Of the 17 Sundance Film Festival-bound moviemakers we questioned about their projects, three mentioned drinking Champagne when they got the good news. Three cried. One director-duo danced.
At least eight moviemakers shot with ARRI ALEXA cameras, but others used RED, Sony, and Panasonic cameras. One shot on a 16mm camera. Four filmmakers said music was the most expensive part of their budget. Crew sizes ranged from one to 100, but the average crew size was about 43. COVID precautions added a lot of time, money and people to a lot of projects.
But those numbers can’t tell a story like the filmmakers themselves. Here’s our Sundance Survey 2022.
Sharp Stick (Premieres)
Who: Lena Dunham
Logline: My father called it a sexual fable and I thought that was pretty good.
Camera package: ARRI ALEXA Mini with Cooke S4 lenses at a 1.66 aspect ratio.
The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: my friend/hero Janicza Bravo and I had a long backyard talk about heroines of 1970s independent cinema…
My favorite scene (or shot) in the film is: a sequence where our protagonist, Sarah Jo, heads off on
a night away with her older lover. It was visually and emotionally thrilling for my DP Ashley Connor and me as I watched her throw the camera on her shoulder and play with lenses by hand- holding them up, constrained only by a long cable…
An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: this film was conceived in late August and in the can by late December.
The most interesting, weirdest, or most difficult location we shot at was: Our main location was a tiny apartment that ran quite hot with a series of barking dogs and neighbors who loved to set off fireworks on weeknights.
The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: having all women department heads isn’t a rule of mine, but on this film it happened and the incredible ease of communication was a reminder of how starved so many of us have been to be fully heard and taken seriously on set.
When I heard we got into Sundance: I woke up from a feverish nap to joyful texts from my producers, agent and manager and I was sure I was in some kind of trouble. I digested, turned to my husband and said, “we’re going to Park City, bitch.” While I’ve been as a jury member, going back as a filmmaker is a bucket-list experience.
Brian and Charles (World Cinema Dramatic Competition)
Who: Jim Archer
Logline: A story of friendship, love, and letting go; and a 7-foot-tall robot that eats cabbages.
Camera package: ARRI ALEXA Mini with Leica Sumicron Lenses
An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: Charles’ voice is often done live on set with Rupert Majendie, the producer, on a laptop in another room, either queuing the lines or improvising new ones that he types out and plays on some text to speech software we use.
The most expensive thing in our budget was: The boring answer is probably hotels, we shot deep in Snowdonia in Wales so there was very little local crew to call upon. The fun answer is a flying grandfather clock.
The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: The story is made in the edit. You can plan and script everything down to minute detail. But be prepared to change everything in the edit.
A Love Song (NEXT)
Who: Max Walker-Silverman
Logline: Two childhood sweethearts, both now widowed, share a night by a lake in the mountains.
Camera package: Arriflex 416 with 500t 16mm film
The first spark of an idea for the movie came when: I fell in love and all the music in the world suddenly made sense.
My favorite scene is: I like everything at the end best, maybe because I’d learned more about how to make a movie by then.
The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: set a start date and charge forth.
A darling I had to kill along the way was: so many nice songs we couldn’t afford.
When I heard we got into Sundance: I told my father and he yelled in such a way I thought something terrible had happened but it was just a guttural and unfamiliar form of joy.
Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power (Premieres)
Who: Nina Menkes
Logline: Containing over 175 film clips, Brainwashed explores how shot design intersects with the twin epidemics of sexual abuse/assault and employment discrimination against women: a mesmerizing journey that will unalterably change the way we view and create movies.
The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: I presented my talk, Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Cinema, at Sundance Black House 2018. I was mobbed with people who believed this content should be made into a feature film.
The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: I should trust and act upon my instincts, always.
Something In The Dirt (NEXT)
Who: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Camera package: Mostly RED cameras, but also a Panasonic DVX100, a Panasonic Lumix GH4 and several other smaller cameras.
The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: about a decade ago we were talking a lot about how people would realistically respond to documentary proof of the paranormal. And we were thinking about how The X-Files would be received today.
