Worldwide movie premieres, A-list celebrities, and single digit temperatures were all essential components of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Hosted in Park City, Utah from January 19-29 this year, the festival welcomed the “ultimate gathering of original storytellers and audiences” and showcased some of the biggest and best movies of the upcoming year. The streets of Park City were flocked by inspiring up and coming creatives, dazzling actors and actresses, and somehow, by some miracle, me.
When my friend reached out to me to inquire whether or not I would be interested in accompanying her to Sundance or not, I was instantly giddy with joy. As a current film student and aspiring filmmaker, the opportunity to attend Sundance was an absolute dream and I felt an unbelievable amount of excitement at the prospect of meeting some of my idols. However, with the excitement came fear: What if everyone in attendance at Sundance, whom I have idolized for so long, turn out to be mean? What if all of the filmmakers present prove to me that I’m simply not cut out for the job? What if I realize I simply don’t fit in?
My worries spiraled. But then I arrived, and everything changed.
From the moment I stepped foot on the plane to Utah, I was bombarded with kind smiles and friendly faces. Everyone I met on the trip, from the guy behind me on the plane to the girl sitting next to me on the shuttle bus to the couple sitting beside me at my first screening, welcomed me with open arms and warm words. They quickly broke down my incoming fears of the festival as they allowed me to ask them questions and learn about the industry from a professional viewpoint. My anticipated worries of gatekeeping were eradicated as those around me eagerly gave me advice and allowed me, as a student, to engage with them in open conversation. It was this friendly atmosphere that allowed me to ground myself in a setting that truly felt bigger than life.
However, this is not to say that the festival is somehow a mundane get together of people to watch movies. Throughout the city, famous directors, actors, producers, and journalists walk side by side with pedestrians, transforming the landscape into a creative utopia. Yet, while famous people do wander the streets, the festival itself provides aspiring creatives a grounded sense of reality. By meeting other filmmakers in person and engaging with like minded individuals, I was able to understand that the film industry doesn’t have to be this monolithic, inaccessible world like I had perceived it to be. It is a business made up of people just like me who are also committed to creatively bringing powerful narratives to the masses. It eased some of my fears and feelings of imposter-syndrome, as I was able to see that my idols, at the end of the day, are also just people.
Speaking of people, there were some Gen Z creatives who were at the festival who deserve some recognition. Both the films Radical directed by Christopher Zalla, and Theater Camp directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, highlight an exceptional cast of young actors. Between the two films, the ensemble cast of Gen Z actors steal the show and highlight the unbelievable rising talent in Hollywood. Additionally, the star of the critically acclaimed Coda, Emilia Jones, makes her second Sundance debut in the pivotal film Fairyland, directed by Andrew Durham. While there were a plethora of other Gen Z creatives at the festival, these wonderful talents really stood out to me in an incredibly impactful way, as their presence on the screen truly captivated audiences.
Thus, I would say to any aspiring young filmmaker: do not fear Hollywood, instead, embrace it. I know that the film industry can seem larger than life and incredibly daunting, but if Sundance taught me anything it is that even the most successful of creatives are just people with a passion. Through this creation of community, I was able to see that my dreams of joining the industry are not unattainable and my creative voice is just as important as anyone else's. Gen Z is already beginning to take on Hollywood and hopefully, more young creatives will follow. So, to all those dreaming of walking the red carpet and attending premieres, just know that it is far from impossible. The film industry is waiting for you with open arms.