Are you looking to land a feature at the Sundance Film Festival? Start with a short.

Short Films are the first step for many Sundance Film Festival 2022 Feature Directors.

Writer/director Dania Bdeir collaborates with the Beirut-based artist Khansa on the short film ‘Warsha,’ debuting at Sundance Film Festival 2020.

Sundance Diary Day Three Saturday, January 22, 2022

Are you working towards becoming an indie sensation at the Sundance Film Festival? Networking with other creative professionals and watching festival movies can be inspirational. Debuting a feature film in the Sundance program is a moonshot goal for many creators. Filmmakers want to take part in post-screening Q&A panels. They dream of anticipating the closing awards ceremony and working on landing a distribution deal. That’s living the Sundance dream.

Michelle Satter, founding director, Artist Programs at the Sundance Institute, points to short films as solid first steps for many Sundance feature directors.

“Making your first feature can happen quickly, but it depends on how you define quickly, says Satter, speaking during the live-stream panel. “More often, it’s a journey.”

Satter talks with Francisca Alegria, director of The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future, and Adamma Ebo, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul, at the Sundance 2022 Daily Artists Meetup titled The Leap from Short to Feature.

Alegria and Adamma Ebo share their journeys crafting Sundance Festival 2022 features from their short films. They hope to inspire other filmmakers to see short films as proof of concept towards a feature story.

“I remember figuring out what aspects of my 2018 short I would incorporate into the feature,” adds Adamma Ebo, director of the Baptish Church-based comedy Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul. “Then I realized that the short would become the climax of the feature film, and I needed to write the story before the short.”

Filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu balances West African folklore and an immigrant’s tale in the supernatural melodrama ‘Nanny.’

What I’m Watching:

‘Nanny’

Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu balances West African folklore like Anansi the Spider and Mami Wata mermaids with the captivating story of Senegalese immigrant working in New York City.

Aisha (Anna Diop) is a West African mother working as a nanny to bring her young son to the United States. Unsurprisingly, it’s taking her longer than planned to save enough money.

Jusu’s skillful storytelling results in the supernatural melodrama Nanny, premiering in the U.S. Dramatic section of Sundance Film Festival 2022.

As Aisha, a former teacher working as a caregiver for a wealthy couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector), Actress Anna Diop (Us) appears in almost every movie scene, shifting believably from paranormal scares to domestic dramas around low wages and long hours. Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector deliver real-life horrors as entitled employers taking advantage of Aisha in different ways.

Jusu, cinematographer Rina Yang, and production Jonathan Guggenheim craft a natural, grounded horror story. Nanny reminds me of the 1987 New York City-based horror The Believers from director John Schlesinger, another movie that emphasizes city realism more than mystical creatures. Nanny delivers the correct equation of jolts versus melodramas, making it more frightening.

Nikyatu Jusu is the filmmaker of the supernatural melodrama ‘Nanny,’ premiering in the U.S. Dramatic Competition of Sundance Film Festival 2020. Photo courtesy of Sundanceorg.

What I’m Learning:

 ‘Nanny’ filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu credits South Korean films as inspiration.

Filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu says in the Sundance 2022 Q&A following the debut of her film Nanny that South Korean cinema inspires her to combine genres. Nanny is partly a melodrama, telling the story of an immigrant mother working to bring her young son to the United States. It’s also a horror movie featuring West African folklore creatures. If mixing genres feels strange to Sundance audiences, Jusu encourages people to think about life during Covid-19.

“The Reality of our lives in a pandemic is that we are maneuvering a real-life horror film.”

‘Gondwana’ is a durational VR project debuting in the New Frontier section at Sundance Film Festival 2020.

What’s Interactive:

Take an immersive dive into Australia’s Daintree Rainforest via the New Frontier project ‘Gondwana.’

Groups like Greenpeace agree that virtual reality helps ignite calls to action on climate change. Artists Emma Roberts and Ben Joseph Andrews amplify the impact via the durational VR experience Gondwana, an immersive dive into Australia’s Daintree Rainforest.

New Frontier attendees experience Australia’s Daintree Rainforest via 24-hour project cycles that include climate data projections of Daintree’s future. Are you excited to experience durational VR?

The Beirut-set short film ‘Warsha’ debuts at Sundance Film Festival 2020.

Shorts Discoveries:

‘Warsha’

Beirut-based artist and male belly dancer Mohammad al Khansa ignites the short film Warsha, a beautiful story of a closeted Syrian refugee named Mohammed experiencing cramped and dangerous working conditions on a Beirut construction site. Mohammed’s artistic spirit comes alive when he accepts the dangerous assignment of operating a rusty construction crane. Writer/director Dania Bdeir collaborates with director of photography Shadi Chaaban and costume designer Diego Montoya on a beautiful story of artistic freedom set high above the Beirut skyline. Watching Khansa, clad in sparkly red tights, spin from the top of the construction crane is one of the most beautiful images from Sundance Film Festival 2022.

Behind the Screens:

Francisca Alegria, director of The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future, is at Park City, Utah, with her family despite the cancellation of onsite Sundance 2020 activities due to the spread of Covid-19. Speaking via Zoom at a Daily Artists Meetup, Alegria shares how she and her family booked lodging soon after learning of her festival entry. Realizing she may be the lone Sundance 2020 director in Park City, Alegria, her family decides to keep their travel plans and make the trip.

It’s Sundance week. Read my Sundance Film Festival 2022 diaries. Interact with all the Sundance 2022 virtual attendees and me. Join my avatar on the New Frontier Spaceship.

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