The first Knight Fellows head to Sundance

Arts / Article

I’m at Sundance this week in Park City, joined by four filmmakers from Miami and Philadelphia who have been named the festival’s first Knight Fellows.

Each of these filmmakers are here to experience the event, meet with industry players, learn from the seminars and get to know each other better. It’s part of Knight Foundation’s new partnership with the Sundance Institute to strengthen the film scenes in communities around the U.S. where Knight Foundation invests.

The first group is soaking up all there is to learn here and includes: Jos Duncan, founder and director of the nonprofit Philadelphia-based GriotWorks, which uses storytelling to bridge the gaps between communities; Monica Pena, a Miami filmmaker who just completed her first feature; Julian Yuri Rodriguez, another Miamian whose shorts have been screened in internationally and is developing his first feature film; and Heidi Saman, an associate producer for National Public Radio in Philly whose film masters thesis at Temple University debuted at the Cannes Festival and was later shown around the world.

Knight hosted a dinner for the fellows Saturday with Miami Sundance vets Billy Corbin and Alfred Spellman of Rakontur, the Borscht crew of Lucas Leyva and Jillian Mayer – just off the opening of her museum show at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts – and Kareem Tabsch of Miami’s O Cinema who is scouting films. Also here is Matthu Placek, fresh from the Miami YoungArts premier of his third film about performance artist Marina Abramovic, which I got to see in the New Frontiers section of the festival.

In addition to bringing Knight Fellows to Sundance, we’re helping bring a little bit of Sundance to both Philadelphia and Miami, two cities with emerging and exciting film communities. Our first collaboration brought a Screenwriters Lab to Philly last year. Next, on Feb. 15, we will bring Sundance’s New Frontier Flash Lab to Miami (you can sign up for the New Frontier Public Forum here.) In both communities, there will also be a Shorts Lab in March, with more information coming soon.

Knight believes that storytelling through film can bring a community together. And we hope that these local labs in Miami and Philadelphia bring out filmmakers who want to tell stories to their local community that also resonate with audiences internationally.

If that sounds like you, we’d love to see you there.

Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation