“There are movies that you get to see at Sundance that you don’t get to see anywhere else,” said senior Tabitha Blessum.
This trip to Park City, Utah, impacted the eight students who attended and opened new doors of opportunities to experience and listen to the diverse voices of other storytellers. According to Blessum, a cinema arts major, the Sundance Film Festival is the hub of independent filmmaking.
“There’s a high caliber of excellence at the festival so I wanted to go to learn and experience what I say I want to go into and I was blown away by the experience,” she said.
For the past several years, the communication studies department has offered students the opportunity to be a part of the annual film festival, which includes attending special film screenings, seminars, and discussions.
Among the applicants, Daniel Avila, Andrew Baffa, Tabitha Blessum, Andrew Diaz, Caleb Gomez, Gabi Gomez, Bailey Lewis, and Aubree Vanderhooven were selected. The students were accompanied by professors Naomi Kasa and Jonathan Moore.
To make this trip possible, Vanguard partnered with the Windrider Forum, a laboratory and classroom which allows students to connect and interact with like-minded students from other universities while providing them access to film screenings, and the opportunity to meet filmmakers.
Vanguard covered housing costs for all eight students, along with providing exclusive festival passes that grant them access to expensive films, transportation to and from the airport, and credentials to attend different forums.
Since there is no parking at the festival, public transportation is widely used by students, workers, and filmmakers who speak at seminars. With this exposure to so many people, there are many opportunities for students to be able to talk and network with other filmmakers along the way to experience professional contact.
Blessum made a strong connection with five female students from George Fox University. After going out to coffee and exchanging contact information during their time at Sundance, Blessum is now collaborating with these students to work on a project in Los Angeles.
In preparation for Sundance, students are enrolled in a three-unit class as a part of the program in the fall. This class requires students to read books about the history of Sundance and the role of Christians in film the industry. Students are also engaged in discussions about the material covered to gain different perspectives.
In the spring semester, students attend the second week of the festival and have a follow up journal assignment to document their experience and show where they take their own creative route to create something that reflects their experience.
“The Sundance program is an incredible opportunity that they should keep at Vanguard as it can be used for a lot more than just communication majors,” said senior Daniel Avila. “It’s a great way to show young Christians how we should interact with the world around us.”
To be qualified for this program, communication majors or minors are required to have completed 12 units in Communication Studies and/or Cinema Arts while maintaining a 3.2 GPA in Communication courses.