Sundancers – 2014

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 15 students — with very different tastes in film — whose majors range from theater and communications to marine science, business and philosophy. 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 seventh 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 RublevAdaptationClose-upABC for AfricaRashomonPersonaStalkerThe HostThe EelF for FakeL’ArgentSherman’s March, Stroszek, The Thin Blue LineFunky Forest: The First ContactAdam’s ApplesThe Life AquaticIn the Mood for LoveComputer Chess … his book on the intersection of his love for both film and philosophy, Shadow Philosophy: Plato’s Cave and Cinema, is forthcoming from Routledge Publishing.

Andrew Bene, who prefers the name “Andy,” is a Computer Science major at Eckerd College. He’s been interested in film since 7th grade, when he got a spot on the school’s paper writing media reviews. He has worked on several and acted in many student films that he hopes never see the light of day. His favorite film changes by the month, but he has an appreciation of a wide variety of works from low budget exploitation movies to somber dramas about normal people’s lives. He’s wanted to go to Sundance since he first learned about film festivals, and is wishing he could see every film there.

Kara Brown is a junior  at Eckerd studying Communications and minoring in Journalism as well as Film Studies. Kara was born and raised in Orlando, and, before you ask, no she doesn’t get to go to Disney all the time. She loves all types of media including film and after college plans on pursuing a career in making web series’ for Youtube. Her favorite filmmakers include The Fine Brothers, Morgan Spurlock, Rhett & Link, Grace Helbig, Kathryn Bigelow and Joss Whedon. After hearing about the Sundance Film Festival for years she is excited to finally be able to attend, learn more about filmmaking, as well as see many new movies as possible. She is also curious as to what YouTube has in store for the festival.

Dominick Cupetilli is a junior at Eckerd College majoring in Visual Art with minors in Journalism and Anthropology. He has always wanted to go to the Sundance Film Festival and immediately jumped at the opportunity through Eckerd. He has no formal film study background but is very interested in learning more about independent film and the culture that surrounds it. His favorite movies include Candy, Little Miss Sunshine, Lords of Dogtown, and the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy. He is most excited to see Zach Braff’s new film, Wish I Was Here.

A senior film studies major with minors in philosophy and environmental studies, Ben Elliot has made many films ranging from environmental documentaries to strange comedic bird animations. While his interests are scattered, his ambitions are in the field of comedy. Ben’s pet peeves include world-views expressed in the form of tweets, close-talkers, and writing about himself in the third person. Among his favorite films are Adaptation, The Graduate, Holy Motors, Grizzly Man and countless others that he couldn’t think of when he wrote this. He has wanted to go to Sundance since he learned what it was in high school and cannot wait to tell all of his friends who aren’t attending about all the cool movies they haven’t seen yet.

Hailey Escobar is a junior at Eckerd College, studying Interdisciplinary Arts for Creative Writing and Film Studies. I’m working to be a professional screenwriter and filmmaker, a desire that has filled my need to go on this trip since I first met Professor Nathan Anderson and heard about the trip my freshman year. Some of my favorite filmmakers include Wes Anderson, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris is my favorite movie), Joss Whedon, Steven Spielberg, and Kathryn Bigelow.

Chelsea Fearn is a Sophomore and marine science major at Eckerd College. Her pursuit of a large variety of art forms, both in practice and viewing the work of others, has lead her most recently to cinema.  As a child she enjoyed films such as Strictly Ballroom (1993) and Oklahoma(1955) and is now looking forward to viewing indie films at the Sundance festival.

Alexa Ford is a double major in Film Studies and Psychology and am hoping to someday find a career that integrates both of these passions. I am especially interested in the area of Independent film and am excited to broaden my knowledge at the Sundance Film Festival. Her favorite types of films are those that are created with a clear intention of educating and provoking thought.

Connor Heckler, a Sociology and Creative Writing Major, refined his Heckling craft early on, heckling in the Wrigley Field bleachers. Heckler has been looking forward to heckling on the festival circuit and is excited to be working his craft at Sundance. He enjoys heckling, talking about himself in the third person, and writing. Heckler recently finished a book he started nearly ten years ago and was so happy with it he considers reading another one very soon. Heckler’s favorite directors are Ralph Bakshi, Quentin Tarantino, Michael J. Nelson, Ed Wood, and Joel Hodgson. Heckler’s favorite films are Branded to Kill, Manos Hands of Fate, A Clockwork Orange, and Fritz the Cat.

Aaron Levy is a senior communications major at Eckerd with a concentration in journalism and film studies. As a scholar of both the written and spoken word, he serves as News Editor for Eckerd’s award-winning newspaper, The Current, and enjoys writing about music, film, style and popular culture. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, his favorite films include The Triplets of Belleville, The Big Lebowski and first two Godfather movies. Despite his land-locked heritage, Aaron loves to surf and has spent much time surfing in southern California and Florida. Follow his adventures on Instagram @aarlevy.

Maggie Sanger in her own words “I am a visual art and human development major from Nashville, Tennessee. I enjoy, and have practiced every medium of art, yet know very little about film. I am trying to expand my knowledge of film by taking this course and am hoping that my background in psychology will only help me in my goal to be a more critical film viewer.”

A junior at Eckerd College, Zach Toll is studying (and fascinated by) communication and psychology. Working to break into the entertainment industry, he has interned at a prominent casting agency in his hometown of Philadelphia, has experience in concert booking, and is currently working in social media P.R. for a California-based record label. He has also sold, among other things, confections and cheese. Never one to obsess over a particular genre, his list of favorite films includes American Beauty, Broadway Danny Rose, Mean Girls, and Road House. Additionally, Zach enjoys the written works of Dostoyevsky, Junot Diaz and Iceberg Slim.

Check out the profiles of past Sundancers: 2009 & 2011