USC at Sundance
Tuesday night, students and alumni of the School of Cinematic Arts celebrated their projects that have been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival. The annual USC Festival Cocktail Party, held at the Riverhorse in Downtown Park City, Utah, has become tradition for Trojans visiting Utah during the famed film festival.
âThis is one of the largest gatherings of alumni of the School of Cinematic Arts throughout the entire year,â CEO of the USC Alumni Association Scott Mory said. âAnd for us itâs important to be where our alumni are so we can support them.â
This year, Sundance is showcasing films from more than 25 USC filmmakers with entries spread across all of Sundanceâs categories. The films represent a non-ageist cross section of USC-bred talent and, with many having more than one alumnus in its credits, itâs no wonder that the party was packed.
Some notable films from this year include The Dry Land, written and directed by Ryan Piers Williams (â05), co-produced by Jason Berman (â06), with cinematography by Gavin Kelly (â04); Night Catches Us, co-produced by Katie Mustard (â01); and Lucky, directed by Jeffrey Blitz (â97), edited by Yana Gorskaya (â02), with supervising post sound by Peter Brown (â95).
Even the instant hit The Kids Are All Right starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening was co-produced by alumnus Joel Newton (â00).
As one of the most influential film schools in the country, itâs only fitting that projects made by alumni are being shown at an industry-defining festival such as Sundance. And with such a long-standing history in the medium, itâs no wonder the work of former USC students have been chosen to represent the future of independent cinema.
These include films not only accepted by the Sundance Institute, but also by the concurrently running Slamdance Festival and the Windrider Forum. Since independent filmmaking, by definition, relies heavily on film financing outside the major studio system and acceptance at these annual events aids filmmakers in getting their movie out to the public.
Professor Howard A. Rodman, a SCA screenwriting professor, says the purpose of a USC party at Sundance is to unite all of the Trojans spending the week in Park City.
âItâs about gathering together the community,â Rodman said. âThere is an enormous number of USC people who come here for the festival in all kinds of capacities, both as filmmakers and as moviegoers.â
Organizing a party during the largest independent film festival, however, is no easy task. Once the Sundance Instituteâs selection process results are released in December, Justin Wilson â director of alumni relations for the School of Cinematic Arts â gets to work. His team starts by sending out an e-mail blast to more than 10,000 USC students and alumni, inviting them to RSVP and share whether they participated in the upcoming films. Those who indicate direct involvement with an accepted work are invited to an exclusive filmmakersâ breakfast the day before the party so they can meet their fellow USC filmmakers and build further relationships in the industry.
âWe come to Sundance to act as cheerleaders for all of the USC alumni and student filmmakers,â Wilson said. âWe want to support them in any way we can, and the party is a good way for all them to mingle in one setting.â
Whatâs also great about the eveningâs cocktail party is that the greater USC community is involved as well. Because the event is also sponsored by the USC Alumni Association, it represents commitment from the larger community and ensures that the focus is not only on those directly affiliated with the SCA.
As Rodman puts it: âSundance is a place where filmmakers make films that change peopleâs lives … These are films that change the world.â