Almost every year, a small group of students from Eckerd College takes a trip to the Sundance Film Festival to learn the ins and outs of American independent film. This year our group includes a philosophy professor (me) and 16 students — with very different tastes in film — whose majors range from arts and communications to physics and marine science. We’ll give you the gossip on what’s happening in Park City during the festival, we’ll keep you up to date on the latest news, and we’ll post reviews of the best and worst things we get the chance to see.
Here’s a bit about us:
Nathan Andersen teaches philosophy and film at Eckerd College. He also runs the International Cinema Series and is the co-director of the annual “Visions of Nature, Voices of Nature,” Environmental Film Festival. This is his fifth year taking students to Sundance. A few highlights from his past trips: hanging out (briefly) with Forrest Whittaker, Darren Aronofsky, David Gordon Green and Guy Maddin … attempting (unsuccessfully) to get into the J.Lo – Ben Affleck (remember them?) party at Harry ‘Os … successfully getting into the Liz Phair/Ben Folds Five concert at Harry ‘Os … catching a midnight showing of Slamdance’s Paranormal Activity with almost the entire class and freaking out together as we walked up the long staircase to our condo. His favorite films of all time include Andrei Rublev, Adaptation, Close-up, ABC for Africa,Rashomon, Persona, Stalker, The Host, The Eel, F for Fake, L’Argent, Sherman’s March, Stroszek, The Thin Blue Line, Funky Forest: The First Contact, Adam’s Apples, The Life Aquatic, In the Mood for Love … his students (who have heard it far too many times) laugh every time he tells them (once again) that “the film I’m going to show you now is one of the greatest films ever made.”
Kaye Breeman is a sophomore majoring in philosophy, who has always wanted to go to Sundance. She has only one kidney, but that doesn’t stop her from aspiring to save the world from the evils of poverty, hunger and global warming. She’d also like to make movies. In her free time she does paper mache: masks and maracas mostly. Her favorite independent film is Andrew Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation, and her favorite books include Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is illuminated.
Aprille Anne Brooker also enjoys Ayn Rand, David Sedaris, Charles Bukowski and, wait for it, J.K. Rowling (me too, Aprille!). She came to Eckerd after what she describes as a wasted year at Kent State, and is now able to fulfill one of her dreams by going to the Sundance Film Festival. She’s a big fan of Wes Anderson and shows like Dexter and Entourage, but thinks “uniqueness” is overrated. She plans to go to law school in order to be able to sign contracts for clients when she achieves her ultimate aspiration of becoming a talent agent.
While Rajeev Rupani‘s first exposure to alternative cinema came when he took a class on “International Cinema” from Prof. Andersen, he grew up in the United Arab Emirates watching both Hollywood and Bollywood hits. His favorite film is Dil Chahta Hai, a Bollywood film about male bonding, friendship and growing up. He enjoys watching Heroes on TV. He is a physics major, who hopes someday to work at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) as a research scientist.
Ben Hamburger, from Silver Spring, MD, is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary arts. He likes movies outside of the mainstream, likes to hang out on the porch in his underwear striking up conversations with anyone who passes by, likes to paint and write and travel and hopes someday to write about travel and art.
Emma Lord is a sophomore studying marine biology, and has never been farther west than Texas, she is fascinated by art and film and wastes time reading fan fiction. She’s learning to knit, and is a member of the Eckerd College search and rescue team. Her ultimate aspiration, which reflects her love for the latest book/film craze surrounding Twilight, is either to die happy or become an immortal vampire, or to meet Matt Thiessen in an airport, or to save the oceans.
Jason Voss is from the Boston area, majoring in communications with a minor in film studies. His favorite films include 8 1/2, Adaptation, Happiness, and In the Company of Men. Last year he worked as a PA on the set of the locally shot and produced film, Misconceptions. Whether or not he ends up in the film industry, he knows that films will always play an important part in his life.
