BYU has a rich and creative history at the Sundance Film Festival. Current students, along with alumni, have participated throughout the years.
Among the many films premiered in this year’s festival at Park City is “Austenland,” directed by BYU alumna Jerusha Hess.
The film, based on of the novel “Austenland” written by Shannon Hale, tells the story of Jane, who has an infatuation with Mr. Darcy and anything relating to Jane Austen. Jane fulfills her lifelong dream of living in the world of Jane Austen when she takes a trip to Austenland, a vacation spot where guest can eat, sleep and live all things Austen.
Jerusha co-wrote three films prior to “Austenland,” the first being “Napoleon Dynamite,” which she co-wrote with her husband. The dynamic duo met while attending BYU.
“BYU has a terrific film program,” Hess said. “The professors are wonderful, inspiring, creative, supportive people. The program (also) has amazing grants which allow students to shoot on film as well as digital. We owe our filmic beginning to BYU and the resources there.”
The film program offers a variety of experiences to help prepare students to succeed in the industry. Brad Barber is one of the film and media arts faculty teaching at BYU.
“Something unique that BYU emphasizes in the curriculum are history, theory and production,” Barber said. “Other schools focus on production, but we focus on the other two categories to help students create meaningful pieces.”
Sundance is an incredible opportunity for all students to participate in, regardless of whether they study film or not. This festival shows some of the best films in the world for the first time. Celebrities and major names in the industry travel to participate in the 10-day event. Not only can it be an exciting event to attend, but it can be educational as well.
“There are so many opportunities to take advantage of,” Barber said. “Following most of the films are panel discussions that incorporate issues important to us, as well as educational aspects of the films.”
One of the first to represent BYU in the film festival is Kohl Glass, who directed the short film “Der Ostwind” in 2007.
“BYU allowed me to make a lot of films and practice the craft at a lower level to learn the basic techniques,” Glass said. “Not only did I learn the needed skills, I also left with a strong network and great connections. My network was definitely the most valuable thing I left with.”
One of the largest film festivals in the world is just an hour’s drive up the canyon, an opportunity that students should experience at least once during their time at BYU.
“(Sundance) is the best film festival I have ever been to, and it deserves all of its accolades,” Glass said.