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Sundance Film Festival: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ava DuVernay, Joan Jett, Will.i.am & More Round Out Panels

A week before the film festival in the snow kicks off on Jan. 18 in Park City, Utah, Sundance Film Festival has announced its lineup of panels and fireside chats that will run over 10 days covering not only behind-the-scenes stories from filmmakers and story creators but the power dynamics, gender and diversity revolutions which continue to impact the entertainment industry.

Sundance Film Festival 2018
REX/Shutterstock/Sundance Institute

Of note, the first 2018 installment of the longstanding Power of Story series, Power of Story: Culture Shift, will convene A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay, President of the Open Society Foundations Patrick Gaspard, Insecure co-creator and lead actress Issa Rae, Megan Smith (3rd U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Former Assistant to President Barack Obama), and indie producer Christine Vachon will converse about their work, the power of media, and the role creative choices play in shifting culture in a conversation with Washington Post journalist Sarah Ellison on Friday, January 19.

During the Festival’s Art of Film Weekend (January 26-28) the session Power of Story: Indies Go Hollywood will bring together Twilight helmer Catherine Hardwicke, Fast and Furious maestro Justin Lin and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi to talk about transitioning from indies to four-quad pics and its myriad challenges on Friday, January 26.

The Cinema Café daily series of informal chats includes convos with will.i.am and Kevin Smith; Danny Elfman and Gus Van Sant; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Nina Totenberg; Ira Glass and Miranda July; and Ethan Hawke and Rupert Everett. 

A Celebration of Music and Film, hosted annually by the Sundance Institute Film Music Program is presenting a one-night only Jan. 20 performance by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. It’s all part of a celebration of the Jett documentary Bad Reputation premiering at the festival.

This year’s panelists for BMI’s composer/director roundtable includes Director of the Sundance Institute Film Music Program Peter Golub, composer Jeff Beal and director Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth), composer Paul Cantelon and director Susan Lacy (Jane Fonda in Five Acts), composer Miriam Cutler and director Kimberly Reed (Dark Money), composer Craig Wedren (A Futile and Stupid Gesture), composer Laura Karpman (Half The Picture & Inventing Tomorrow), composer Heather McIntosh and director Amy Scott (Hal), composer Jongnic Bontemps and director Mel Jones (Leimert Park), composer Kris Bowers (Monsters and Men), composer Dustin O’Halloran (Puzzle), composer Sam Bisbee and director Rudy Faldez (The Sentence).

Deadline co-Editor-in-Chief, Film Mike Fleming Jr., Senior Editor Dominic Patten and myself will lead our Sundance coverage with breaking news on the deals, the films, the panels, and the word on the streets of Park City and beyond. We will also have our Deadline Studio up and running again as we talk to filmmakers about their projects and the festival.

The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 18-28 in Park City, Utah.

Day One Press Conference
Thursday, January 18, 12 p.m. PT / 1 p.m. MT / 3 p.m. ET

Join Sundance Institute Founder and President Robert Redford, Executive Director Keri Putnam and Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper in conversation with Barbara Chai, head of arts and culture coverage at Dow Jones Media Group and the editor of MarketWatch Entertainment, followed by a Q&A with press in attendance.

Power of Story: Culture Shift
Friday, January 19, 11:00 a.m. PT / 12:00 p.m. MT / 2:00 p.m. ET

At a watershed moment in which America grapples with gender, race, and the complex nature of systemic change, an illustrious group of artists: Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time), Patrick Gaspard (president of the Open Society Foundations), Issa Rae (Insecure), Megan Smith (3rd U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Former Assistant to President Barack Obama), and Christine Vachon (An Evening with Todd Haynes) talk with Washington Post journalist Sarah Ellison about their work, the power of media, and the role creative choices play in shifting culture and crystallizing the national conversation. How do storytellers transform not only the arts media fields but society at large? What’s at stake in terms of the stories we tell and who tells them, and how will these decisions shape our future?