The most interesting, weirdest, or most difficult location we shot at was: the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan.
When we heard we got into Sundance: we were in shock. It took several weeks to process. We had been submitting our films for about a decade, so it was quite surprising to get in for our first time. We are, of course, extremely happy, excited and grateful.
Who: Hanna Bergholm
Logline: Unlovingness creates a monster.
Our crew size was: 60-80 people
The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: our screenwriter, Ilja Rautsi, got one sentence in his mind: “A boy hatches an evil doppelganger out of an egg.” He told me the idea and I replied: “Cool! But let’s change the main character into a girl,” and we started to develop the story together.
An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: we auditioned 1,200 girls all around Finland for the lead double role of Tinja/Alli. The amazing Siiri Solalinna, who got the part, had never acted before, but is a natural-born talent.
The most expensive thing in our budget was: the animatronic puppet which played the monster creature in its bird-human stage. The puppet was done by master animatronic designer Gustav Hoegen and his team. Hoegen’s previous works include films like Star Wars, Jurassic World and Prometheus. The SFX makeup design for the human- monster was equally valuable, and that was executed by Conor O’Sullivan and his team. O’Sullivan has two Oscar nominations under his belt and his previous works include Game of Thrones, The Dark Knight and Saving Private Ryan.
Who: Isabel Castro
Logline: Doris Muñoz is an ambitious, young music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to launch pop stars.
Camera package: Sony FS7, Sony FS5 and Canon EOS C300
The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: work with friends. And rejection is inevitable.
Calendar Girls (World Cinema Documentary Competition)
Who: Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen
Logline: A coming-of-golden-age film about Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60.
Our crew size was: just the two of us.
Camera package: Two Sony a7SIIs
The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: we stumbled upon the Calendar Girls at the kids event “Touch a Truck” in Cape Coral, Florida, in April of 2018. We were there with our car-crazy three-year-old son and our newborn baby to look at diggers and tractors. All of a sudden there’s this group of women all dressed up in miniskirts and sequins on a truck bed, dancing. We couldn’t stop watching. The same night we contacted the leader of the team, Katherine, to ask for an interview. She answers, “We’re up for anything.” And that’s how it started.
An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: we carried around all our camera equipment in a diaper bag.
The most interesting, weirdest, or most difficult location we shot at was: the beach. Filming dance scenes there was complicated, because sand and cameras don’t mix.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul (Premieres)
Who: Adamma Ebo
Logline: The first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch attempts to help her pastor-husband rebuild their congregation after a scandal.
Our crew size was: about 60-80 people
The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: a major clergy figure from my hometown passed away. I was really unnerved to see how people were willing to forget about his wrongdoings just because he was no longer alive.
An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: the house that I grew up in was only about 20 minutes from our main megachurch location. For the entire production, I stayed at home with my parents in my childhood room and loved every minute of it.
When I heard we got into Sundance: I immediately started blasting gospel and drinking champagne with my twin sister/producer.
This year at Sundance I’m most excited about seeing: Master! It’s the other film that my lead, Regina Hall, is in at Sundance this year. It seems so compelling and is also directed by a Black woman. Cannot wait to check it out.
Emergency (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
Who: Carey Williams
Our crew size was: 75-100 Camera package: ARRI ALEXA LF Mini 4.5K Open Gate with 2.40 extraction with PanaVision Panaspeed spherical prime lenses
The first spark of an idea for this movie came: “from growing up around my darker-skinned Latino family members who have to do this odd calculus all the time of how they were being perceived,” says writer KD Davila. “Do I look like a threat? What can I do to not be perceived wrong? Is that even possible? This is in part about the lengths to which people will go to avoid a potential confrontation in which they will be poorly received, and how that spirals out of control.”
The most interesting, weirdest, or most difficult location we shot at was: the woods in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. We had a snake wrangler on set as precaution.
The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: In production: giving actors and crew a freeing environment yields magic. In post-production: test screenings are your friend and your enemy.
Continue for more of our Sundance Survey 2022