Sundance Film Festival

Ahh, we are back in the thick, smoggy air of Los Angeles, where we can look back fondly at our time in the mountains of Park City for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival (see the full list of 2015 Sundance winners below).

Be sure to also check out the photos from our 18th Annual Actors Only Brunch and our 18th Annual Filmmakers Luncheon.

But without further ado, here are the SAGindie staff’s personal takes (including favorite films) from this year’s fest…


Darrien’s Take:

James White

I hate to sound all jaded and… stuff, but Sundance is just a “thing I do every freakin’ year”. I see people, and they are having a great time – I get it, you’re hanging with friends and seeing movies, staying out late at crazy parties. I remember those days. And at the risk of sounding like someone’s grandmother, reminiscing about her glory days, I will just say that I remember when Sundance was fun for me, too. And yeah, even now, it beats diggin’ ditches, so don’t let me sound like it’s a hardship. It’s just difficult on many levels.

1) First, I’d actually like to SEE movies at Sundance. I know they are there, others have talked about them. But every year, I set aside about 12 movie tickets just for me, things that I want to see. And every year, it gets whittled down to just a few. I knew I was in trouble when I had to give up my Day 1 (why can’t we say Opening Night?) ticket. One down, several more to lose. The fact is, I have a job and it means sometimes doing meetings or going to receptions instead of sitting in movies. And there is a reception/brunch/cocktail party every.single.waking.minute (and many while I’m asleep). So every day, I look at my tickets and decide if I can actually go see the movies that I’ve selected. THEN, I give my tickets to someone who I think will appreciate them. Everyone thinks that, since I’m always at film festivals, I’ve seen every movie. Nope! I’ve seen probably 1/3 of what you all have seen. If it weren’t for the cocktails, this job would blow. But cocktails, there are. ☺

2) We actually WORK at Sundance. We throw two (2) brunches that require other people to show up – 1) as designated hosts, and 2) as rsvp’d guests. All in all, these go fairly smoothly. It’s a crazy time when we have only 10 days to hear what films made it into the festival and to FINISH getting hosts for the brunches. And once we have our hosts, we follow-up, we confirm, we give instructions, etc. And every year or so, we have hosts – people who’s names and pictures are on the invitation which goes to every film at the festival AND the trades – who just don’t bother to come. It doesn’t happen often, and sometimes there are good reasons, but for the most part – the actual idea of making a commitment just doesn’t seem to matter. We have been lucky, though, to have continuously had a great, fun, and wonderful string of hosts for many years now. Anyone who doesn’t show up, well, it’s their loss. WE have a good time.

3) But not to seem like I dislike Sundance – I don’t. I still love it. When there is snow on the ground (but not actively falling and blowing into my eyes), it’s beautiful. I have seen some amazing films there over the years. This year, I saw Dope and James White – both of which I loved and both of which were bought. I also had a chance to see many people that I haven’t seen in months or even years. Never mind that we all live in Los Angeles – that’s not the point. At some time, we were all in the same place in Park City and it was quite a reunion.


Eliza’s Take:


Most Impressive Dance Moves: Joe Swanberg and Wendy McColm’s athletic lifts at the Unexpected after party.
Most Relentless Dance Moves: Dustin Guy Defa, every dance floor.
Film I Liked the Most: Western
Film I Liked Second Most: The Witch? Finders Keepers? I saw a bunch of good ones.
Film I Liked the Least: Some Lifetime film on TV at the condo about some woman who owns a bookstore.
Film I Should Have Seen, but Missed: The Wolfpack
Most Entertaining After Party: The Entertainment! after party.
MVP of the Restaurant Game: Good Karma, for feeding me every day.
Best Dressed: me.

the end


Colin’s Take:

Welcome to Leith

My very first trip to Sundance was a lot of fun, as you can see in the photo above of me and my friends rampaging through town with our Nazi guns!

Kidding. That’s a photo from Welcome to Leith, a documentary I saw, but evidently not at the right time. I liked the film — about a KKK leader trying to infiltrate a small North Dakota town — but while there were rumors in the audience that white supremacists were attempting to crash our screening (and the police presence at the doors only heightened the anxiety), it was actually the screening a few days later where things got heated. Bringing the film’s subject in for a Q&A (via Skype), he started spouting his racist bullshit, and the crowd didn’t take that too well. They apparently had shut it down before things got too heated. So I missed the fireworks and will have to wait to witness a film festival riot some other time.

