For the past three years, I have attended Sundance. I look forward to it as one of the best weeks of the year. It’s right up there (but certainly not equal) to going home to visit my family in Virginia. And that’s saying a lot. 🙂
I am not a film maker, I am not an actor, I am not a director or a producer. I don’t even watch a ton of movies. And each year, I am faced with the constant question of “So, what do you do in the industry?” I still don’t have a good answer for the inquisition. “I, uhh….just love being here!” I say it with a sort of shyness, that communicates my childlike enjoyment, and my naiive reasoning.
Once we’re past my lack of reasoning for being there though, the people I have met at Sundance have been amazing. It’s swarming with people from all over the world and from all different backgrounds. Most of them are in, or have been in the film industry.
If they haven’t, they are very passionate about film, and are quite the walking encyclopedias about actors, directors, locations, cameras, styles of films, quality story lines, etc.. It’s fun to learn from them, and feel the passion as they share.
My friend Maile has a place in Park City, and she is one of those who is very passionate about film. She also did set design for films in Seattle, and so she is familiar with how it all works. She also is the one that got me interested in attending Sundance, as she has gone for a handful of years now. She awaits the days where the tickets are available to purchase, and knows about everything that’s going on. It’s fun to watch her through the festival, and learn from her ways of navigating the sometimes complex system that surrounds the festival.
She is one of the most gracious hostesses, and welcomed me, and a few other of our friends for the long weekend. We had such a great time hanging out, taking the shuttle service together, getting on wait lists for movies, standing in frigid lines, and soaking it all in. We also spent a few late nights, sharing our tales from the day, and catching up over a glass of wine or two.
Some people go to Sundance and watch 4-5 movies a day. I get almost exhausted if I watch more than one, as I find more energy from being active than sitting still. I enjoy the one or two I see a day though! And, I have preferred attending the panels even more than the films themselves. The Sundance Institute curates some of the most interesting people to sit on various panels related to different topics in the industry.
Sundance now has an app where you can get on the waitlist to get into various films and panels, if there are seats left. Serendipidously, I got into the one panel I really wanted to get into. It featured Kristin Wiig, Mindy Kaling, Jenji Kohan, and Lena Dunham, and it was called Power of Story: Serious Ladies. Such a funny and talented crew of ladies!
All four of the women are very independent women and creatives. Throughout the conversation, they all made reference to creating content and stories that are authentically interesting, and have nothing to do with what the public wants….
Mindy Kaling said, “Likability is not at all important to me. Relatability is.” Lena Dunham said, “Tell the story that’s close to you. Not what the public wants people to hear.” And Kristin Wiig said “In being creative, pleasing the audience shouldn’t be your number one goal.” This perspective made me appreciate their craft and talent even more!
I learned a lot from Ted Sarandos during a panel very extensively named, “The Beauty of Big Data or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Algorithm.” Ted is the chief content officer at Netflix and he was sharing about Netflix and their strategy for media marketing, and how they creatively connect content to their viewers specific needs and wants. He also shared about how you can’t measure what’s not available… you you need to test new content, and test things that have never been shared or created before.
And we laughed hysterically at Sarah Silverman and Tig Notaro during their panel with Cara Buckley. Much of which wouldn’t be as funny, were I to post quotes here, but you can watch it by clicking here if you’re interested!