Last week, Steve Carrell and Ashton Kutcher were at the Sundance Film Festival Park City, Utah. Ellen Page was there, Amy Poehler made an appearance and, for the first time, so did a class of University of Alabama students.
Kristen Warner and Rachel Raimist, assistant professors in the TCF department, planned and attended the trip.
“In 2010, we proposed a student trip to Sundance and attended the festival in 2011 in an exploratory capacity,” Warner said. “I had been to the festival before in a variety of capacities. Both Raimist and I believed that our TCF film majors could gain valuable experience from a festival like Sundance that grants students unparalleled access to filmmakers and other key industry professionals.”
Raimist said the task of planning a trip to Sundance was not easy and first needed approval from the University since students would be missing class.
“What initially seemed to be a daunting task of articulating the benefit to students and countering assumptions that attending film festivals means that all you do is watch movies became a catalyst for us as co-teachers to discuss how we would teach the class and create measurable activities to demonstrate what the students learned,” Raimist said. “Put simply, there are no job fairs for filmmakers or industry professionals. This industry relies heavily on networking, ingenuity and access to insider information.”
When approval was granted for Warner and Raimist’s idea, the two began to plan a semester-long class around the trip, which eventually became “Film Festivals and Independent Cinema: Theory and Praxis,” or TCF 444.
The Sundance Film Festival showcases many rising talents in the film industry and is a place for young members of the industry to meet executives and make connections or premier their work to a larger audience.
Students in the class are able to experience many events at the Sundance Film Festival including access to film screenings, attendance to panels and meetings with industry directors and programmers of the festival.
Daniel Ryan, a sophomore majoring in TCF, was one of the students who went on the five-day trip.
“It has been an incredible experience and opportunity to attend Sundance,” Ryan said. “Being at Sundance was much more than seeing movies. Most films featured a Q&A with directors, writers, actors, and others involved in the filmmaking process. It was great to be able to get insight on their perspective and really engage with the films we saw.”
This is the first year a TCF class from the Capstone has been able to attend Sundance, but there are many other programs within the college that allow for student travel. One course offers an internship with the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France and another gives students the opportunity to visit CNN in Atlanta, Ga.
Ryan said his time at Sundance inspired him to continue working in the film industry, and he hopes the University will continue to offer the TCF course in future years.
“It was incredibly inspiring to be able to talk to filmmakers and people in the industry. To see their success really motivated me to pursue the work that I want to do and succeed in the industry,” Ryan said. “I am currently looking into volunteering to work at Sundance in the future.”