Sundance course full of opportunity, inspiration

The cast, writers and directors of “Cooties,” a film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 18, answer questions from the audience after their film’s screening. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY RYAN DUVALL.

Taylor Harrison

I never thought I’d get to take a class that would allow me to watch films at one of the biggest film festivals and give me the chance to interact with filmmakers and actors.

But a Study Away course allowed me and 22 other students to go to the Sundance Film Festival, which focuses on independent cinema. We got to study film in a different way—by viewing new, innovative films, some of which premiered at the festival. 

The most exciting part of Sundance for me was, of course, watching new movies months before their release, and getting to see some that may never get a wide release. We also got to see them before they had been given a rating, so if anything gets cut before they get to theaters, I’ll still have seen the full versions.

But I also loved getting to interact with the filmmakers and actors during the question-and-answer sessions that followed most of the films. If we had any questions about the movie, we could ask them immediately. It was great because so many of those directors made beautiful movies with wonderful cinematography, acting and writing. 

And it was obviously a huge bonus to see celebrities out and about on the street and meet some stars from our favorite television shows and movies.

Ted Hovet, an English and film professor, taught the course, along with another professor, Dawn Hall. 

The course began before the festival; we watched films that had been at Sundance previously, read our textbook and wrote responses. While at the festival, we had to see at least 10 films (I ended up with a total of 25) and analyze and critique some of them. 

Hovet said as far as he could tell, all of his students enjoyed the festival. 

“I think they got to, first and foremost, see the new and most cutting edge films,” he said. 

But he said it’s also important that his students got an insight into the film industry — “not just seeing the films but getting to interact with directors, actors and writers.” 

Hovet said he would love to do a Sundance trip again, as well as continue going to other festivals. 

Bowling Green junior Jayme Powell, a film major, also attended the festival and said one of her favorite parts was talking to the filmmakers and cast of the movies.  

“You can be inspired by these people but it’s different to be inspired by them and then get to talk to them,” she said. “Where else can you do that? 

“If you really want to be in the industry, going to Sundance is kind of a must. You need to be exposed to different kinds of films.” 

Oldham County freshman Ryan Duvall, who’s also a film major, enjoyed seeing films before the public and just being in the middle of the industry. 

“It definitely re-energized my dream and gave me a lot of new ideas to try and work on,” he said.

Duvall also said seeing indie filmmakers succeed was encouraging.

“It gives you hope that you could be right where they’re standing,” he said.

I wholeheartedly agree with my classmates that the trip was amazing. I learned a lot that I couldn’t learn in a classroom. Interacting with the filmmakers was one of the best opportunities I’ve gotten at WKU.