I was bummed to have missed out on The Wolfpack, but such is life. Another documentary about a certain litigious religion that I don’t dare mention for fear of retribution is also a film that I may or may not watch when it does or doesn’t air on HBO in March.

My most pleasant surprise was The Bronze, a raunchy R-rated comedy that doesn’t generally fit the “quirky, self-serious coming-of-age” aesthetic of the Sundance indie stereotype. Starring and written by Melissa Rauch, The Bronze easily fits in among the Bad Santa/Bad Teacher/Bad Words sub-genre of seemingly harmless people doing seriously nasty stuff. And it’s good to see another comedic actress take the lead in a no-holds-barred performance. Hopefully Rauch’s career will go the way of that other funny Melissa, and she’ll get more chances to showcase her chops on the big screen.


Amanda’s Take:


Finally back from my first Sundance experience and what a whirlwind 6 days…

The Standout: Dope — a stellar cast took Rick Famuyiwa’s well-written script to the next level. It hit all the right beats: humor, drama, romance and has probably solidified itself as one of my favorite teen coming of age/comedy flicks. It scored a distribution deal, so I’ll definitely be able to see it again, just not soon enough.

The Surprise: The Bronze — I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got this pick for our opening night tickets, I thought it was a drama — how wrong I was. Peppered with raunchy humor and headed by a really dislikable female character this movie had me laughing out loud along with most of the audience. Melissa Rauch’s Midwest accent is grating on the nerves and the ears but it makes for great comedy. And that sex scene… legendary.

The I’m So Sad I Missed It: The Wolfpack — I’ve heard so many amazing things about this doc, and it took home the Grand Jury Prize for the category, that I’m almost mad at myself for checking out The Visit during the same time slot. Absolutely a must-see on my list when it arrives to the masses.

The Honorable Mention: Brooklyn — To choose between an attractive Italian-American from Brooklyn and an attractive Irishman is enough make anyone generally question their life choices, but Nick Hornby also weaves in a really stirring drama about leaving home and becoming your own person. Saoirse Ronan shines as the lead, and I just felt good leaving the theater, that has to count for something right?


2015 Sundance Film Festival Winners:

Grand Jury Prizes – Dramatic

  • U.S. Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • Directing Award – U.S. Dramatic: Robert Eggers, The Witch
  • Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award – U.S. Dramatic: Tim Talbott, The Stanford Prison Experiment
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision: Advantageous
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Excellence in Editing: Lee Haugen, Dope
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography: Brandon Trost, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • World Cinema Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic: Slow West
  • Directing Award – World Cinema Dramatic: Alanté Kavaïté, The Summer of Sangaile
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Regina Casé and Camila Márdila, The Second Mother
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Jack Reynor, Glassland
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Germain McMicking, Partisan
  • Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: The Stanford Prison Experiment

Grand Jury Prizes – Documentary

  • U.S. Grand Jury Prize – Documentary: The Wolfpack
  • Directing Award – U.S. Documentary: Matthew Heineman, Cartel Land
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Matthew Heineman, Cartel Land
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Break Out First Feature: Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, (T)ERROR
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking: Bill Ross and Turner Ross, Western
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact: Marc Silver, 3 1/2 Minutes
  • World Cinema Grand Jury Prize – Documentary: The Russian Woodpecker
  • Directing Award – World Cinema Documentary: Kim Longinotto, Dreamcatcher
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Jim Scott, How To Change The World
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact: Pervert Park
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Unparalleled Access: Pervert Park

Grand Jury Prizes – Shorts

  • Short Film Grand Jury Prize: World of Tomorrow
  • Short Film Jury Award – U.S. Fiction: SMILF
  • Short Film Jury Award – International Fiction: Oh Lucy!
  • Short Film Jury Award – Non-Fiction: The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul
  • Short Film Jury Award – Animation: Storm Hits Jacket
  • Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting: Back Alley
  • Short Film Special Jury Award for Visual Poetry: Object

Audience Awards

  • Audience Award – U.S. Dramatic: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • Audience Award – U.S. Documentary: Meru
  • Audience Award – NEXT: James White
  • Audience Award – World Cinema Dramatic: Umrika
  • Audience Award – World Cinema Documentary: Dark Horse

Congrats to this year’s winners!


If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent film-related topic we should write about, email for consideration.

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