Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program Assistant Professor and Director of Production Maureen Ryan -- who co-produced the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire -- co-produced Project Nim, one of the 12 films selected for World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 20-30 in Park City, Utah. The film, selected from 796 international documentary submissions, will be one of the opening night premieres. Film alumnus Markus Kirschner ('09SOA) is production designer for the film, and alumnus Geoffrey Quan ('08SOA) is production coordinator.
Two of the 16 films selected for U.S. Dramatic Competition showcase School of the Arts filmmakers: Pariah, executive produced by Film adjunct faculty member Mary Jane Skalski; and Circumstance, edited by alumna Andrea Chignoli ('07SOA). Skalski also produced Dare, which was in dramatic competition at Sundance in 2009 (and directed by Adam Salky, and written and co-produced by David Brind, both 2008 graduates of the Film Program); and The Station Agent, for which she won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award in 2004. The 16 films in competition this year were selected from 1,102 submissions.
Also in competition is The Bengali Detective, in the World Cinema Documentary category. The film was executive produced by alumna Karol Martesko-Fenster ('88SOA).
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, a feature comedy written and directed by Madeleine Olnek ('09SOA) and co-produced by Cynthia Arzaga Fredette ('09SOA) and Laura Terruso, has been selected for the Park City at Midnight section. The crew includes director of photography Nathaniel Bouman ('08SOA) and production designer Rebecca Conroy ('10SOA).
In the Premieres section, Cedar Rapids was written by alumnus Phil Johnston ('04SOA). Also in Premieres is Mary Jane Skalski's second film at the festival, Win Win, which she produced; My Idiot Brother, produced by Film adjunct faculty member Anthony Bregman; and The Music Never Stopped, edited by Film adjunct faculty member Keith Reamer, and based on a short story by Columbia Artist Oliver Sacks, "The Last Hippie." Prairie Love, produced by Brian Quist ('10SOA), was selected for the NEXT category.
Four shorts written and directed by Film alumni will screen at the festival: AWOL, written and directed by Deb Shoval (Film student), produced by Jessica Caldwell (Film student), assistant directed by Dominique LeFebvre (Film student), second assistant camera by Joel Davenport (Film student), and acting (Pete) by Darrell Larson, Film adjunct faculty member; Babyland, written and directed by Marc Fratello ('10SOA), and produced by Rebecca Conroy ('10SOA); Crazy Beats Strong Every Time, written and directed by Moon Molson ('08SOA), and produced by Jayda Denise Thompson (Film student); and The Strange Ones, written and directed by Christopher Radcliff ('10SOA) and Lauren Wolkstein ('09SOA), and produced by Joonhan Lee (Film student).
In addition, Film alumna Caryn Waechter ('04SOA) -- whose work was chosen for inclusion in Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald's Life In A Day, a cinematic experiment to capture life around the world in a single day -- is one of 26 contributors to the film invited to Sundance for its world premiere on January 27. Following the premiere, a global Q&A with Macdonald and the 26 filmmakers will be held.
The School of the Arts is also well-represented on the awarding side, as Film alumna Kimberly Peirce ('96SOA) was chosen for the jury for U.S. Dramatic Competition, and Film adjunct faculty member Sloane Kevin for the jury for U.S. Documentary Competition. Jury members are selected from the global film community for their unique perspective and range of experience.
Completing Columbia's strong showing at Sundance 2011, The Western Habit, directed and co-written by Ian Olds ('06SOA), and co-written by Paul Felten ('04SOA), was one of 12 projects selected for the prestigious Sundance Screenwriters Lab, held just before the festival. The lab is a five-day workshop that gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work intensely on their feature film scripts with the support of established writers.
Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program presence at Sundance is backed by an extraordinary record: Associate Professor Eric Mendelsohn won the Directing Award: Dramatic at the 2010 festival, for his film 3 Backyards (he won the same directing prize at Sundance in 1999, for his film Judy Berlin). More than 25 of Mendelsohn's students, past and present, were members of his crew for 3 Backyards. And Film alumni won the Grand Jury Prize in Dramatic Competition in both 2008 and 2007, Courtney Hunt (’94SOA) for Frozen River and Christopher Zalla (’04SOA) and Ben Odell (’04SOA) for Padre Nuestro, respectively.