Cinema Cafe with will.i.am and Kevin Smith
Friday, January 19, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

Adaptation
Friday, January 19, 1:30 p.m. PT / 2:30 p.m. MT / 4:30 p.m. ET

Whether it be a beloved novel, a work of nonfiction, or even a story from somebody’s life, the adaptation from original source material to a feature film is a huge undertaking, with many creative decisions lying in the hands of the adaptor. In a conversation with Eugene Hernandez (Deputy Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center &

Co-Publisher, Film Comment Magazine), writers and directors Debra Granik ( Leave No Trace), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Paul Dano (Wildlife) and Zoe Kazan (Wildlife) discuss this process and how they’ve transformed an original work into a new creative piece.

 

Cinema Cafe with Danny Elfman and Gus Van Sant (Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot)
Saturday, January 20, 11:30 a.m. PT / 12:30 p.m. MT / 2:30 p.m. ET

Brave New Story
Saturday, January 20, 1:15 p.m. PT / 2:15 p.m. MT / 4:15 p.m. ET

As society finds itself in increasingly entrenched positions, the relevance of radical storytelling can’t be overstated. Recognizing the power of art to reveal, artists are searching for new stories and new ways of telling them. They’re demanding more of the form, questioning how it’s used to describe the world, looking at images and representation, subverting dominant narratives and traditional ways of seeing, and discovering a new political cinema. Join Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), RaMell Ross (Hale County This Morning,This Evening), Brett Story (The Prison in Twelve Landscapes), Lynette Wallworth (Awavena), and others.

 

A Celebration of Music and Film
Saturday, January 20, 6:00-9:00 p.m. PT / 7:00-10:00 p.m. MT / 9:00 p.m.-midnight ET

This year’s rendition of the Festival’s premier music event presents an evening with Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Joan Jett. In celebration of the documentary premiere for Bad Reputation, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts will take the stage at The Shop in Park City for one night only. Jett has been a trailblazer for women in the music industry, from her glam rock anthems with The Runaways to her pioneering punk performances with the Blackhearts. A beacon for multiple generations of rock musicians, Jett is not to be missed in concert.

 

Cinema Cafe with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Nina Totenberg (NPR)
Sunday, January 21, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

 

Reflect: Portrait of AI as a Young Man (New Frontier)
Sunday, Jan. 21st, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. PT / 12:00-1:30 p.m. MT / 2:00-3:30 p.m. ET

Is the age of AI filmmaking upon us? Moderator Sandra Rodriguez (Chomsky vs. Chomsky, Do Not Track), musician and tech entrepreneur will.i.am (Omega, Masters of the Sun), writer-director Samantha Gorman (TendAR, PRY), and strategist Rachel Ginsberg (Frankenstein AI: A Monster Made by Many) look under the hood of this frequently misunderstood technology to see how storytellers can use artificial intelligence to enhance or reinvent their creative process.

 

Fresh Faces
Sunday, January 21, 1:15 p.m. PT / 2:15 p.m. MT / 4:15 p.m. ET

This year’s Festival films feature a number of genuinely exciting young talents—fresh faces who have already begun to receive attention and acclaim for their remarkable work. They represent a new generation of actors, fulfilling a longtime promise of independent film: to bring rich, complex characters to life through stories. Join Dominique Fishback (Night Comes On), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Monsters and Men), Hari Nef (Assassination Nation),and Rachelle Vinberg (Skate Kitchen).

Cinema Cafe with Ira Glass (Come Sunday) and Miranda July (Madeline’s Madeline)
Monday, January 22, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

Build: The Architecture of VR Narrative (New Frontier)
Monday, Jan. 22, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. PT / 12:00-2:00 p.m. MT / 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET

How does virtual reality technology affect the three-act structure? Moderator Maureen Fan (Invasion!, Asteroids!) will ask writer Charlotte Stoudt (Dinner Party, Homeland), writer-director Edward Robles (Dispatch, Clouds Over Sidra), animator Bruna Berford (Arden’s Wake, Henry), director Pete Billington (Wolves in the Walls, Henry), and content strategist Diana Williams (Star Wars Universe, Carne y Arena) to share their strategies for telling narratives in 360-degree spaces.

