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Writer/Director Sky Bruno on His Experience at the Sundance Institute Directors Lab

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Sky Bruno

Insecurity had been commonplace for me in the months leading up to the summer of 2018. Seeing that all my friends and mentors had plans and were working on films, being stagnant was the last thing I wanted. The pressure to create weighed heavy on my shoulders as I sat at my desk staring at blank pages, praying for inspiration to descend. After weeks of not knowing what to write, I was certain that this was not my vocation.

Being the godsend that Sundance is, I got offered a position through my Sundance Ignite Fellowship to work as a P.A. at the Directors Lab during a most uncertain time in my life. Not knowing what to expect in the month to come, I arrived with all my insecurities and fears.
As the crews assembled and directors arrived in the first week, Bob (Robert Redford) had spoken to us before the busyness ensued.

Sky Bruno at the 2018 Directors Lab. © 2018 Sundance Institute | Brandon Cruz

His hopes for all of us was to fail. To learn and try. To leave all inhibitions on the mountain and challenge ourselves. He wanted us to understand that the lab didn’t thrive on comfort but in the willingness to adapt and revise. In the weeks that followed, I had the privilege of being a fly on the wall and witnessing these directors confront their fears and discomforts.

With a minimal crew on set, it wasn’t an unusual sight to see directors carrying flats or art department members becoming boom operators—we were all working together to help bring these stories to life. As a P.A., I found myself also being a boom operator, sound mixer, 2nd A.C., grip, and everything in between. In that month alone, I learned more about filmmaking than I did during my time at film school.

Throughout the lab, we were joined by many amazing directors, actors, screenwriters, editors, and cinematographers that helped us in breaking down the scenes and imparted wisdom into the process. There were countless moments where the greatest insight was gained by watching the directors divorce their initial ideas and try something new. Fail is what we did; growth is what followed.

By the time I left the lab, I didn’t have friends, but a whole lot of family and global collaborators that I know will be in the trenches with me for years to come. I left the mountain knowing that my voice has a place in this world and that people want to hear what I have to say. I left my insecurities and doubts behind knowing that it’s okay to fail and ready to embrace the unknown ahead.


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