Alex Gruneich, Jake Cloobeck, Hannah Drill, and Ethan Jadow at the Sundance Film Festival
Once again, Forman has taken student learning beyond the classroom. A group from Forman School recently had a VIP experience at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. The event, which took place in Park City, Utah, was held January 21-31, 2016. Seniors Alexander Gruneich, Ethan Jadow, Hannah Drill, and Jacob Cloobeck attended for a long weekend on the tail end of the festival with Arts Teacher Sean Kelly.
This wonderful experience was made possible by Gruneich's parents, Kevin and Donna, who have attended the festival for years. "My parents have been involved with Sundance since we moved to Utah around 10 years ago. My mom became more and more involved as the years progressed and organizes the Sundance Film Festival's opening night event called An Artist at the Table every year," Gruneich said. "She is also Chairman of Sundance's Utah Advisory Board, and helped us select tickets to the best films in the festival. I've gone for the past four years; however, this year was different because of all the panels we were able to attend as part of the Ignite program."
Forman participated in the Sundance Ignite young filmmakers program, which gave them exclusive access to independent films, panels, and various workshops. “My favorite panel was probably the ‘Meet the Industry’ one because it was really cool to get filmmaking tips from people who have been wildly successful in the industry,” Gruneich said. “The ‘Filmmaker Speed Dating’ was also really cool because it allowed us to talk to producers and directors of many of the Sundance films. The small groups that this activity put us in really allowed us to actually have a conversation with the artists.” Cloobeck also enjoyed meeting the filmmakers: “It was a lot of fun meeting with producers and directors. We asked them about their projects and what inspired them.” The group from Forman was able to meet writer and director Nate Parker, whose film, Birth of a Nation, earned top awards at Sundance this year and was just purchased by Fox for $17.5 million.
The students appreciated viewing the films, some of which premiered for the first time. “I felt honored because we were watching the final cut with the actors. The question and answer sessions with the directors were pretty great, too,” Cloobeck said. Gruneich added, “Sundance provides the opportunity to see films that have unique styles and ideas that are rarely seen in the films that are released widely. The new thing I experienced on the trip was all the Virtual Reality stuff. It was really cool to finally try it out and see firsthand how much it could change entertainment, particularly gaming.”
This event helped the students to not only learn about the film industry, but also to clarify their goals. “It’s important for them to understand what to expect in the industry,” Mr. Kelly said. “There was so much great energy at the event, which was filled with passionate independent filmmakers.” Cloobeck added that Sundance helped him understand his personal path: “It made me realize that I'm interested in the business of film, like being an agent or a studio head.”
Kelly plans to bring several ideas from the festival back to the classroom, such as the aspects that make a good film, both in blockbuster and independent films. More personally, Kelly finds satisfaction in helping students pursue their goals: “The experience gave them an idea of what they need to do to put themselves in the position to succeed.”