Cinema Cafe with Ethan Hawke (Blaze) and Rupert Everett (The Happy Prince)
Tuesday, January 23, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

Wonder: Re-imagining Our Relationship to Space (New Frontier)
Tuesday, January 23, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PT / 12:00-1:30 p.m. MT / 2:00-3:30 p.m. ET

Cory McAbee’s one-man show, Deep Astronomy and the Romantic Sciences, interrogates our love affair with space. Eliza McNitt’s VR piece, SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime, ponders the beauty of colliding black holes. Elastic Time, by Mark Boulos, transports a hologram of the viewer to visit Harvard astronomer Anthony Stark. Johann Lurf’s film, called ★, chronicles images of the night sky throughout film history. Designer David Delgado, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, will moderate.

 

Ways of Seeing
Tuesday, January 23, 1:00 p.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. MT / 4:00 p.m. ET)

How we see science and its place in our world has a lot to do with who we see doing it and what’s being done. The images and representations we engage with through popular culture spark our imagination, inform our values and shape our understanding of scientists, their work, technology, the natural world and the cosmos. So it bodes well that storytellers are exploring different ways of seeing, bending those perceptions through fresh stories and innovative approaches to narrative, style and performance. Join Darren Aronofsky (SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime), Octavia Spencer (A Kid Like Jake) and Shonte Tucker (Mars 2020 Payload Verification and Validation Lead at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)in a conversation moderated by Kerry Bishé (Halt and Catch Fire). Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

The New Climate
Tuesday, January 23, 1:30 p.m. PT / 2:30 p.m. MT / 4:30 p.m. ET

The impact of climate change has been felt dramatically by Native communities in the U.S. and around the world. Despite poisoned resources, corporatism, and an existential threat to their homelands, these vulnerable communities rarely fall under the spotlight, and their stories go untold. This special New Climate discussion welcomes Bartholemew Powaukee, Environmental and Water Quality Director for Utah’s Ute Tribe; Anote Tong, former president of of the disappearing island of Kiribati; Tashka Yawana, chief of the Yawanawá; moderator Janaya Khan of Black Lives Matter, Canada and others to deconstruct histories and mythologies around climate change, discuss how story and technology can share a hidden point of view, and reveal creative initiatives to combat current trends by changing minds.

Cinema Cafe with Diablo Cody
Wednesday, January 24, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

The Future of Indie TV
Wednesday, January 24, 1:00 p.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. MT / 4:00 p.m. ET

As the world of serialized content widens from traditional broadcast and cable television to streaming platforms, the way we consume content is changing rapidly. Where do independent voices fit into this increasingly competitive industry? There is more demand than ever for different forms of episodic content, but how do artists and investors find their audience and make a return on their investment? Join Stephanie Allain (Leimert Park), Steven Soderbergh (THE KING), Bernie Su (Chief Creative Officer, Canvas Media Studio), David Wain (A Futile and Stupid Gesture) in a conversation moderated by Michelle Satter, Founding Director of Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, about the current state of independent television and what the opportunities are for the future.

Cinema Cafe with Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth) and Steve James (America To Me)
Thursday, January 25, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

This is Not a Panel
Thursday, January 25, 1:00 p.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. MT / 4:00 p.m. ET

In what has become a tradition at the Festival, this year’s non-panel panel features Josephine Decker (Madeline’s Madeline), Jim Hosking (An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn, Tropical Cop Tales), Crystal Moselle (Skate Kitchen), and Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You). Each filmmaker on this non panel panel was tasked with the following mission: to share objects, stories, or any sensory representation that has influenced their work and helped shape their vision as artists. Needless to say, unpredictable inspiration and surprises can be expected.

Play: A World-building Workshop (New Frontier)
Thursday, January 25, 12:00-1:00 p.m. PT / 1:00-3:00 p.m. MT / 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET

If you could design a city from scratch, what would you include? Writer-director Lance Weiler (Frankenstein AI: A Monster Made by Many), director John Hsu (Your Spiritual Temple Sucks), and experience designer Mk Haley, of Walt Disney Imagineering, will collaborate with the audience to create a city. Afterward, panelists will discuss this feat of group stagecraft, plus share their own methods for inventing believable storyworlds.

Creative Tensions: IDENTITY
Friday, January 26, 10:00 a.m. PT / 11:00 a.m. MT / 1:00 p.m ET

This is not your typical panel. Join us for Creative Tensions: IDENTITY with Effie Brown (Dear White People) and moderator Christopher Hibma (Sundance Institute) as we explore what we may be afraid to talk about. In a world where polemics are the norm and binaries form our views of others, how do we talk about the shades of gray?

From our politics to the stories we create (or are allowed to create), what do we lose or gain by becoming a tribe of tribes? An innovative event concept created by Sundance Institute’s Theatre Program, Creative Tensions is a collective conversation expressed in movement, wherein participants reveal where they stand on an issue by virtue of where they stand in the room. A continental breakfast will be served at 11:00 a.m. This event is presented by the Sundance Institute Theatre Program and Sundance Ignite in partnership with IDEO, a global design company creating positive impact through design.

 

Power of Story: Indies Go Hollywood
Friday, January 26, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 a.m. ET

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Thor: Ragnarok. Twilight. Fast & Furious. A Wrinkle in Time. Pete’s Dragon. The directors of many prominent studio films got their start at the Sundance Film Festival. From having shoestring-budget movies on the fest circuit and DIY outlooks to being handed big-budget, big-responsibility

franchises, working with A-list actors, and garnering mainstream exposure—what does taking this kind of career leap mean to them creatively, professionally, and personally? A contingent of filmmakers including Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Justin Lin (Star Trek: Beyond) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) who straddle both worlds discuss with moderator John Horn (host of KPCC’s The Frame) what motivates them to work at this new level and how they view both the advantages and myriad challenges.

 

Cinema Cafe / participants TBA
Friday, January 26, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

Producer’s Confidential — ART OF FILM WEEKEND
Friday, January 26, 1:00 p.m. PT / 2:00 p.m MT / 4:00 p.m. ET

In today’s challenging marketplace, creative producers are well served by an expansive knowledge of audience building, marketing, and distribution strategy. With Columbus and Unrest, recipients of Sundance Institute’s inaugural Creative Distribution Fellowship, we examine two films that emerged from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and chose to bypass all-rights distributors. Danielle Renfrew Behrens (Columbus), Jennifer Brea (Unrest), Giulia Caruso (Columbus), Lindsey Dryden (Unrest), Alysa Nahmias (Unrest), and moderator Chris Horton (Sundance Institute) present case studies on getting your work seen.

Cinema Cafe / participants TBA
Saturday, January 27, 10:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 1:30 p.m. ET

Unearthing the Past — ART OF FILM WEEKEND
Saturday, January 27, 1:00 p.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. MT / 4:00 p.m. ET

Nonfiction filmmakers are employing increasingly innovative approaches in order to visually and artfully engage with the past. Through creative uses of archival footage, personal- and biographical-storytelling filmmakers are excavating the past in order to re-contextualize the present and interrogate notions of truth. Join Joe Bini (A Thousand Thoughts), Elan Bogarin (306 Hollywood), Jonathan Bogarin (306 Hollywood) Robert Greene (Bisbee ’17), Sierra Pettengil (Our New President), Marina Zenovich (Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind) and moderator Alissa Wilkinson (Vox.com).

 

Film Church
Sunday, January 28, 9:30 a.m. PT / 10:30 a.m. MT / 12:30 p.m. ET

What could be more divine than 10 days of film watching? Finish off your Sundance Film Festival experience by sharing a near-spiritual moment with Festival director John Cooper and director of programming Trevor Groth, who will offer non-denominational talks of the Festival that was. Come confess your likes and dislikes. Joining us for the sermon will be a variety of special guests, including a few filmmakers who took home awards the night before (if they can be found the morning after!). All will be forgiven.

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