Philipp Engelhorn, Cinereach Founder and Executive Director, sat with RFF alum Annie Waldman and Editor Mike Plunkett at a screening of their film So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away at Sundance 2009. The Egyptian Theater in Park City was packed and though it was her fourth screening during the fest, Annie had the pre-screening jitters.
After the screening, however, Annie and her film were showered with encouragement and interest. When she sat on stage for a Q&A next to 3 other filmmakers, the bulk of the questions were directed at her.
Photo by Oz Skinner
Phil asked Annie for some thoughts and advice he could share with the current Reach Fellows – who are now nearing the finish line with their projects. This is their conversation:
PE - Annie, I’m guessing your experience at Sundance 09 was quite the memorable one. Any words come to mind when thinking back?
AW – Motivating, legitimizing, a sense of community, family, in some ways a club.
PE – What do you mean by “legitimizing?”
AW – I think especially for short filmmakers I feel that Sundance is the ultimate experience to make you believe in yourself as a filmmaker. It solidifies you.
PE – How about your experiences with other attendees?
AW – I think I’ve learned more from the other filmmakers, both feature and especially short, and even jurors, in one week than in four years at film school. Not that film school wasn’t amazing – it gives you the tools to make films, but it doesn’t make you believe in yourself. It’s very much sink or swim. But Sundance… you’ve reached the island. You can stop feeling start looking forward and stop doubting the present.
PE – What were some of the worries you had pre-Sundance?
AW – I felt like I was a fraud.
PE – Excuse me?
AW – I didn’t see myself as a filmmaker – just as someone who by some fluke got in. Like, ‘did I really get in or was it something else?’ Also I was worried that people would look down on me cause I’m young, or that I wouldn’t fit in to the industry because I spend more time thinking and working on my projects than schmoozing and knowing the right language. But I soon realized I wouldn’t have been accepted if I didn’t have some kind of talent or something to say as a young female filmmaker. And Sundance does an amazing job at guiding, especially young filmmakers, through the jungle.
PE – How so?
AW – They set you up with a publicist, arrange for radio show interviews, tv show interviews, magazine interviews – and they help you learn and know more about your film, and how to really talk about your film to people who may never see your film.
PE – Any advice?
AW – I wish I had contacted people before the festival to set up meetings or tell them about my film. I’m really glad, though, that I came equipped with plenty of business cards, postcards, and especially copies of my film to hand out so people I met would remember who I am.
PE – What about advice in terms of what you learned from making your film?
AW – I’m really glad I listened to my editor. As a director you have so much floating around about what you want, but it’s the simple story that’s always best. Go for the simplicity. And I’m so glad I didn’t go experimental or have too many loose ends. Just one thought, instead of eight.
PE – Any comments or critique you received at the festival that stood out?
AW – I’ll give you a good and a bad one. The good one was from a fellow short filmmaker, maybe 50 or so, who told me my film was her favorite because it was really about reality, not a place or some famous person. Just people in America who I let tell their stories on screen. The fact that she appreciated that as a much older filmmaker really meant a lot. The bad one was from some producer who saw my film and said that the film, and I as a filmmaker, had a lot of potential. But I guess you can feed off of that.
PE – Any last comments?
AW – Never think your film is too small.