Colorado’s Stanley Hotel will host Sundance Institute’s Signature Directors Lab in 2024

The nonprofit global arts organization Sundance Institute and the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado announced today that the Stanley Hotel will host the Institute’s signature Directors Lab in 2024 with support from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). For over four decades, Sundance Institute labs have brought together promising new independent storytellers with accomplished artists to develop new work and build a long-lasting, vibrant community.

The Directors Lab nurtures diverse, original voices through an immersive filmmaking experience over two to three weeks every summer. Connected to nature, the lab creates a safe, inclusive space for first-time feature directors to rehearse, shoot, and edit scenes that will build their skills working with actors, exploring text, and finding the visual language and aesthetic for their films.

For over 40 years, the Directors Lab has taken place in the founding location of the Sundance Resort in Utah. Next year, the lab will relocate to Colorado while construction in outdoor areas and primary shooting locations takes place to enhance the Sundance property.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to bring the Directors Lab to the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. In identifying a host for our Directors Lab, it was essential to find a space that was surrounded by nature for artists to create, had multiple environments for shooting, and could be an environment where artists could leave behind the distractions of everyday life and immerse themselves in their projects. We are deeply grateful to both the Stanley Hotel and the state of Colorado for welcoming the Directors Lab to Colorado,” said Michelle Satter, founding senior director of artist programs at Sundance Institute.
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2023 SFFILM Rainin Grant Recipients Announced

SFFILM has announced the recipients for the 2023 SFFILM Rainin Grant, the flagship artist development program offered by SFFILM’s artist development initiative known as SFFILM Makers. The announcement is in in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.

Seventeen filmmaking teams have been selected as recipients of the SFFILM Rainin Grant which includes $425,000 in funding and professional support for their narrative projects at different stages of production.

“Giving independent films and filmmakers the resources they need to thrive is the core of our work at SFFILM,” said SFFILM’s Executive Director Anne Lai. “Our long partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation has helped to develop filmmakers from around the world whose voices and stories may not have had the chance to become films without this kind of essential support.”

The SFFILM Rainin Grant program is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US, and supports films that address social justice issues—the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges—in a positive and meaningful way through plot, character, theme, or setting. Awards are made to multiple projects once a year, for screenwriting, development, and post-production. Recipients are offered a cash grant up to $25,000 for screenwriting and development, post-production as well as a two-month residency at FilmHouse, SFFILM’s premier artist residency space.
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Psychic Thriller “The Activated Man” Set World Premiere On December 3

Director Nicholas Gyeney (Beta Test, Ultra Low) and producer Kelsey Aho of Genie Productions recently announced that Dances With Films NYC will host the World Premiere of The Activated Man, Gyeney’s deeply personal latest feature.

The mind-bending thriller will premiere on December 3rd at the Regal Union Square as the Closing Night Film of Dances with Films NYC.

Drawing on the universal theme of grief with a twist that Gyeney’s work has become noted for, The Activated Man stars Jamie Costa as an everyman who loses his beloved dog. His grief spurs disturbing visions that cause him to wonder if he’s dealing with the usual highs and lows of a painful loss, or if darker forces are preying on his mind.

The star-studded cast is rounded out by genre icons Tony Todd (Candyman), Sean Young (Blade Runner), and four-time Jason Voorhees Kane Hodder, alongside Andrew Keegan (10 Things I Hate About You) and longtime Gyeney collaborator Scott Brown as the villainous Fedora Man.

The film follows Ors Gabriel who struggles with the grief from losing his best friend and beloved dog to cancer, and the trauma which brings on strange visions only Ors can see. While he questions whether his mind has fractured or if it’s actually real, a mysterious rise in murder-suicides takes hold of the city, and Ors becomes haunted by images of a shadowy figure known as ‘The Fedora Man’.

Through torments and terror, Ors must face his fears and confront ‘The Fedora Man’ as he uncovers dark secrets from his past, while finally embracing who he really is, and what he is meant to do.


Pat Mitchell to Receive Vanguard Award for Philanthropy at Sundance Film Festival’s Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years Presented by Chase Sapphire®

The nonprofit Sundance Institute today revealed an additional honoree of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival’s fundraiser, Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years Presented by Chase Sapphire®, which will take place on January 18, 2024, at the DeJoria Center in Utah. The gala, which kicks off the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival, celebrates individuals who have made notable contributions to the storytelling landscape. This year, former Sundance Institute Board Chair and trustee Pat Mitchell will receive the Vanguard Award for Philanthropy, recognizing her exemplary commitment to the Institute’s support and to philanthropy for social impact.

