Under buckets of snow in Park City, Utah, 10 Lipscomb film students spent a week taking in independent films and discovering a behind-the-scenes look at the industry at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

The festival, held January 19-29, is the largest independent film festival in the United States.

Attending the festival was an experience film student Natalie Risk says left her feeling “artistically fulfilled.”

“We saw a lot of movies,” Risk stated. “There were days where we would go see movies at midnight, then get up at 7:30 a.m. to watch a movie at 8:30 a.m. and just keep it going.” When they weren’t attending showings, the students would go back to the condo to watch even more films.

Independent filmmakers from all over bring their films to Sundance, not only to premiere to an audience but also to sell their films to movie distributors. “Working in the film industry,” Risk explained, “that is kind of like an independent filmmaker’s goal…to get their film shown in a festival, because that is how it’s going to get picked up.”

The festival offered plenty of films for students to take in. Some of Risk’s favorites were documentaries including Last Man in Aleppo” and The Good Postmen, as well as a drama called Novitiate,” that was shot in Nashville and includes Lipscomb alumna Lacy Hartselle.

Besides attending showings, students also went to several discussion panels to hear industry professionals speak on the art and technique of independent film-making.

Film student Allison Jobe said that her favorite part of the festival was attending the “Women in Film” panel. “I was really inspired to see a row of successful women discuss the different issues they’ve faced in the industry,” Jobe commented, “as well as hear their vision for the future.”

The group also had the opportunity to talk individually with the panel afterward, something Jobe said was “special, since seven out of the 10 students on the trip were women.” The one-on-one time provided networking opportunities for the students to meet the industry professionals personally.

Incorporating their faith, students also spent time at the Windrider Forum, a set of panels put on by a Christian organization at Sundance. These panels discussed topics such as being a Christian in the Arts, the element of faith in film-making and tying Christian themes back to films, even those shown at the festival.

Along with attending movies and panels, Risk said that one of her favorite parts of the experience was spending quality time with other Lipscomb film students.

She recalled going to dinner with the group after attending the premiere of Call Me by Your Name, one of the more popular and critically-acclaimed films shown at the festival. While at dinner, the students began to discuss the film.

“The conversation started with, ‘I like it, but…’ and we proceeded to rip the film apart and talked about all the things we didn’t like and all the things we’d do differently.” These moments were what made the experience so sweet for Risk.

“It was cool to get to sit down and have that discussion with fellow filmmakers and aspiring artists,” she stated, “and getting to bond through that, and to be surrounded by a community of people who are as passionate about the art you want to make as you are.”

From getting to see a seemingly infinite number of films to discussing and learning from the work they saw, Lipscomb film students found an educational experience in an environment where they hope to show their own work someday.

For Risk, the experience was like “having summer camp in the winter”. She encourages anyone who is interested in films to go to Sundance.

The Sundance Film Festival will return to Park City, Utah in January of 2018.

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