Above: Last year’s Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia. Photo credit: Jati Lindsay.
Crossposted from Sundance Institute’s blog
Sundance Institute is heading to Philadelphia and Miami this fall to present a series of workshops for emerging screenwriters, directors, and multidisciplinary artists, with funding from Knight Foundation. The first workshop in the series is the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive in Philadelphia on October 26, co-hosted with the Scribe Video Center. If you are a writer living in Philadelphia working on a feature-length narrative screenplay, apply here by October 4 for a chance at becoming one of a possible twelve participants selected. This workshop will be led by veteran screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury (Nashville, Thieves Like Us).
Additional events in Philadelphia and Miami to take place in the coming year include a New Frontier Flash Lab for artists working at the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology; and ShortsLabs for filmmakers on the making of short films. In an extension of the series, four artists will be selected from these programs to attend the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where they will experience curated screenings and panels and participate in facilitated professional development and educational opportunities.
Dennis Scholl, Vice President for arts at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, describes below how the aligned endeavors of Sundance Institute and Knight Foundation made this program possible and why the thriving arts communities in Philadelphia and Miami are apt homes for these artist workshops.
Why is this collaboration with Sundance Institute an initiative that Knight Foundation felt compelled to become involved with?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a group of independent filmmakers in the communities we work in tell compelling stories about their cities. These stories are told in a voice that is unique to their cities, yet their narratives resound across America. We were looking for a way to expose their work to a larger audience, and to give lots of people who are interested in filmmaking, the training they need to make their first short or strengthen their films. This is the kind of high-quality experience that Sundance Institute offers.
Of course, not everyone can make it out to the Festival in Park City! With this program, we’re hoping to replicate some of the Sundance experience in Philadelphia and in Miami.
Knight’s mission is to create more informed and engaged communities. We see the arts as a way to bring people together, and to create those common experiences that make people more passionate about where they live. We’ve started to invest in filmmaking because we believe in its ability to shape a city’s narrative – the way that people see themselves, their neighbors and their communities.
What makes Philadelphia and Miami suitable host cities for these inaugural workshops?
Two words: raw talent. I’m talking about filmmakers like the crew behind the Borscht Film Festival in Miami, which puts on a made-in-Miami film festival each year. Their shorts have been screened in over 100 film festivals around the world, including Sundance itself. The Borscht Film Festival is nine years old, but only because the organizers launched it when they were in high school together at New World School of the Arts. Miami also has a rapidly growing independent cinema community. Where Miami had one independent cinema just a few years ago, it now has six – and they all have healthy audiences that support local filmmakers. Miami’s diverse community of filmgoers also supports 13 different film festivals, from LGBT to Brazilian to numerous shorts-fests.
Philadelphia has a great independent film community as well. The Black Star Film Festival, which Ebony magazine called the African-American Sundance, is thriving. The festival also hosts a screenwriting competition each year, funding the best project so that there is a continuous cycle of creation. Philly is also a hub for innovative storytelling, with groups like the Philadelphia Film Society and the Klip Collective, who craft mind-bending films that you can see in the New Frontiers section of Sundance.
What is the hope for how this program will most meaningfully affect the artists selected for these workshops?
I don’t think we can underestimate the power of putting so many talented minds in one room. These filmmakers may live in the same city, but we need them to get together more often to exchange ideas, so Knight is starting to convene them regularly. We hope they not only make a great connection with the folks from Sundance Institute, but also continue to develop a network within their own cities that will support them into the future.