I understood the divine design of Life when I received an invitation to attend Sundance Film Festival as an “Influencer” at the intersection of innovation, social impact and filmmaking. So many years working in community and Hip-Hop, transitioning into socially conscious film and television, all the while raising a family… let’s just say the daily grind (aka the chaos called my calendar) sometimes overtakes the vision of what I’m working towards. This unexpected opportunity reminded me I’m on my right path. With Trust, Adventure, and Courage as my companions, I took the leap, cancelled my meetings, ensured my kids were taken care of and got myself to Park City, Utah to see what this Sundance was all about.
What I appreciated most (being a bi-coastal NYC – LA baby) was the total lack of pretense. In this cold, cold town where you walk all day or grab shuttles and frantically run around to make it to the next panel, film,or your turn to literally fly in the New Frontier pavillion, jeans and flat shoes are a must. At Sundance, flyness is all about the brain, the creativity, the idea generation without the latest fashion trend getting in the way of the truth. How refreshing.
The best way I can describe it is through the simply brilliant, magnetic people I met and had the privilege of building with in this little place of parties and politics, the impossible and complex. I call it Main Street Magic because of a powerful creative energy that allows for next level conversations, collaborative thinking, and solution building. It is a vortex allowing for the highest and best evolution of ideas and clarity of understanding.
The biggest lesson for me was the power within myself to manifest my most wildest and wonderful dreams; I got this in being in cypher with the women that I met and got to learn, grow, and crescendo with. All along it was the crystal clarity and letting go of fear that was my obstacle.
My Sundance Highlights
I caught up with kick-ass women who use their talent and progressive thinking to support emerging and established voices in unique and powerful ways in the fields of film, print, social enterprise, technology, and so much more. Despite the dismal and embarrassing facts and stats about women and women of color in the industry, here was that Main Street Magic showing me where women are runnin’ shit and keeping things progressing.
Sharing laughs and banter on feminism and power over drinks at a busy bar, Binta Brown, Managing Partner of Fermata Entertainment Advisors LLC and COO of appLOUD Live Music, Inc. offered her perspective on women in the industry: “…My takeaway after seeing countless panels that included one out of six or one out of seven women on the panel, is that there just aren’t enough women in senior positions. It’s important for women to become owners of content, distribution, exhibitors and the tech enabled platforms that are increasingly used for distribution. Ownership is the best solution. Form a fund, use it to invest in properties, films, real estate…then we start seeing meaningful changes.”
Regarding women of color at Sundance: “Women of color? In the industry? I’m kidding, of course….but I saw very few people of color, which, given current demographics and the relevance of film and culture for addressing social problems and/or portraying stereotypes / informing implicit bias, is deeply disturbing…”
Powerhouse Nathalie Molina Niño, Co Founder of Entrepreneurs@Athena commented, “I was impressed with the turnout for Latino Filmmakers, from the interview with Michelle and Gina Rodriguez, to the Latino Filmmakers’ party with Hispanicize to the presence of Ambulante and so much more. One quote from Remezcla said, ‘We’re about to blow the f— up’ but I’d argue the lid’s been blown and we’re here in a big way. To stay, I might add.”
Artist, social entrepreneur, and connector Christina Hollenback brought together an important panel of organizers and activists, including Teff Poe, Maurice Mitchell, and Thenjiwe McHarris, who have been on the ground at Fergueson since day one.
Hollenback’s company, Dreaming It Different, works with communities who are living an issue to create and own solutions. Sitting with this dynamic, multi-talented woman who facilitates deep conversations between seemingly divided communities around the world, she blew me away with her global perspective and clarity on a master plan.
“This conversation was important to have at Sundance to be able to re-tell the story of Ferguson from the people who lived and lead it. We all have a part of this story. We’re holding the conversations to offer the opportunity for more people to be on the right side of history — because history is being made right now. And it’s only up to us.”
Michelle Herrera Mulligan, Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan for Latinas, shared some of her experiences at Sundance 2015: “One highlight was interviewing Gina Rodriguez for the Latino Reel-hosted panel discussion on engaging more Latino film makers. Her advice was real and engaging… Latinos should write, act, and produce now because the door is opening. The best part of her message is that Sundance itself proves her point:
The highest honors this year went to a Latino director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who won the Special Jury Prize and the U.S Dramatic Competition! Another highlight was watching the audience cry and laugh within the span of a few minutes at the premiere of Alfonso’s film, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,’ and seeing them all leap up in a standing ovation for the incredible cast.”
I did manage to see a couple films (it is actually really easy to go to Sundance and not see any movies!). I had the pleasure of watching “Liveforever,” which blew my mind!
Michelle’s thoughts on it: “The film ‘Liveforever’ (or as it’s called in Español, ‘Que viva la música’), celebrates salsa, life and womanhood with a passionate force rarely seen in film.
Many filmmakers avoided the project, fearing looking ridiculous in trying to adapt the original outrageous (and ambitious!) Colombian novel, but the beautiful, zany, ground-and genre-busting film that premiered will surely do well on the indie circuit!”
“Film and media dictate society, and how we view ourselves culturally. It’s important to have voices of color and films by and about people of color because they shift our perspective, revealing the very life force behind our cultures and unique world view,” Michelle added.
So my first Sundance experience was fantastic.
Meeting Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Adrian Grenier and other celebs was fun and exciting but the true value was building with like-minded visionary creatives who are out to solve our world’s greatest challenges… and having a fun, sustainable life while doing it.
Back in NYC and in the swing of my day-to-day, I’m remembering all that is possible. Life’s lessons come in many packages. If you are open to signs you will be guided down your right path with a bit more ease and grace. It takes willingness to stay in it, though, and stay open to the idea that everything does, in fact, happen for a reason.
Please reach to all the dope folks I told you about and let’s create change… together!
@jlovecalderon @mhmwriter @hollenba @NathalieMolina @batnib
Cover photo Getty / Images.net, by Eduardo Carvajal Rata © RATA for the film “Liveforever” (“Que viva la música”).