Sacred Heart Film and Television Students Experience Sundance

Students from Sacred Heart University’s film and television master’s program (FTMA) spent five days in Utah recently, absorbing inspiration at the annual Sundance Film Festival—the largest U.S. event dedicated to independent films.

Founded in 1978, the festival takes place each January in Utah under the management of the nonprofit Sundance Institute. It comprises competitive categories for drama, documentaries, and short and upcoming films.

Working as volunteers, SHU’s students were in the heart of the action at different venues throughout the festival. “They did everything from standing between the paparazzi and Taylor Swift at the premier of ‘Miss Americana’ to attending premiere parties and midnight screenings of indie short films, similar to the ones they are producing as part of their graduate work,” said FTMA Director Sara Ross. “Most importantly, the film graduate students made a lot of connections with other filmmakers and industry professionals and were inspired to keep pushing toward their filmmaking goals.”

The festival took place this year from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2, but the film and television students returned to campus Jan. 28.

Mike Galeotti, one of the FTMA students who volunteered at Sundance, said he found the event fascinating. “I focused my time on short programs, since that’s what I currently create. It was a pleasure hearing so many powerful voices and messages within the short programs. I appreciated learning about the processes of the filmmakers themselves in the Q&A sessions after the screenings. I came out of the festival inspired and ready to make my next short film,” Galeotti said

“We thought it was a good idea because we can’t help but be inspired in this environment. Our students were writing new films our first night there,” said Professor Todd Barnes, FTMA artistic director. “As a filmmaker, listening to diverse voices is important to developing your own style. The students were able to meet people from all over the country with like-minded goals, enabling them to expand their visons.”

“Being able to completely immerse myself in the Sundance program with fellow classmates was such a thrill,” FTMA student Melissa Ruzicki said. “To mingle with filmmakers and film lovers from all over the world provided a whole new perspective on the entertainment industry. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I am very grateful to Sacred Heart for the opportunity.”

Barnes, who singled out spy film “Ironbark” as his favorite from this year’s festival, saw the time at Sundance as an opportunity for the students to gain perspective, as well. “We’ve seen a lot of short film programs that are similar to the ones our FTMA students make. In my opinion, some of the short films our students produce are every bit as good as the ones there,” said Barnes.

“It was great to attend the festival with Professor Todd Barnes. He has an impressive record of having his films accepted for competition at Sundance six times, and he won the Best of NEXT Award for the best, low-budget feature in 2010,” said Ross. “He knows a lot of people involved with Sundance and was able to give us an insider’s view.”

“Our students are seeing what is possible and that they have the tools to compete on a national level. Maybe we’ll have a movie from one of our students play at the Sundance Film Festival in the near future,” said Barnes.

Originally published here