Monday, October 14

Students gather at film festival, view works of UCLA alumni


PARK CITY, Utah “”mdash; Amid a flurry of passed business cards
and congratulatory handshakes, current and former students from
UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gathered here
last week to celebrate the accomplishments of the school’s
filmmakers.

The event, held at the midpoint of the 10-day Sundance Film
Festival, was thrown by TFT as a way for festival attendees with
UCLA ties to connect with one another, as well as to honor those
writers and directors with films that had been included in the
influential independent film festival’s programming.

But the cheerful sounds of clinking glasses and upbeat chatter
couldn’t quite drown out the fact that this year’s
festival did not include anywhere near the number of films helmed
by UCLA alumni as it did in 2003.

“Last year was astounding,” admitted Robert Rosen,
dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television and the
party’s host.

Referring to the successes of UCLA filmmakers included in the
2003 Sundance Film Festival like Catherine Hardwicke, who received
the Dramatic Directing Award for “Thirteen,” Rosen
agreed it would be difficult to duplicate the kind of UCLA
representation enjoyed at Sundance last year under any
circumstances. However, he was quick to rattle off the short list
of names of alumni who had been included this year.

Most prominent in that group is screenwriter Scott Alan Kosar,
who penned “The Machinist,” a psychological thriller
directed by Brad Anderson and starring Christian Bale and Jennifer
Jason Leigh. “The Machinist” was part of the premieres
program, a grouping of films, which unlike those in the dramatic
competition, often have already found distribution.

Another alumna, Carroll Parrott Blue, a 1980 MFA graduate in
film production, co-directed “The Dawn at My Back: Memoir of
a Black Texas Upbringing,” which was included in the online
portion of the festival. This year was her first attending
Sundance.

“It’s been really intense watching it all
unfold,” Blue said of her festival experience.

Other guests of the UCLA reception chose to brave the cold and
snow to come to Park City for reasons as varied as serious
networking to just using it as an excuse to take a vacation. The
one common thread seemed to be a genuine passion for quality
films.

Jennifer Wu, a current graduate student in the producer’s
program, was willing to cram into a small condo with more than a
dozen of her friends and classmates in order to attend Sundance for
the first time.

“Hopefully, next year, I’ll be here to promote a
film,” Wu said.

Les Miller was doing just that. Currently on a leave of absence
from the graduate directing program, Miller served as an associate
producer for Mario Van Peebles’ “BAADASSSSS!,” a
tribute to the creative drive of his legendary father, Melvin Van
Peebles.

“It’s a whole different experience when you’re
here with a project,” Miller said. “You’re
stepping into the professional arena. It’s a whole new
world.”

Miller felt it was so important to her career to attend Sundance
that she paid for her own trip, as the small budget for
“BAADASSSSS!” would not cover her expenses.

Although Wu was not at Sundance with a film of her own, the
possibilities for meeting other filmmakers, and a little advanced
planning made her feel the expense of the trip was worthwhile. By
booking a condo in October, Wu said she was able to keep her costs
to a level that most other students could afford.

Director of Sundance Film Festival Programming Geoffrey Gilmore,
also a visiting assistant professor at TFT, agreed that Sundance
and receptions held there, like the one hosted by UCLA, can be
invaluable for filmmakers.

“Some of the people here are former students of
mine,” Gilmore said. “It’s always (fulfilling to
see that).”

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