USC alums celebrate their presence at Sundance Film Festival


At Sundance 2011, the motto on every attendee’s mind is “Be Here.” That’s the mindset of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and its alumni filmmakers and students who will make their annual presence  at Park City, Utah, for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and Slamdance Festival from Jan. 20th to the 30th.

For the past four years and fifth consecutive event, the SCA has sponsored a USC filmmaker’s breakfast to celebrate the accomplishments of student filmmakers and allow them a chance to mingle.

“So often with the festival, you’re so focused on your particular project,” Senior Director of SCA Alumni Relations Justin Wilson said. “You don’t often get a chance to meet your fellow filmmakers in a relaxed setting.”

A palpable sense of anticipation courses through the gathering of USC filmmaking alumni mirroring the general atmosphere of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival at large.

“I’ve been coming to Sundance for seven years in a row.  It only gets better each time,” Restless City producer Katie Mustard said.  “You know you’re going to see old friends, meet new people and attend great films and parties.  I look forward to these USC events all the time.”

Melissa Lee, Class of 2007 in Peter Stark Producing, similarly reveled in this excitement with her film Circumstance, a story about teenagers dealing with the struggles of love and sexuality.

“You’re not sure what to really expect.  This is my first Sundance,” Lee said.  “It’s our world premiere, so you never know how the audience will react.  The screening went better than expected.”

Not only was the filmmakers’ breakfast originally organized to bring the USC filmmakers together in a relaxed setting, but it is also a way for the SCA dean to congratulate the successful filmmakers for getting their projects to such prestigious festivals.

Originally, the SCA envisioned an annual USC Sundance Cocktail Festival Party on a Monday night, hoping to get the filmmakers together for networking. Unfortunately, most USC filmmakers left Tuesday morning, leaving little time for introductions.  Consequently, the SCA created the USC Filmmakers’ Breakfast to be scheduled on a Monday morning and set the Cocktail Festival Party for a Tuesday night.

“When the Sundance and Slamdance lineups get announced, we ask our cinema alum to contact us if their films made the festivals,” Director of Student Industry Relations Bonnie Chi said.  “Once we finalize the details, such as venue and date, we send out an email invite to all those filmmakers.  They could also contact us through our First Look event.”

Considering that 43 USC alumni films made it into both 2011 festivals, there was a strong sense of Trojan pride among the 33 filmmakers attending the breakfast.  Nicola Marsh, Class of 2006, has her film Troubadours in the Sundance festival.

“It’s super to connect to people who make films and you know them through the USC Film School.  You first see them as students and now as professionals,” Marsh said.  “When your film makes it into Sundance, you’re a legitimate filmmaker.  It makes you feel really good.  I’m at Sundance!”

For Sundance and Slamdance 2011, the USC Filmmakers’ Breakfast was held at Flanigan’s, a restaurant bar co-owned by a USC Alumnus.  Flanigan’s offered an intimate setting for USC Filmmaking Trojans to gather among cinema Trojans, share success stories and network over a breakfast.

“USC Cinema is a recognizable brand and people expect quality filmmaking,” Wilson said.  “Year after year our alums deliver just that.”

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