Sundance Film Festival Sundance Survey 2021

Jockey (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Jockey Sundance Survey

Who: Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar, director and co-writer

Logline: It’s about a jockey and the vibrant, itinerant souls that call the backside of the racetrack home.

Our most interesting, weird, or difficult location: There’s a bar outside Phoenix where you can pay $20 to ride a bull. A real bull.

A darling I had to kill along the way was: Our hero, Jackson, gave this epic monologue in a bathtub to open the movie but we unearthed a more effective way to slip into this world. It was heartbreaking to cut.

I’m most excited about seeing: The short films. They always surprise and delight with their bold voices.

Knocking (Midnight)


Who: Frida Kempff, director

Logline: Everyone needs to be heard.

Our crew size was: Forty-three people (and one bird)

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: Thanks to the pandemic we were able to extend the editing, which led to a much better result. So time is very important in the process of making a movie. Don’t let go until you are really satisfied.

A darling I had to kill along the way was: A scene in the main character’s old work place. I tried to keep it for many weeks in the editing, but when I dropped it the film became better.

Superior (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Superior Still

Who: Erin Vassilopoulos, director, co-writer

Logline: A woman on the run returns to her hometown to hide out with her identical twin sister, and in doing so alters the trajectory of both their lives.

An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: The movie takes place around Halloween but it was nearly Christmas by the time we finished shooting. So naturally the small towns we were filming in slowly became filled with Christmas lights and decorations and holiday cheer, which made me feel like a real grinch during the last stretch of the shoot — symbols of Christmas joy became annoying obstacles to remove or frame out.

A darling I had to kill along the way was: Early on when Alessandra and I were writing the script, I wanted there to be seven dogs in the movie. But as the shoot neared I edited that down to three, knowing that finding seven identical dogs would be difficult and a nightmare on set.

Human Factors (World Cinema Dramatic Competition)

Human Factors

Who: Ronny Trocker, writer and director

Logline: A mysterious housebreaking exposes the agony of an exemplary middle-class family.

The most expensive thing in our budget was: Our set designer fell in love with a very impressive LED lamp system that he absolutely wanted to use for a location (the office of an advertising agency). I think it took up half of his budget.

When I heard we got into Sundance I: Immediately checked if my passport was still valid, because in the excitement I forgot that travel was not possible at the moment.

Users (U.S. Documentary Competition)


Who: Natalia Almada, director

Logline: A mother wonders, will my children love their perfect machines more than they love me, their imperfect mother?

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: Just start.

When I heard we got into Sundance I: Was thrilled… and then started sweating to finish the film.

At The Ready (U.S. Documentary Competition)

At the Ready

Who: Maisie Crow, director

Logline: Students at Horizon High School in El Paso train to become police officers and Border Patrol agents as they discover the realities of their dream jobs may be at odds with the truths and people they hold most dear.

My favorite scene in the film is: A class debate about the migrant caravan in 2018 that was headed towards the U.S.-Mexico border. It was then, and still is now, a nuanced look at the opinions and views of high schoolers on the border. I hope it will serve as an opportunity to challenge some preconceived notions of the audience.

When I heard we got into Sundance: I stopped to answer my phone while I was on a run. Instead of calling my husband, I ran home to tell him. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast!

Sundance Film Festival 2021 runs from tonight through February 3. 

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