Local View: Female Talent at the Sundance Film Festival

I have been a resident of Park City for over 38 years. Shortly after moving here in 1979 from New York City, the Sundance Film Festival was formed. The festival had been a struggling venue called the Utah/US Film Festival when it was taken over by Sundance.

In the early years, it was a small showing highlighting the work of regional filmmakers creating independent low budget films. Easily accessed by the general public, one could purchase a ticket at the theater. As it grew into one of the most important festivals in the world, a number of women were at the helm. Early on, Nicole Guillemet, Vice President of the Sundance Institute, kept an office at Silver Star in Park City, where it remains today. During her long tenure, she helped move the event into what it has become.

Over the years since Nicole retired, a bevy of women have continued to play an important part of the success of the Sundance Film Festival. Female talent has always been welcomed and embraced by the Sundance Institute and is testament to their competence, and ability.  The institute now sponsors a program called 'Woman at Sundance' geared toward removing key barriers and opening opportunities for women filmmakers. Regardless of gender, the job goes to the most qualified person and women have made a good showing at the festival.

The Sundance Film Festival began in Park City this weekend and with it the anticipation of some very compelling films involving female talent. Two films in particular are timely in light of the #MeToo movement going on in Hollywood. Skate Kitchen and Madeline’s Madeline are both directed by female directors. This is an exciting time for women and the production company, Bow and Arrow which is on the cusp of major change for female talent. Here is an inside look at the making of these films and the story they tell as told to me by Michael Sherman, producer.

"Skate Kitchen tells the story of Camille, a lonely suburban teenager whose life changes dramatically when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self. This is the narrative feature debut of director Crystal Moselle, who won critical acclaim with her 2015 documentary The Wolfpack. We were thrilled to get the opportunity to work with Crystal and support her project. She combines a crisp and stylish visual aesthetic with a fresh approach to storytelling. The views and experiences of young women have been glaringly underrepresented and misrepresented in film, often because, historically, they’ve been stories written and directed by men who haven’t lived that experience. With Skate Kitchen, Crystal is turning that dynamic on its head. The film was developed from the personal experiences of the cast and shot verite style, so it is a very honest and authentic portrayal of what it means to be a young woman today.

We have another film in the festival this year as well -- Madeline’s Madeline, directed by Josephine Decker and starring Molly Parker, Miranda July and Dana Eskelson. We were big fans of Josephine’s previous films. She’s a director with a totally singular and unique voice, exploring new form and modes of expression.”

Bow and Arrow Entertainment is a production and financing company based out of Los Angeles, which was launched in 2014 and since then have produced roughly 25 projects. Their focus is primarily independent films and documentaries that push the boundaries of contemporary film and explore new artistic territory.

Sundance holds an annual Sundance Brunch in which the film industry celebrates festival films made by women to honor their accomplishments and to encourage their work in the future. In addition, the Sundance Film Festival organizes panel discussions featuring women storytellers. Visit the website: sundance.org to see a listing of films made by women being shown in Park City under the heading: Women Filmmakers at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.  

Film, FestivalsMary Whitesides