NYWIFT Blog

Postcard from Park City 2024: Sundance Film Festival Recap

From Tammy Reese: I had the incredible opportunity to cover the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival, and it was an absolute blast. From capturing the excitement on the red carpets to immersing myself in the world of independent cinema, every moment was filled with energy and anticipation. Let me take you on a recap of some of the unforgettable film premieres I had the privilege to cover. The red carpets were a spectacle in themselves, as A-list celebrities and emerging talents and filmmakers graced them with their presence. It was a surreal experience witnessing their arrivals and hearing their insights about their latest projects.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Ruthie Marantz

Welcome to NYWIFT, Ruthie Marantz! Born and raised in NYC, Ruthie has been making films on public access TV since she was 13 years old. Since then, her works has been shown at BAMcinemaFest, SeriesFest and Seattle International Film Festival. She has her M.F.A. from NYU’s Graduate Film Program, where she was recipient of the Leo Rosner, Maurice Kanbar, and the Academy of Arts and Sciences Scholarships. Ruthie has directed and produced commercial work for clients including Netflix, LG, Samsung, Vice and Hearst. Her autobiographical pilot Rainbow Ruthie, which received funding from director Spike Lee, was accepted to the IFP Episodic Lab and premiered at SXSW, becoming Oscar eligible in 2019. More recently, she co-wrote the pilot to Southfield Supernovas, which won the 2020 SXSW Seriesfest Pitch-A-Thon. Read more about Ruthie’s amazing stories from set and upcoming adventures here!

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Amy Nicholson

Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Elivia Shaw

NYWIFT Member Elivia Shaw is a producer and co-editor of the fascinating new documentary How to Have an American Baby, which just make its New York Premiere at DOC NYC 2023. The film is a a nuanced, behind-the-scenes look into the booming shadow economy catering to pregnant Chinese tourists who travel to America to give birth in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for their babies. Told through a series of observational vignettes, and with extraordinary access to the maternity hotel industry and their clients, the film outlines the invisible contours of the underground birth tourism industry and its unexpected actors in the U.S. and China, while probing deeply into the lives of several protagonists caught up in the phenomenon. What results is an intimate and compassionate portrait of women’s reproductive journeys, family, traditions, and capitalist desires.  Shaw spoke to us about her collaboration with director Leslie Tai and the unique joys and challenges of the project.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Ilja Willems

NYWIFT member Ilja Willems heads to the 2023 DOC NYC Festival with not one but two exciting new short films. Friendly Fridges shows how the new heart of the community is popping up in every neighborhood—in the shape of refrigerators. And When the grass must go follows a landscaper from Nevada who is removing grass lawns under a first-of-a-kind state law that will save water during an ongoing drought. Willems spoke to us about how these two disparate films align with her creative sensibilities, the joy of screening in NYC, and more!

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Joyce Pierpoline

Congratulations to NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline, Executive Producer of Mediha, which just took home the U.S. Competition Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC! In this immensely collaborative film, a Yazidi teen once held captive by ISIS takes us into her world of grief, pain, and hope. We spoke to Pierpoline (prior to the exciting win) about her involvement in this important film.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Kayla Sun

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.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Vanessa Meyer

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.

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My First Ever Sundance Experience!

"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." Tammy Reese shares her favorite star-studded moments from her trip to Park City for Sundance 2023!

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NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Jess Jacobs

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.

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NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Valda Witt

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.

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NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Caitlin Gold

NYWIFT member Caitlin Gold is the Co-Founder and Co-Head of Film, a private equity fund dedicated to financing narrative and documentary films directed by women. The fund’s tagline is “Films by women make more money, but Hollywood isn’t making them….” Thanks to Gold and her colleagues, that very well may change! Their most recent feature is the Australian film Shayda, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the World Dramatic Competition and won that category’s Audience Award. Gold spoke to us about Shayda’s path to the screen, funding work by women, and what’s next on her horizon.

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Women Write Now: 2nd Year at Sundance Celebrating Women Writers

Developed in partnership with Sundance Institute and Founded by Hartbeat CEO Thai Randolph and Head of Film Candice Wilson Cherry, WOMEN WRITE NOW is a comedic writing fellowship designed to champion the next generation of Black women in comedy through mentorship, advocacy, production, and exhibition. Now in its second year, this year’s fellowship brought in three emerging writers, Mayanna Berrin, Kianna Butler Jabangwe, and Danielle Solomon to develop and produce their comedic short scripts under the guidance of some of the most influential Black women in comedy. The resulting projects were then brought into production by Hartbeat studios. Cherry and the writers spoke to us about their experience.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Producer Cheryl Staurulakis

NYWIFT member Cheryl Staurulakis recognizes the power of documentary film to change hearts, minds, and even governmental policies – and it’s what drives her as a producer. Her latest film, Phyllis Ellis’s feature documentary Category: Woman, is a perfect example of Staurulakis’s commitment to social impact filmmaking. The film takes a hard look into the racist and sexist policies in global sports and the devastating personal consequences they have inflicted on women athletes around the world. Staurulakis spoke to us about her 2022 DOC NYC screening, racial and gender discrimination in sports, and how she hopes to save the world one documentary at a time.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker and Journalist Amelia Deschamps

NYWIFT member Amelia Deschamps is a journalist, documentary filmmaker and TV/Radio producer from the Dominican Republic with more than 20 years of experience. Her short film In Search of the Blue Heart made its world premiere at the 2022 DOC NYC Festival. The film follows Daniel Quezada who, after 32 years of working in the larimar mines of the Dominican Republic, seeks to make this his last extraction to retire and dedicate his life to the stone trade. Deschamps spoke to us about filming in the depths of the larimar mines, her world premiere, and her transition into documentary filmmaking.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Dawn Porter

NYWIFT Member Dawn Porter’s Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net offers a never-before-seen look behind the curtain of the world-famous circus extravaganza, with an approach that is equally intimate and epic in scale. When Cirque du Soleil moves to reboot its flagship production, "O," more than a year after an abrupt global shutdown, both performers and crew members face uncertainty as they work to return to their world-class standards in time for the (re)opening night curtain in Las Vegas. The film had its world premiere as a Centerpiece film at the 2022 DOC NYC Festival. Porter sat down with us to discuss her unique approach to this story, and how these high-flying artists can offer unique insight into our post-pandemic world.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Sascha Just

NYWIFT member Sascha Just directed and produced Ellis, the first feature-length documentary about the late legendary New Orleans pianist and educator, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Marsalis composed and performed major works of modern jazz infused with a uniquely New Orleans touch. Just spoke to us about all the ways in which jazz has influenced her work, getting to know a creative legend, and her DOC NYC premiere.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Editor Jill Woodward

NYWIFT member Jill Woodward edited the documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture, which won the Audience Award at DOC NYC 2022. In this deeply personal tale, a gay seminary scholar and a straight activist, seeking to uncover the origins of the rabid homophobia of the conservative church, make a shocking discovery: an erroneous translation of the term “homosexual” in the Bible in 1946 that has been weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since. Woodward spoke to us about the editing process, what she learned along the way, and which types of projects excite her the most.

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