By Tammy Reese
My first time covering the Sundance Film Festival in-person was everything I expected it to be. Fun, intense, inspirational, exhausting, and such an honor. Overall, the experience lived up to indeed be the experience of a lifetime. A journalist’s dream, especially mine.
To fully recap the five days I attended the iconic and historical 2023 Sundance Film Festival will take months, but I will do my best to bring you into the experience through my eyes and words. The diversity, support, and creativity that consumed this festival were so profound and gave me a joyful feeling that will last a lifetime.
The venues and theaters I visited were absolutely beautiful – such as the Variety Studio which included a Variety step-and-repeat along with Audible activations. At the Sundance Variety Studio, I enjoyed the Variety x Audible Cocktails & Conversations which was an evening of celebrating new forms of storytelling at Sundance. There was a dynamic conversation featuring Lena Waithe (Founder, Hillman Grad) and Rishi Rajani (CEO, Hillman Grad). The group of industry veterans dived into Hillman Grad and Audible’s multi-project development deal as well as both companies’ roles in championing storytellers across genres and mediums. I sat in the front row and afterward had the honor to take a photo with Lena Waithe.
Another venue I enjoyed was the Macro Lodge. The Macro Lodge was the place to be. I met and got a photo with Actress Erika Alexander (Living Single), and I was interviewed by Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions while there which you can view here.
Also, I got to listen to a panel discussion that featured the director of The Black Panther film series, Ryan Coogler. Later on, I ended up interviewing Ryan during the Stephen Curry: Underrated premiere press line. Ryan is the producer. View our interview here.
Speaking of press lines, there were so many to choose from. Additional press lines I covered were for Eileen starring Anne Hathaway, To Live and Die and Live starring Omari Hardwick, Little Richard: I Am Everything directed by NYWIFT member Lisa Cortés, Invisible Beauty produced by Lisa Cortés, and Bad Behaviour starring Jennifer Connelly.
View my interview with Jennifer here.
And check out my NYWIFT blog and podcast interview with Lisa Cortés here.
With so many events and press lines that I had to cover, it was not in my schedule to view many films, unfortunately. I did get to pre-screen Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls. It was so funny, bold, different, and well-cast. Marcus was my favorite cast member. He kept his character so on point from beginning to end.
In-person, I previewed To Live and Die and Live, which is directed by Qasim Basir and produced by Samantha Basir and NYWIFT member Dana Offenbach. Qasim Basir returns to Sundance with an exceptional actor by the name of Amin Joseph who played the role of Muhammad. The film is an emotional testament to the astonishing power community can provide in a cruel world. This was a very bold and unique film that I highly recommend everyone to watch.
I am unable to discuss these films entirely as they have not yet been released to the public.
One of my favorite interviews was with Vivica A. Fox during the Skilled red carpet premiere that she hosted. Skilled is a new documentary film from 3M that celebrates the modern skilled trade workforce through the eyes of inspiring individuals who break the mold while pursuing the careers of their dreams. The film features four trade workers — a plumber, fall protection specialist, welder, and film gaffer — at various stages in their careers, highlighting the exciting and meaningful opportunities offered within the trades. The film will be available on 3M.com/Skilled and YouTube.com/3M after the premiere event and will be released wide on VOD in Spring 2023. Please view our interview here.
The top highlights of the festival were rocking my NYWIFT hat and so many people coming up to me wanting to learn more about NYWIFT, or saying that they know someone who is a part of a WIFT chapter. NYWIFT is a name that is known at Sundance and beloved there for sure. I was so thrilled to cover the festival with one of my dearest friends, LaKisa Terrell who is now a new member of NYWIFT.
Last, but not least anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge horror fan and I love American Horror Story. I got to meet and take photos with one of my favorite actors from the show, Cody Fern, whose film Fairyland premiered at Sundance. He was casually walking down the street and took the time to chat with me before he headed to a press junket.
I can go on and on about the amazing time I had even in the cold weather, but again, it will take months!! I had a blast, and I am so grateful to be a part of a community such as NYWIFT that believes in me to get the best coverage possible while representing our brand.
Thank you to New York Women in Film & Television and Sundance for the opportunity to check off a bucket list experience that I will never forget.
Be sure to check out some of the celebrities that took the time out to give NYWIFT a shoutout here.
Congratulations to all the filmmakers, creators, and journalists that were a part of Sundance 2023!
Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to Kayla Sun! Kayla is a LA-based trilingual Asian filmmaker. She earned her B.A. degree for Studio Art and Economics at Vanderbilt University and subsequently worked in the art world before diving into the film world. She earned her M.F.A. for Film and Television Production at University of Southern California, as a Jeffrey Jones Scholar in writing, and is a recipient of the 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Production Grant for her film The Code of Family (2022). The film also received a NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Short Narrative Directing at last year’s UrbanWorld Film Festival. Kayla spoke to us about her inspirations, love of learning, and why people of all ages should be encouraged to embrace technology.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Vanessa Meyer! Meyer is a filmmaker, programmer, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to having earned a Ph.D. in Communications with a specialization in personal storytelling, she has worked at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, Kiss Off Entertainment, Reel Love Film Festival and most recently, Women in Film and Television Vancouver (WIFTV). As an artist, she is interested in exploring the complexities of feelings, a theme that has repeatedly appeared in her work. Meyer spoke to us about championing unique voices as a programmer, moving to NYC, and finding light in the darkness.READ MORE
In director Tracy Droz Tragos feature documentary Plan C, a hidden grassroots organization doggedly fights to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade. With abortion restrictions and bans going into effect, Francine Coeytaux and her team of providers established Plan C — a grassroots organization dedicated to expanding access to medication abortion. NYWIFT member Jess Jacobs, the film’s executive producer, has a career-long history of activism – including work with the Plan C organization before the movie was even made! She spoke to us about Plan C’s Sundance premiere, her passion for reproductive justice, and the power of community.READ MORE
Many children – and more than a few adults – dream of long-distance space exploration. But what about the real human toll of that kind of journey? The new documentary The Longest Goodbye, which debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, takes a poignant look at the fundamentals of day-to-day reality in space: the isolation, confinement, and lack of privacy and social contact. Executive producer Valda Witt spoke to us about the project, her childhood dreams of space travel, favorite moments making the film, and getting to know scientists and astronauts in a deeply personal way.READ MORE