Sundance Film Festival panel addresses creative benefits of remote workspaces

Clockwise from top left: Adobe’s Meagan Keane, editor Brooke Stern Sebold, filmmaker Maliyamungu Gift Muhande, editor Lam T. Nguyen and producer Lyn Sisson-Talbert explain how Remote workspaces enabled filmmakers to diversify their staff at the “Creativity and Collaboration: Empowering Every Voice” event that launched on January 24.
Scott Iwasaki/Park Recording

Filmmakers and their teams had to find creative ways to collaborate in order to work and complete their projects when the coronavirus pandemic caused a global lockdown in 2020.

During a Jan. 24 panel at the Sundance Film Festival, “Creativity and Collaboration: Empowering Every Voice,” four such artists — producer Lyn Sisson-Talbert, editor Lam T. Nguyen, filmmaker, and 2021 Sundance Ignite and Adobe Fellow Maliyamungu Gift Muhande and Editor Brooke Stern Sebold – talked about their new ways of collaborating and how they could help underrepresented artists get their stories out to the world.

Nguyen, who edited Carey William’s “Emergency,” a comedy/drama that premiered at this year’s festival, recalls the film crew‘s remote workflow.

“My assistant editors live in New York, I edit in LA, and the production is filmed in Atlanta, and they upload footage to this cloud storage server,” he said. “The efficiency was great, because you could work from anywhere and feel like you were in that space working on that story.”

This kind of technology gives filmmakers the ability to work with different people around the world on projects, said Sisson-Talbert, producer and mentor for Netflix and Adobe’s The Great Untold, a short film competition focused on untold stories. .

“The tools have contributed to efficiency and (connection with) visual effects creators who are literally all over the world, from India to Paris to Madrid,” she said. “We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to communicate with them before because we were still working in an in-person (environment).”

Working with global artists can give filmmakers new insights that will help enrich their projects, said Sebold, whose most recent work, Chase Joynt’s “Framing Agnes,” premiered at this year’s festival.

“Framing Agnes” is a feature film about a pioneering trans woman who participated in Harold Garfinkel’s gender health research at UCLA in the 1960s. This film is about her and also includes other trans stories of the same period.

“The team involved in ‘Agnès’ is such a diverse group of queer, trans and non-binary gender humans,” Sebold said. “One thing that kept coming up in our project is that the conversations that happened happened because the majority of the people (working on the film) had some version of their own gender-questioning experience in this construct. It was exciting to be in the company of such diverse voices, (because) it wasn’t theoretical. It is from lived experiences. And that allows openings into different ideas. … It fuels you as a creative and an artist so we can propel conversations past where they’ve been.

Sometimes the collaborations take the form of peer support, which happened to Muhande while making her dream documentary ‘Nine Day a Week’, a portrait of Louis Mendes, 81, a street photographer icon who lives in New York.

After Muhande moved from her home in the Republic of Congo to the Big Apple to work on the documentary, COVID-19 halted production.

“I was faced with this international decision – do I go home or do I stay?” Muhande said. “Fortunately, when I first moved to New York, my classmates became my family and I quickly learned that (the secret to) fulfilling my dream of making this short film was the support of those who surrounded me. And when I walked into the editing room, I was relieved to know that I was surrounded by these budding filmmakers.

Having created films through these different types of creative collaborations, Sisson-Talbert, Nguyen, Muhande and Sebold believe that the future of good cinema will include a hybrid of in-person and remote workspaces, which will help recruit a more diverse film crew.

“I’m a big proponent of fresh looks and fresh perspectives, so to learn from other people’s point of view and understand how they feel, I think helps filmmakers be more authentic in creating their stories and creating their stories. writing their characters,” Nguyen said. “It’s a new way of making movies and how anyone in the world can collaborate with you and make the best movie possible.”

Another way to develop a diverse film crew is through outreach, Muhande said.

“The way we get more people, black, brown and gay people into the industry is to educate young people,” she said.

Access to resources is another important step for diversity, Sisson-Talbert said.

“We do a lot of work with a lot of historic black colleges, and when you look at the technology available at those schools, compared to UCLA, (they) are starting a little behind,” she said. “Balancing education as well as tools within institutions also makes a huge difference.”

Sisson-Talbert also emphasized the importance of mentoring emerging filmmakers.

“When you see someone who looks like you doing what you would like to do, it makes all the difference, because it feels like it’s achievable,” she said. “Even a simple conversation is important. If you can just have a conversation with someone who wants to do what you do and give them ideas and tools, that makes all the difference to that person.

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