Meet the Filmmakers

Local students are the largest group of volunteers at the Sundance Film Festival – many of them film students dreaming of bringing their own films to Park City someday. The Meet the Filmmakers series is a chance to connect students with working filmmakers, so they can pick the filmmakers’ brains on how they created their films, and built their careers. The Film Commission on Main hosted Duane Andersen, Assistant Professor of Digital Cinema Production at UVU, and several of his students, as they chatted with Jenny Mackenzie, director of Quiet Heroes, Amanda Stoddard, co-director and producer of Quiet Heroes, and Jerimiah Zagar, director of We the Animals.

“You don’t just become directors – you need to study craft.” Zagar advised the students, “Whether it’s editorial, composition, you need to be able to speak to the people that you are working with. Spielberg knows how to do every job on set. You can’t argue with a person who knows how to do your job.” Mackenzie urged the students to “make those short films to build a foundation. They have a beginning, a middle, an end, and an arc.” Andersen added, “I always say you have to learn how to edit; because that’s how you are going to survive”

Asked how he chose projects, Zagar spoke of the “misconception that there are people who make documentaries and people who make narratives. You get pigeonholed into what you should be doing… I just make the movies I want to make; I make what excites me, and this movie excited me.“

Mackenzie described the filmmaking challenge of “how do you bring the audience into the story, and give them an intimate experience?” and added a dose of realism, “In any movie – you’re going to go down rabbit holes, and its going to be messy.” Stoddard added, “You have to come up with a structure. Look for those key points, what thematic point is going to hit with what plot point. I want to engage people in a way that is truthful to those characters, so that I’m proud to show it to them”

Mackenzie explained, “I always have one project I’m developing, one I’m working on, and one that is already in outreach. I’m a small indie filmmaker, on my own, but I’m always thinking of projects.”

Zagar ended the session with an analogy. “It should be like falling for someone,” he said, of choosing your subject, “When you meet for the first time… you should want to spend every waking moment with that person. And then you spend a lot of time with that person and you realize they are incredibly flawed…they have their own personality and conflicts. Eventually you need to take a break.” Finishing the film, he continued, “is not so different from deciding you want to make something work with someone. You accept the flaws, and accept that a relationship takes work. Just like a film, you are back in it. If you can find a project that you fall in love with, then you have a start.”

Contributing writer, Diana Whitten, writes, makes art, and directs film.

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