Sundance Film Festival Sundance Survey 2021

The Blazing World (NEXT)

Blazing World Carlson Young

Who: Carlson Young, director and co-writer

Logline: A young woman on the brink of suicide is lured home to confront her demons.

The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: I had a series of strange recurring dreams.

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: A film is like an infant — it needs to be fed, nurtured and protected at all costs because it’s very vulnerable. You can’t let just anyone hold the baby.

When I heard we got into Sundance: I dropped to the ground and cried.

Prisoners of the Ghostland (Premieres)

Sion Sono - Ghostland Sundance Film Festival Sundance Survey Sundance 2021

Prisoners of the Ghostland director Sion Sono. Featured image: Nick Cassavetes and Nicolas Cage in Prisoners of the Ghostland

Who: Sion Sono, director

Logline: Hero and Bernice must escape the mysterious revenants that rule the Ghostland, an East-meets-West vortex of beauty and violence.

The most expensive thing in our budget was: Production design, as most of the visual canvas I envisioned was done practically in camera.

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: The one I relearn every time: It’s never easy.

A darling I had to kill along the way was: A giant moving castle in the Ghostland with massive rotating saw blades underneath, serving as a defense system.

When I heard we got into Sundance: I was so excited! My second film, The Room, played Sundance way back in 1992. I have been waiting a long time to return.

Son of Monarchs (NEXT)

sons of monarchs

Who: Alex Gambis, writer and director

Logline: When a butterfly biologist returns from New York to his native Mexico after a long absence, he begins a personal journey he never had intended, with powerful and transformative consequences.

An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: Adult monarch butterflies remember pleasant and unpleasant memories before metamorphosis as young caterpillars.

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: The importance of carving out time to film natural landscapes. The cast and crew needs to adapt in a Darwinian way to the habitat they’re filming in.

The World to Come (Spotlight)

The World to Come

Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby in The World to Come. Photo by Vlad Cioplea

Who: Mona Fastvold, director

Logline: The World to Come is a romance set in Upstate New York across four seasons in 1856. It chronicles the developing emotional, intellectual, and sensual connection between two neighboring farm wives, Abigail and Tallie.

Our most interesting, weird, or difficult location: The film was shot across two seasons in a very challenging but beautiful location nestled within the Carpathian Mountains. We were battling snow, mud, rain, and wild dogs — trademarks of this part of the Romanian countryside!

A darling I had to kill along the way was: I had to give up so many days of my schedule. In the end I was left with 24. The scripted scenes remain mostly intact.

I’m most excited about seeing: Our friend Chris Abbott and Jerrod Carmichael’s movie, and I can’t wait to see Rebecca Hall’s debut. It looks beautiful.

Captains of Zaatari

Sundance Survey

Who: Ali Elarabi, director

Logline: Two best friends, Mahmoud and Fawzi, living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, have an undying dream of becoming professional soccer players while facing the difficult reality of their lives. Despite being confined under dire conditions, they remain hopeful and practice day in and day out. When a world-renowned sports academy visits, both have a chance to make this dream come true.

My favorite scene (or shot) in the film is: The family sitting around candle-light in the Zaatari Refugee Camp learning English.

An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: Today, Mahmoud and Fawzi are still in the camp.

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: As a filmmaker, I learned patience to wait for the right moments to capture the shot or the story beat. As a human, if you have a dream, pursue it.

Violation (Midnight)

Violation

Violation directors Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli

Who: Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli, co-writers and co-directors

Logline: After a catastrophic betrayal, a troubled woman embarks on a vicious crusade for revenge.

Our crew size was: We worked with a very small core team. In order to be mobile and flexible we had a camera team of two, and we all doubled up on a lot of roles.

Our camera, lenses and lighting package were: We worked with Zeiss super speeds and old soviet lenses in order to achieve a very specific look that reflects the mental journey of our main character, Miriam. We also shot with all natural and practical light, so we had a real 360 degree approach to capturing the performances.

The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: We wanted to make a revenge story that explored the true, grizzly nature of revenge. Rather than cathartic wish fulfillment we wanted to delve into how it might really feel to seek revenge after a traumatic experience.

My favorite scene (or shot) in the film is: An almost silhouette of Miriam at dawn that captures her fear and sense of coming untethered. It came at the end of a long take of a very emotionally fraught scene, and was the perfect confluence of performance and camera working together.

An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: The projectile vomit in the film is real.

When I heard we got into Sundance I: Got a new kitten to celebrate!

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