. I was on the bus and saw Emile Hirsch.
RY: Is there a story you like to tell?
GO: Meeting Robert Rodriguez. I was sitting in the front of the theater, best seat in the house, looking around and seeing the cowboy hat. It was Robert and I started to panic. I got up and walked over to him and waited for him to get off his phone and introduced myself. [I] talked to him for fifteen minutes and [got] a picture with him… [it was] a great experience to speak to him and just to shake his hand. It was like being touched by a film god.
FILM MAJOR, SENIOR
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The Rebel Yell: This was your second year going to Sundance. How did this year’s experience compare to 2012?
Tom Peck: It was very exciting. It was also very exhausting, but you come out of there just ready to work and ready to make movies. Last year I focused on just seeing the films but this year I went with the intention to network. I went to panels where actors would talk about their craft. It’s a great experience to see that it’s all possible.
RY: What’s with the suit?
TP: The suit is a networking tool. I wore this white jumpsuit which I had people sign, people from all over the film festival. Every time I had someone sign it I got a business card. They send me their work and I send them mine. Sundance Channel interviewed me twice, which got me recognition just from people on the street. It’s been a great tool.
RY: What should we be looking forward to in terms of films for 2013?
TP: Certainly The East. It’s a movie that portrays an anonymous organization that attacks pharmaceutical corporations that give out dangerous drugs. They go to the companies and poison them with their own drugs. Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page were in it — I met both of them and they signed my jumpsuit. Some documentaries were great. Who is Dayani Cristalis is about the body of an illegal immigrant found in the desert near the border. It follows other undocumented immigrants coming across the border, showing the grueling trip.
RY: How will your experiences at Sundance affect your film career?
TP: It’s an area I’ll keep revisiting. It’ll affect me because I have so many more contacts that I wouldn’t have met. You meet older actors and producers that can make great mentors. Everyone was willing to shake hands, take pictures and talk to you.
FILM DEPT. CHAIR
The Rebel Yell: The film department organizes trips for students to go to Sundance every year. How long has this program been around? How does the selection process work?
Francisco Menendez: We’ve been going to Sundance for over 10 years. We select students that have won Spring Flicks or the 48 Hour Film Festival [UNLV contests] and students that have high GPAs. The reason it goes that way is if you’re not really into film festivals, Sundance is very demanding of you. The purpose of the trip is to create a bridge for people who are already making films to get into the film festival world. But there is no restriction on going. We don’t provide anyone with tickets; we only provide lodging and transportation from airport to hotel.
RY: Why do you think it’s important for students attend Sundance?
FM: I think if you are a real, serious filmmaker it is incredibly important to know you can submit your films to festivals. Going to Sundance demystifies that fear of entering festivals and it becomes something accessible. We’ve seen tremendous influence on our students since we started the program. Students are submitting their work to festivals; we’ve even had students submit to Sundance.
RY: You are a filmmaker. You made the award-winning documentary Los Niños and worked with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Alexander Mackendrick, just to name a few of your accomplishments. How does attending Sundance influence or inspire you as a filmmaker?
FM: I watch about 25 films during the festival. I enjoy going and exposing myself to new work without the hype. I really feel refreshed and schooled by this new work — it’s wonderful and provocative. Some stuff you’ll love, some you won’t and some will stay with you. There are also technical opportunities, which is good for me, for students and for the program.
RY: What’s next in your film career?
FM: David Schmoeller just did a DLSR film called Little Monsters and I think that inspired me. I’m trying to bring a $10 million 3D film to UNLV but it will take a while to get the funding together for that so I’m thinking of doing something more modest in the meantime — a piece on human trafficking, an ensemble piece as a feature.