Receiving the Sundance award can have a lasting impact on your life. Getting awarded, having your efforts recognized and your work validated by an individual can make anyone feel like they have won in life. Aiming ahead, chasing and competing is tough, especially with our survival instincts so hellbent on propelling us forwards.
If you have been to college, you’d be familiar with Maslow’s hierarchical needs. In our quest to reach self-actualization, we need to be driven by a sense of personal importance. As he famously said, “What a man can be, he must be.”
Any filmmaker can find him/herself in Maslow’s work, which is why when being called out to receive an award, it is the ultimate praise for your work. To be cheered on by not one individual but a massive live crowd of around 124,000 individuals is no less than an achievement.
As the Sundance film festival 2021 is drawing closer, anyone participating might experience a bit of performance anxiety. Having your work displayed at the sundance film festival awards is praise enough but what does it really feel like to be one of the sundance award winners? Let’s look back to Sundance awards 2019 and so forth to recap the winning films that broke their way to the bigger screens.
Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik
Debra was a big winner at the Utah film festival and awards as she won both the dramatic competition grand jury prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.
Granik had been filming since 1997 and managed to cast the then-unknown Jennifer Lawrence.
The film centered around Ozark mountain girl trudging through a dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her missing father. The film served as a launching pad of sorts with John Hawkes as the leading man; both Jennifer and John went on later to receive an Academy Award nomination.
Dear White People – Justin Simien
With an unapologetic stand against the right-wing media dwellers. Justin Simien had been targeted for causing a divide with a racist intent. He stated in a press conference that “equality feels like oppression to the privileged”. His efforts alone were an adamant response to all his critiques when he scored the special jury prize for breakthrough talent at the sundance film festival awards.
‘Dear White People’ is akin to other sundance award-winning movies that burst out with everything aspiring directors have to say. It was a message about racial superiority that explored a millennial’s racial identity at an Ivy League college which was predominantly white.
In the Company of Men – Neil LaBute
The sundance award winners really place a whole lot of themselves in their work. Neil LaBute established himself as an unforgiving judge of the ugliest side of human nature. With his mother as a hospital receptionist and father as a long haul truck driver, LaBute had early on developed a fascination for harsh but true social themes.
LaBute’s provocative controversial writing had depicted a frightening portrayal of a man’s icky, deplorable fascination and chauvinism when it comes to dominating the opposite gender. He bagged the filmmaker’s trophy dramatic prize at the Utah film festival and awards.
Super Size Me – Morgan Spurlock
Spurlock was rejected five times by the film school at USC and was homeless for a long while before caving his path as a filmmaker. The film won for directing at the sundance film festival awards and later landed as an Academy Award nomination.
Morgan had eaten nothing but McDonald’s for a month to gain 25 pounds for his role in Super Size Me. Although it came out as the sundance film festival audience award winners but to say that this is unhealthy – is an understatement!
Clemency – Chinonye Chukwo
Chukwo both wrote and directed this death row drama and emerged as the first black woman to get a grand jury award. The sundance awards party 2019 raved about Chukwo’s work about a prison warden who is having second thoughts about carrying out the executions. More than a month after winning at sundance awards 2019, it landed itself a home with Neon productions.
What can we learn from this? Let no one tell you that your dreams to score big in the Sundance film festival 2021 is a pipe dream; from Paul Downs Colaizzo documentary being sold at the fest to Amazon for $14 million to Geoffrey Fletcher netting an Oscar for adapting a poetic source material – sundance award-winning movies have changed lives!