Film4 Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs shares five highlights from her typically hectic but exhilarating trip to Salt Lake City.
Overall, Sundance has been an absolutely fantastic festival, with Film4 having four films here – premieres of 20,000 Days On Earth, Frank and A Most Wanted Man, and a special screening for The Double, which premiered at Toronto. It’s been a real embarrassment of riches, and has made for a very hectic festival, with lots of running around making sure that the filmmakers are all being looked after and supported. But I’m lucky to have enjoyed some incredible highlights here in Park City, which I will treasure for a long time to come…
1. Frank mask bonanza
One of my absolute top highlights definitely has to be seeing the entire audience of Sundance’s biggest theater donning masks of Frank’s face at the premiere of Frank. This was so that director Lenny Abrahamson could take a picture for Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson because they were both sadly away shooting and couldn’t come. It was quite a surreal moment, and it created a real buzz and a real energy for the audience in the screening, it was fantastic.
2. Nick plays piano
The 20,000 Days On Earth premiere was wonderful. We held it at The Egyptian theatre, this lovely old Art Deco cinema, which this year has this amazing projection mapping artwork on the front of it. Being with directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and of course Nick Cave when they were doing pre-premiere interviews in the press line and seeing the excitement starting to build was great, and then seeing the film receive not one but two standing ovations was just the best thing that we could have hoped for. It’s been great to see the early press reactions start to come in. And as if the night couldn’t have got any better, Nick did a little impromptu show at the afterparty! He played three songs just on the piano, and asked one terrified looking guy from the audience to turn his pages for the last song. It was incredible.
3. The filmmakers
The events that the festival themselves put on are great, and the international filmmakers lunch was a really fantastic one. All the programmers were there – John Cooper, John Nein, Trevor Groth, Kim Yutani and the whole Sundance team. I chatted to lots of filmmakers including Norwegian writer-director Eskil Vogt who made a brilliant film called Blind, and I think he has a huge future ahead of him as a director. He was so excited for people to see the film.
4. The films
Of those I managed to see, the film I liked most was Blue Ruin, which I thought had a really unique style and was really, really unexpected. It’s really inspiring to see the range of films at Sundance, the range of subjects and to see the strands of the competitions, documentary, narrative, animation and shorts all come together in one space. It really showcases how special Sundance is. I’m gutted I’m going a day before seeing Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid 2. That’s the problem with festivals, you can’t get to everything that you want to get to – but it’s a luxury problem!
5. The panels
A really brilliant highlight for me was the Storyworld Panel at New Frontiers. New Frontiers is curated by Shari Frilot and it is where all of the cutting edge digital and interactive storytelling and artwork takes place. This year they’ve taken it downtown, which is really fantastic, so it’s right in the heart of the festival. I really enjoyed a panel with an amazing range of people including Jonathan Harris, Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, Nick Fortugno, Susan Bonds and one of the guys from Oculus VR which is this new, wearable virtual reality technology which is being showcased in the festival and has some really interesting implications for immersive story-telling. It was a fascinating panel that really tried to tackle some of the key questions about interactivity, and hit home something in which I passionately believe, namely that the story has to be the star. It can’t be technology or platform first, it has to be about the story and what the best way of telling that story is.