As previously announced, the Opening Night Gala will also recognize Christopher Nolan, who will be honored with the inaugural Sundance Institute Trailblazer Award. Celine Song and Maite Alberdi — who premiered their films Past Lives and The Eternal Memory, respectively, at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival — will each receive the annual Vanguard Award Presented by Acura.

The annual Opening Night Gala enables the nonprofit to raise critical funds to support independent artists year-round through labs, grants, and public programming that nurture artists globally. The 2024 event is made possible with the generous support of Chase Sapphire and the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation. The upcoming Sundance Film Festival will take place January 18–28, 2024, in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as online from January 25–28.

“It is with immense excitement that we will honor Pat Mitchell at our Opening Night Gala,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “Beyond being a stalwart champion of the role of media and storytelling as an agent for social change, Pat is a fierce advocate for gender and racial equality, and in all her diverse roles and responsibilities — as a journalist, documentary producer, and media executive — has supported the stories and ideas that move us forward toward a more equitable future. Pat’s career and commitments of her time and resources epitomize what it means to be a leader for positive change. I am honored to celebrate Pat and the boundless value of independent storytelling as we near the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival.”
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Zombie Comedy “As We Know It” Trailer Release

The zombie comedy is from Josh Monkarsh and stars Mike Castle, Oliver Cooper, Taylor Blackwell, with Chris Parnell, and Pam Grier.

Set in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, struggling writer James Bishop grapples with the emotional shrapnel of a recent breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Emily. As James holds up in his Hollywood Hills home with writer’s block, his eccentric best friend Bruce shows up with bad news. The city has plunged into chaos by an unusual zombie outbreak, courtesy of tainted soy milk, wreaking havoc on James’ semi-charmed kinda life. With the streets of Los Angeles swarming with the undead, James, Bruce, and Emily come together to barricade themselves in the house while reconciling their personal struggles. And occasionally, letting in the only food delivery service still operating, Abracadabra.

Bringing together elements of romance, friendship, and the absurdity of survival, AS WE KNOW IT is a rollercoaster of laughs and unexpected twists. With the fate of humanity hanging in the balance, our trio must confront their own demons, rekindle lost love, and, of course, avoid being turned into the living dead. Packed with witty dialogue, nostalgic nods to the ’90s, and a unique blend of comedy and horror, AS WE KNOW IT is a riotous ride that proves even in the face of an apocalypse, there’s always room for love and laughter.

AS WE KNOW IT is co-written and directed by Josh Monkarsh. Co-written by Brandon DePaolo and Christopher Francis. Produced by Monkarsh and Daniel Cummings, and Co-produced by K. Asher Levin and Joshua Fruehling. Cinematography by Stephen St. Peter. Composed by Michl Britsch. A Traffic City Productions film.

The film will be in theatres in New York City, Chicago, and Seattle on November 10th, in Los Angeles on November 15th and Boston on November 17th.


The Job of Songs – Embrace the Power of Irish Music Documentary Sets Release

Tourists flock to the west coast of Ireland to take in the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, but the real treasure lies in the soulful, acoustic sounds wafting out of pubs and living rooms of Doolin, County Clare. The denizens of this unspoiled coastal village of tight-knit neighbors and unlocked doors revel in the passion and history of their traditional folk songs, using music as a thread through generations to create community, connection, and joy.

THE JOB OF SONGS was made by a crew of three women, who are first time feature filmmakers: LILA SCHMITZ (director, producer, editor), ANIKA KAN GREVSTAD (director of photography, producer), and FENGYI XU (producer). The film was made with the support of acclaimed documentarians double Oscar-winning writer-producer-director Bill Guttentag and Emmy and Grammy Award winning documentarian Doug Pray. The film has screened at numerous prestigious International Film Festivals including DOC NYC, Galway Film Fleadh, Newport Beach Film Festival, Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival, and many others. It won Best International Documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh.

Gravitas Ventures will release the film on digital platforms on November 21, 2023. The film has a running time of 74 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

See the official trailer below:


“Look Track” Trailer Premiere, Sets Release Date

On the verge of a breakdown, a highly anxious man, sets off on a multi-day hike through the New Zealand wilderness to clear his head, per the films logline released by Dark Sky Films.

Written and directed by Thomas Sainsbury, the psychological thriller has set its release on digital platforms and VOD on December 1st, 2023.

The film follows Ian, a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, disappears from the world and takes a hike in the New Zealand wilderness. His efforts to avoid other hikers are futile and he is drawn into their worlds, but he can never shake the feeling that they are being stalked by someone, or something, sinister.

