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 Alex Campbell, one of the five winners of our “What’s Next?” short film challenge, on his time at Sundance and how to make planet earth hide behind your thumb:
Close to my heart I keep a photograph; one of a select few I’ve collected over the past couple of years. It’s hard to make out the faces of the seven figures; but in that moment, we’re standing on the surface of the Moon. Though in reality we’re not; it’s a dusty rehearsal room in York, in the north of England, but for that moment, after hours of tirelessly building the set and filming, to me we were standing on the Moon.
For as long as I can remember film has always had this transcendental ability, to surpass barriers of language and culture, to take us from ‘here’ to ‘there’, crossing barriers to communicate emotionally with a wider audience.
As I look back at that photograph, I never considered that the short film we were making would take me from there, to a place a million miles away, a place every aspiring filmmaker is aware of: the Sundance Film Festival.
In late 2015 on a whim, I submitted my short “Journey Home” to the Sundance Ignite “What’s Next?” short film challenge supported by Adobe Project 1324. I uploaded the film without giving it much thought, knowing the odds were not on my side having seen so many great shorts already submitted. A few weeks later I was informed I had made the shortlist, and in mid-December, was one of the five winners.
On arriving at the Sundance Film Festival I had no concept of the scale of the festival, with excited audiences and passionate filmmakers from all over the world descending on Park City, Utah. It was like nothing I could ever have expected, and in the best way possible. To have the chance to witness the festival from such a unique position as an Ignite fellow; I never imagined the panels, master classes, events and screenings I would be immersed in, nor the many filmmakers, volunteers, staff and Ignite fellows I would meet.
It’s hard to hone in on specific moments – the experience was a whirlwind – but highlights included meeting my Sundance Ignite mentor Jason Berman and seeing Nate Parker’s film “The Birth of a Nation” and talking with the production team behind the film itself.
The Sundance Ignite program was set up to allow 15 emerging filmmakers to take our careers to “the next level.” I can’t speak for the other fellows, but having the chance to build a community to share ideas with and to get our work recognized at the ground level, something that seems increasingly difficult for all young artists these days, has really been a life changing experience.
Since that dusty picture on the surface of the Moon, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with and meeting many talented collaborators and filmmakers. From friends and family I’ve known all my life, to those whom I’ve only spent a matter of days with.
I’m now working on an untitled short to garner interest in a feature. The film follows a boy struggling to come to terms with what death means and its finality.
Close to my heart, I now cherish photos from the tunnels and trenches of World War I, to dilapidated social housing in North London and, most recently, those photos taken outside The Egyptian Theatre at Sundance. I can’t wait to experience whatever comes next!