Image: Emily Skeggs and Kyle Gallner appear in Dinner in America by Adam Rehmeier, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Philippe Bernier.
The Sundance Film Festival starts tomorrow – January 23 – and I’ll be in Park City, Utah to cover it.
While Cannes and Toronto get soon-to-be blockbusters, Sundance reliably debuts the best of indie production, and finds the breakthrough documentaries or fiction that make a difference. Sundance, of course, has been the largest and most important independent film festival in the States for some time now, with competitive categories such as the U.S. and World Dramatic Competitions, Documentary Competitions and Narrative and Documentary Premieres. But like any large and ever growing fest, new additions have come over the years including NEXT (innovative films to watch out for), horror flicks, bizarre comedies at the many midnight showings as well as shorts and episodic films. If attendees have the time, there are also dozens of special events such as panels about every aspect of filmmaking and concerts from leading artists.
While we’re there, we’ll be interviewing a number of the filmmakers as well as crew such as editors.
Some of the films on our list include Dinner in America (U.S. Dramatic Competition), an “off-the-wall comedy” that seems to be helped along with a generous dollop of absurdity. Taking place in a dreary Midwestern suburb, aggro punk rocker Simon (Kyle Gallner) finds himself on the run after a bout of arson and a close call with the police. A chance encounter with the eccentric Patty (Emily Skeggs) provides him a place to hide, though she fails to realize that her new friend is the anonymous lead singer of her favorite band.
We’ll also be talking to the folks behind the documentary Aggie (Documentary Premiere) about Agnes Gund, an art collector who sold a painting by Roy Lichtenstein for $165,000,000, which in turn permitted her to start a nonprofit to fund criminal justice reform. In addition, we’re in the process of setting up meetings with folks behind Save Yourselves (U.S. Dramatic Competition), a “zany sci-fi comedy” about a hip Brooklyn couple who head to an isolated cabin in the woods to get away from technology dependency and unplug from the isolated world for a week. Unfortunately, without texts, and notifications, they are unaware when aliens attack the earth.
Another film we’re curious to learn more about is Shirley (U.S. Dramatic Competition). It’s about a young couple, Fred and Rose (Elisabeth Moss again!), who move to a small Vermont college town in pursuit of a job for a friend. Once there, they receive an offer for free room and board in return for looking after the home of acclaimed horror author Shirley Jackson. We can only imagine what’s in the closet.
Some Kind of Heaven (NEXT section) is another film we want to know more about, not the least of reasons why is that it is among the first efforts of the New York Times’ new push into feature documentaries (their other doc out now – Time by Garrett Bradley – is also at the fest). It’s set in The Villages, America’s largest retirement community in central Florida and one that’s described as “utopian”. There, we meet four residents struggling to find happiness among the pre-planned community of perfectly manicured lawns, singles mixers, bocce ball, and countless activities in their golden years.
While at Sundance, we’ll also meet with Adobe (one of our sponsors) to discuss their latest NLE and graphics technologies.
As I reported last year, a record amount of Sundance films were cut with Adobe Premiere Pro. The app, which gets constant upgrades as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, has emerged as the foremost NLE in independent film, with strides in the Hollywood market too. According to Adobe, Premiere Pro has seen a 405% rate of growth since 2015 for finishing Sundance-accepted films. Of course, with Adobe you need to look at the synergy of the whole Creative Cloud, so let’s not forget about After Effects, which continues as one of the most important tools for visual effects, title design, motion graphics and animation. Add to that Photoshop and Illustrator, which are also staples in most creator’s toolkits. Last year, Clemency, a film cut with Premiere (edited by Phyllis Housen), won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance.
So stay tuned for our coverage on NYCPPNEWS…and see you at Sundance!