Anastassia Smorodinskaya is from Moscow, Russia but currently resides in Middlebury, Vermont. She is a senior at Eckerd, majoring in communications and theater, and hopes to be able to meet interesting people in the cinema and entertainment industry at Sundance this year. She hopes some day to host her own travel show. Her favorite films include Arizona Dream (Emir Kusturica), Trainspotting and anything by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu. She wastes too much time on gossip blogs and loves to travel, nap and hang out with friends – but she does speak three languages and worked as a news anchor and field reporter in Moscow.
Ali McKenna aims to broaden her view of the film industry, beyond Hollywood mainstream cinema, and also hopes that the Sundance experience may provide insight into career opportunities. She hopes to meet celebrities, but also to talk to people working in various aspects of the film industry. Her favorite films include Run, Lola, Run, The Sandlot, Wayne’s World, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She also loves South Park, Arrested Development andMystery Science Theater. She was born with purple eyes, just like Elizabeth Taylor – and she also once severed an achilles’ tendon.
Jack Browning is another philosophy major, going to Sundance because he wants to learn more about independent film. Loves to sleep and snowboard, not at the same time, and has a dark sense of humor. He hopes someday to be involved in the film industry, in almost any capacity. He likes all kinds of movies, including Little Miss Sunshine and Clerks, both of which had their premieres at Sundance.
Lila Lupetin harks from Evanston, Illinois and is going to Sundance to get away from the Chicago winter, watch lots of movies and have fun. She knits incessantly (even in Prof. Andersen’s classroom!), and is dedicated to arts and crafts. Though she considers herself a sucker for a good chick flick, she also enjoys offbeat films like Amélie, The Science of Sleep andSlumdog Millionaire. She’s into Ayn Rand, likes to drink coffee and eat candy in the darkness of a movie theater, and loves performing on stage.
Tom McGrath is studying history and wants to go to Sundance because he loves movies and has never been to Utah. His favorite films include Garden State (which premiered at Sundance) and Lost in Translation, and his favorite thing to do is cruise the skyway. He speaks Russian and aims to be either the ultimate ski bum or the coolest college professor ever.
Lizzy Kirkham is from Portland, Oregon, majoring in Environmental Studies. She’s excited to go to Sundance because she loves independent film, including Baghead which was one of the favorites at Sundance this past year. What she’s not saying, of course, is that she is also an avid skier, who was on the Lincoln High School Ski Team during her last two years of high school.
Jerad Ford is a sophomore in communications, with minors in creative writing and film studies. He claims that he loves everyone and enjoys trying new things. He hates the mindlessness of television, but can’t say no to video games. He hopes eventually to write and direct his own shows and that the next time he goes to Sundance it will be to show a film that he had a hand in making.
Alex McDonald is a northeastern at heart from Montclair, NJ, a northern suburb of NYC. He’s a junior Business major, and member of the men’s tennis team at Eckerd. He’s a sport fanatic who also takes academics seriously. He loves sport films like Remember the Titans and Miracle — but also films like Good Will Hunting. He’s very excited to be heading for Sundance, though he thinks it will put him a bit out of his element since film has always fascinated him but he has never yet taken the opportunity to immerse himself in learning about it.
Sam Mitchell is majoring in Environmental Studies and hopes someday to make environmental films. He’s from New Jersey, loves Robot Chicken andWeeds and films like Goodfellas and The Life Aquatic. He likes to hang out, play video games and claims to have been abused by a peacock.
Eliza Sheehan is a senior from Manhattan studying communications. She loves film, travelling, meeting people, and hopes to meet filmmakers and spot celebrities at Sundance. Her favorite films include American Gangster, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, The Wackness, and War Child. She hopes someday to be involved in filmmaking, telling stories that help people make sense of and work through the complexities and issues of life.
Matt Went is back for his second year at Sundance – this time as part of a documentary filmmaking program with Real Ideas Studio and the Slamdance Film Festival. He plans to become a cinematographer and possibly a director after finishing at Eckerd. He is a philosophy major, whose favorite director is Jim Jarmusch and favorite movie is Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. He loves all types of movies, except for musicals and slow foreign flicks.
Questions? Contact Nathan Andersen)