Composer Gingger Shankar on Her Journey to the Sundance Film Festival

As I gear up for another Sundance Film Festival, it brings back memories of my time at the 2007 Composers Lab (this year more than the previous years I’ve been to the Festival because Circumstance, the film I worked on during the Lab, is a U.S. Dramatic Competition entry).

The Sundance Institute Composers Lab was a life-changing experience. Film Music Program director Peter Golub and his team gave six composers a place to learn, fail, try again, fail, and learn some more! It is amazing because we rarely find such safe and nurturing environments to hone our craft.

I have to say, being mentored by the likes of Harry Gregson-Williams, George S. Clinton, Graeme Revelle, James Newton Howard, Osvaldo Golijov, and other great artists was extremely intimidating at first. Who wants to fall on their face in front of these masters of film music? But as days went on, I learned so much. Through everything the message was clear- “have your own voice.” For many of us composers, we are told exactly the opposite!

Now, looking back, I cannot imagine where I would be without the Labs. So many projects I have worked on since then have been in some way connected to the Labs. Sundance Institute goes back to the old-school way of developing artists. They teach you these invaluable skills, mentor you, and give you a place to always come back to. I have had the opportunity to work with almost all of my mentors after the Labs, so the learning never really stops.

I cannot say enough how important Sundance Institute is to independent artists. They really do find the most unique voices and celebrate them. I have been to the Festival every year since the 2007 Composers Lab. This year is especially sweet because of Circumstance. Maryam Keshavarz (the film’s director and screenwriter) and I were paired up at the Composers Lab, and we found such a wonderful friendship and working relationship. I'm so proud of her, and the film and cannot wait for everyone to see it!

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