BYU students and local community take advantage of Sundance Film Festival

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BYU’s campus is located just an hour away from arguably the most prestigious film festival in the world. Sundance International Film Festival is nestled in Park City, a quick drive up the canyon from Happy Valley. The festival has always been a main attraction for many out-of-state visitors, but this year BYU’s film department is encouraging the BYU community and locals alike to take advantage of the opportunity.

BYU’s relationship with Sundance in the past has primarily been positive, yet not always taken advantage of. Selected students from the film program have had the honor of showing a short film during the festival and gaining recognition for their work. The most popular is “Napoleon Dynamite.”

These students whose films have been lucky enough to be selected have been able to gain hands-on experience at the festival. They are able to converse with film makers and make connections that will help them succeed later in their careers.

Although the film festival is a great career step for those who are able to participate, Sundance also boasts a great lineup for those who simply want to attend, or even volunteer.

Katie Ercanbrack, a senior from Lindon, studying film with emphasis on documentaries, is volunteering for the second year in a row. She is crowd liaison and helps direct people at the festival. She has the opportunity to experience Sundance firsthand and know the benefits of attending.

“I wish more people would take advantage [of Sundance],” Ercanbrack said. “It’s about the experience … to see how filmmakers and professionals do it. It’s such an inspiration for the students.”

Not only is it an amazing opportunity for students studying film, it is a great way for locals in the community to get involved also.

Tess Kelly, a junior from Provo, also studying film with an emphasis on producing and production management, explains the benefits of being a local in relation to the festival. She said anyone with a Utah drivers license was previously able to sign up for special ticket packages earlier than the rest of the public. The festival also offers free screenings and the opportunity to get free “Best of the Fest” tickets for locals.

Sundance is also making an effort to include more family-friendly films to involve and encourage all types of visitors. On the official Sundance website, visitors are able to find a list of family-friendly films being shown at the festival, along with a statement describing how excited they are to get young kids involved in the film industry and festival experience. According to the Sundance website, officials believe it is a great opportunity for kids to be introduced to new cultural ideas.

Brad Barber, an assistant professor in the Department of Theater and Media Arts, said the festival is an amazing opportunity for locals and students. He described how Sundance offers great content and it is important for the local audience to take advantage of its location. Students and families can attend a prestigious festival and interact with some of the best filmmakers in the world.

“It’s a pretty priceless opportunity,” Barber said. “Sundance is not only about films that are pushing the boundaries.”

According to Barber, BYU’s attendance has increased in the past years and he hopes to see it increase even more in the next couple of years as well. Essentially, BYU and the community surrounding the university are in a prime location to be exposed to some of the best films in the world.

” … They [Sundance] are trying to include both BYU students and the community,” Barber said. “We are better off getting involved.”

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