How Two Sundance Ignite Alumni Are Taking Their Work to New Heights
We’re ecstatic that two 2017 Sundance Ignite Fellows — Emily Ann Hoffman and Charlotte Regan — have new films accepted into the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, a first for alumni of the Ignite program. Emily’s stop-motion short, “Nevada” is an animation comedy featuring a young couple’s romantic getaway interrupted by a birth-control mishap, and Charlotte’s “Fry-Up” takes a close look at what could be a family’s last day together in the urban backdrop of North London.
As the 2018 Fellows begin their fellowship, we checked in with Emily and Charlotte about their new projects, their experience as Ignite Fellows and advice they have for future filmmakers who are igniting what’s next in film.
Project 1324: If you could describe your Sundance Ignite experience in five words what would they be and why?
Emily Ann Hoffman: Let’s see…inspiring, educational, exciting, and life-changing. This experience is incredibly educational just because I think meeting so many people who are doing what I want to do and just getting further insight into how this all works, that was the most valuable thing for me: the human connection with Fellows and mentors, but also people at Sundance talking to us about how other people get their movies made.
Talking to my fellow Fellows was probably the most inspiring because everyone’s starting from zero at this point in our career, so hearing how other people made their movies, how people continue to make these passion projects, was really inspiring and exciting.
Everyone’s starting from zero at this point in our career, so hearing how other people made their movies, how people continue to make these passion projects, was really inspiring.
This was on the bucket list — to go to Sundance — I didn’t think I’d be going to Sundance, let alone getting into Sundance, for like years into the future. It’s life-changing because I really feel like without the Ignite opportunity, I would be on a different track right now — not necessarily a bad track — but I feel like it’s put me on a very specific path and that doors have been opened for me in a way that would be very different without the fellowship. I guess maybe my fifth word is Grateful.
Charlotte Regan: I’m terrible at these but I suppose something cheesy like “Great films, people, experiences and friends!” — does the “and” count!? I hope not!
1324: Who was your mentor this year? What did that relationship mean to you? How did it affect the way you create?
EH: Shira Rockowitz was my mentor and she works with the Feature Film program at Sundance. It was interesting working with her as opposed to some of the other mentors who were filmmakers or producers themselves. She has helped me connect to the Sundance Institute and understand how they help filmmakers and everyone who is part of the process to further their careers and develop their projects. It was great to have a direct insight into more of Sundance beyond the Ignite program.
CR: Malik Vitthal was my mentor throughout the Ignite experience and he was so, so incredible. He was so open to talking about his experiences and the realities of creating a feature film.
I get to attend lots of master classes and panel talks at film festivals, but it’s so different having someone one-on-one willing to talk about the details of their job and how they got to where they are. He is forever helping me with my projects — reading scripts, watching rough cuts, advising — I really couldn’t have asked for more in a mentor.
Project 1324: What new film projects did you start or complete this year?
EH: When I got accepted into Ignite was when I was working on Nevada, which is the film that was accepted into the 2018 festival. I was working in production most of the winter through March 2017 on that, animating and editing. This past weekend, I shot a new short film called Bug Bite. I’ve been working on that script for a couple months and that is going to function as a proof of concept for a feature film idea. It’s about a young woman who has bed bugs in her apartment and ends up forming a relationship with one of the bed bugs.
That has been a really exciting project for me because it’s a mixture of live action animation, and this weekend was the first shoot I’d ever done with a real live action crew. The connections I made this year helped me feel ready to make that next step. I had Linhan Zhang, one of the 2017 Ignite Fellows, he was on set with us as set photographer. 2017 Ignite Fellows Tyler Rabinowitz and Leah Galant, they’re part of the Creative Culture Program at Jacob Burns Film Center — which is how I’m making this film as well — so they’ve had insight and creative input on this project. It’s been really great bringing these people I’ve met in the past year into my work, and they’ve been helping me hopefully move forward and get better.
They’re all quite different in terms of the filmmaking style but have a similar storytelling tone in that they focus on working class people and environments.
CR: This year I filmed a few new shorts including Fry-Up, Dodgy Dave, and Drug Runner. They’re all quite different in terms of the filmmaking style but have a similar storytelling tone in that they focus on working class people and environments.
1324: Fry-Up has been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival this year. How are you feeling?
CR: I’m so excited and shocked that Fry-Up got into Sundance. It’s a festival I’ve always had on top of my goals lists of one day being a part of and screening to the audiences there, so it’s going to be a mad surreal experience. The short films that come out of the Sundance festival are always incredible, so to just be among them, and to meet the filmmakers involved is going to be mad.
1324: Spending a year as an Ignite Fellow must have been really valuable in preparing for this moment. What lesson from your fellowship would you share with other filmmakers screening their films this year?
EH: I’d say it has very much been, for me, about these human connections. I think the connections I’ve made through Ignite, and smaller festivals, are kinda long term investments. You don’t have to shove business cards down people’s throats — but just finding people who you get along with as friends, and also feel compatible with creatively, or feel like you can learn something from has been really helpful. Everyone has a skill that you don’t have.
Finding people who you get along with as friends, and also feel compatible with creatively, or feel like you can learn something from has been really helpful. Everyone has a skill that you don’t have.
When I started working on this new film, I was worried — “This is my first live action film, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull together a team!” — I barely asked anybody. As soon as people realized I was working on a new film, everyone was so generous, so many people immediately were like, “That’s awesome! What can I do?” And I’ve been able to do that on other people’s films.
So just really cherish the relationships you build with other artists and makers and creative people, because they can go beyond friendship — they can go towards collaboration.
CR: I learnt a lot about persistence, all of the fellows I was alongside work so hard so consistently. We are all trying to reach similar goals but have massively different styles. It’s just about being persistent and continuing to make films you love. As much as I will really love and enjoy this festival experience, I’ll also make sure I’m ready for my next projects and constantly trying to improve and learn more.
1324: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers, what would it be?
CR: I never really feel like I’m in a position to give advice myself; I’m still really learning and finding my way. I’ve always believed that I can tell stories that I’m personally attached to, so whilst I’m learning my craft, the best stories I can tell are ones where I know the world intimately and I think that could work for many people — we’re all unique filmmakers because we have unique experiences — so playing on our own experiences and our own upbringings is what can make our stories stand out.
Other than that, make tons of film-y friends. Being surrounded by inspired people can motivate you massively.
The best stories I can tell are ones where I know the world intimately.
1324: Film is such a powerful tool in sharing perspectives, and building empathy — why do you think creating impactful films is so important?
EH: Film for me starts with creating a dialogue that could lead to change. So I think it’s about asking: “What is important to me? What is a story I feel like I’ve experienced and that other people have also probably experienced that we’re not really talking about?” That’s really my biggest goal impact-wise. Film is a way to present that in a beautiful, interesting, funny, sad, or whatever way. It’s entertainment, but you’re still sharing a story that’s unique and, if you do it well, I think it sticks with people and they want to talk about the film. I think that’s why film is so impactful and important. Every time you see a good movie, you want to talk about it. If you’re sharing an experience that’s new and shedding light on something, then people are going to start talking about that and hopefully open dialogue.
CR: I think films give us the opportunity to allow viewers to experience someone else’s perspective when done right, or at least get a little insight into their motives and their lives which is incredibly valuable. It makes us come together and be more on a level to relate to one another. Whilst I haven’t experienced that person’s life, I get a little glimpse into it through their films.