Khidr Joseph and “Dope” director Rick Famuyiwa
Ten young people were selected for the Ignite Fellows pilot program, a curated Festival experience designed to provide meaningful opportunities for engagement, mentorship and industry exposure for emerging filmmakers 18 to 25 years of age.
I have decided that the best way to describe the Sundance Film Festival is not through a bunch of meaningless adjectives but rather through the impact it has had on my life. If I were to describe Sundance I would say that it’s a unique experience, which is why I can’t truly describe it. Rather than focusing on what I did and saw I would rather talk about the ways it has changed me as a filmmaker and a person.
My experience at the Festival was almost like being at the world’s greatest library. There were many different genres with several filmmakers in each one. Each filmmaker had their section within each genre, containing knowledge that could only be gained from experience. The three filmmakers that really inspired me—even though there were many more—were Rick Famuyiwa, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and Greg Whiteley.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was amazing and really inspired me to begin studying the masters of cinema, given that they inspired some of his ideas as well. This showed me the importance of studying the history of film. Dope taught me how important it is to create films that are thought provoking and challenge the viewer’s perspective on life. Greg Whiteley’s film Most Likely to Succeed has completely changed the way I see documentaries. He was able to create a film that was educating without lecturing the audience. All the films that I really loved had the director’s voice or personality in it, which was very encouraging. Overall, I learned that I need to make the films that I feel most passionate about.
Being at Sundance has also allowed me to become better at networking. I always thought I was good at networking but I was never comfortable with approaching strangers. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger and just start talking to them. I always waited for people to come to me, but that all changed. At one of the Ignite event events, I decided to talk to someone that I didn’t know and it wasn’t so bad. The first few talks had a lot of awkward pauses of silence but as I met more people it got better. I started creating ways to move a conversation along and leaving when nothing else could be said. I’m glad that I was put in a position where I could get out of my comfort zone.
Overall, the entire experience has taught me that I shouldn’t fear anything as a filmmaker. That the things that I fear are often the things that make me better as a filmmaker. This experience has motivated me to become a better filmmaker and I’m very thankful for this experience.