As Ian’s paranoia grows, the other hikers become wary of him. He’s cagey about his past, he never sleeps, and his anxiety leads him to make concerning claims. Far from society, Ian starts to question his own sanity before plunging into a bloody battle for survival.

The film stars Thomas Sainsbury, Hayden J. Weal, Tawanda Manyimo.


Sundance Institute and The Walt Disney Studios Launch Fund to Support Underrepresented Directors

Today, the nonprofit Sundance Institute and The Walt Disney Studios are proud to announce the establishment of the Project Advancement and Completion Fund, an initiative designed to provide grants to fiction directors from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. This fund aims to empower and uplift filmmakers from diverse backgrounds and genres, fostering a more inclusive cinema landscape.

The Project Advancement and Completion Fund will support nine directors currently engaged in fiction features through Sundance Institute’s esteemed artist programs. These talented filmmakers, hailing from a range of traditionally underrepresented communities, including women, AAPI, Black, Indigenous/Native, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, disability-identifying, and religiously marginalized individuals, will be granted the resources needed to bring their unique visions to life.

“After working with several Sundance filmmakers, we know how important it is for directors to develop their first independent feature films in order to take on larger projects at the studio level and we couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with Sundance Institute in an effort to help them do just that,” said Mahin Ibrahim, Director, Creative Talent Pathways, Representation & Inclusion Strategies. “At Disney, we believe in the power of diverse voices and storytelling, and this initiative reaffirms our commitment to empowering underrepresented talent in the industry.”
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“All of Us Strangers” Leads Gotham Awards Nominations

Searchlight Pictures

The 2023 Gotham Awards has just announced its list of nominees. “All of Us Strangers,” romantic fantasy film written and directed by Andrew Haigh, led the with four nominations, including a nod for best international feature. Gotham Awards is touted as first major awards show of the awards season.

“We are proud to announce this year’s Gotham Award nominees and look forward to celebrating these amazing storytellers in a few weeks,” Sharp said during the broadcast. “The Gotham Awards in many ways reflects the industry and community we serve. Seen by this year’s nominees, storytelling knows no boundaries as our industry continues to find new audiences across the globe.”

Along with “All of Us Strangers,” films up for best international feature include the French courtroom drama thriller “Anatomy of a Fall,” the black comedy fantasy film “Poor Things,” the family drama “Tótem” and historical drama film “The Zone of Interest”.

Past winners of the big prize at Gothams included “Spotlight” (2015), “Moonlight” (2016) and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022). All such films eventually won the the Academy Awards’ Best Picture Film in their respective years.

The Gotham Awards will be held live Monday, Nov. 27, in New York City at 7 p.m.

Here is the full list:

Best Feature
Passages — dir. Ira Sachs
Past Lives — dir. Celine Song
Reality — dir. Tina Satter
Showing Up — dir. Kelly Reichardt
A Thousand and One — dir. A.V. Rockwell
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TAAF and Sundance Institute Announce Second Cohort of AAPI Artists for Fellowship and Collab Scholarship

The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) and the Sundance Institute are proud to return for the second year of the “Sundance Institute | The Asian American Foundation Fellowship and Collab Scholarship” to provide AAPI artists working in film and television with professional development opportunities and community building with like-minded creatives and mentors. This program supports artists across the spectrum of their career from emerging artists to more established ones with the goal of meaningfully increasing AAPI representation in independent media.

TAAF’s support for the program is part of its ongoing commitment to narrative change, an initiative focused on portraying AAPIs authentically to build belonging in America. “In order to see genuine depictions of AAPIs that reflect the nuances of our experiences and our intersectionalities, the diversity of talent behind the camera is as integral as that of those on screen,” said Norman Chen, CEO of TAAF. “TAAF is grateful to our philanthropic partners The MacArthur Foundation and Panda Express, whose support ensures that AAPI artists have the resources and mentorship to bring their stories to life.”

The fellowship offers six AAPI artists per year a year-round learning experience to advance their professional development in the arts. Through the fellowship, each artist receives creative and tactical support along with a $20,000 unrestricted grant. Six emerging AAPI creatives receive Collab Scholarships, which include a self-paced course on Sundance Collab, bespoke feedback on their current project, and engagement opportunities with Sundance staff and the creative community. Artists can be working in film or television across fiction or nonfiction.

“We’re so excited to continue uplifting Asian American and Pacific Islander voices through this collaboration with TAAF,” said Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs, Director, Artist Accelerator at Sundance Institute. “Last year’s fellowship and Sundance Collab scholarship bolstered our support of fresh diverse AAPI voices, and we look forward to discovering where these opportunities will lead another group of talented storytellers from the community.”
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