Project 1324 asked this year’s Sundance Ignite Fellows to describe their experience at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the effect it had on their filmmaking. Here is Kevin Brooks, one of the five winners of our “What’s Next?” short film challenge, on wanting to do kickflips at Sundance and how film can “push society forward.”
My Sundance experience was absolutely amazing. I learned so much while I was there and made many long lasting friendships with people that are so talented and gifted. I can only hope that I will be able to collaborate with these people someday.
My favorite, most memorable moments at Sundance were definitely being able to see Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation”. That film was really well done and it carried such a powerful message that really resonates with the times that we’re living in right now. Nate Parker handled the subject matter within the movie with expertise in the way that he delivered it to the audience and made you think about what is taking place in front of you through his usage of symbolism. Also being able to meet Nate Parker afterwards was just an awesome and inspirational moment because I was sitting across from the director who potentially has the best movie of the year and will probably be nominated for an Oscar. Just being able to hear his advice on directing and how much detail goes into the creation of a film really changed my outlook on the way that I approach my own projects. Also him being an African American filmmaker and reaching the heights that he did really motivated me because, being an African American filmmaker myself, I aspire to be in his position someday and to have the opportunity of telling stories where people of all races can come together and emotionally connect with what I’m portraying on the screen.
I would define the Sundance Ignite Program as a life changing experience because personally, coming from Memphis, and having the opportunity to be in an environment like Sundance and being part of this amazing program, it really caused me to be more focused. The Sundance Ignite Program gave me opportunities to be at the table with directors that I look up to. So many filmmakers around the world want to make their way into Sundance, and at the age of 22, I got the opportunity to actually experience the distinguished film festival, and I am blessed to be able to be part of it. I now have to take responsibility and do my experience justice by working hard every day and not take an opportunity like this for granted.
My experience as a Sundance Ignite fellow impacted the films that I am working on now because upon arriving back to Memphis, it gave me a new mindset on how I approach filmmaking. After having the opportunity to be in the atmosphere of other great filmmakers – be it my other Ignite fellows, or the filmmakers that I got to meet at the film chats and through networking at the venues – it just really lit a fire inside of me and motivated me to go all out, so that one day, my film can be playing at Sundance, and like Nate Parker, I can create films that will make a social change in the way that we think and act as a society. Just being at Sundance brought to my attention that there are so many ways that I can touch and connect with an audience through art. With new technologies arriving on the market, just using film to tell a story is selling myself short. There are so many ways now that I can reach out and relate to people and get them to pay attention to things that they may not even notice are taking place around them.
I’m currently working on a short film that I hope will spark conversation on gang violence and how the repercussions from the choices that we make not only tears apart families and friends, but also creates forms of separation within our own neighborhoods. I’m currently in production on this project and am hoping that it will be accepted into many festivals so this message can be shared with as many people as possible.
Speaking of festivals, “Keep Pushing” was recently accepted into the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY). I’m very excited and can’t wait to attend that festival in Seattle! Like my new projects, I’m hoping that “Keep Pushing” will get accepted into more festivals and to continue to travel more with the film.