Hello Sundance 2017! The whole Vimeo Curation team is making the pilgrimage to Park City, where we’ll be scouting films for our newly launched Staff Pick Premieres program. We can’t wait to see new films and old friends. In fact, seven of the shorts from Sundance 2016 have been Staff Pick Premieres, and three of the shorts from this year’s Sundance are already available on Vimeo (watch them below!). Not much can be said about this festival that hasn’t been said or written about before, so…let’s just get to the good stuff. Here are ten Vimeo filmmakers that we’re keeping our Sundance eyes on.
If you’ve been to Sundance in the last six years, chances are you’ve seen a film or two from the irreverent arts collective Borscht. Led by Lucas Leyva and Jillian Mayer, Borscht has been a driving force, if not the driving force behind filmmaking in Miami. This is probably best exemplified by the essential role they played in bringing the film Moonlight to life. They even have their own film festival! This year, Borscht has two pieces at Sundance: the short film “Kaiju Bunraku” by Mayer and Leyva, as well as a virtual reality installation titled “The Sky is a Gap” by Rachel Rossin. We have no idea what to expect and that’s the best part.
Writer, director, and actor Dustin Guy Defa has been making films for the better part of ten years, but it wasn’t until his first feature in 2011, Bad Fever, that the industry took note. Since then he’s made seven shorts that have screened all over the world, including Sundance, SXSW, New York Film Festival, and Berlin. In 2014, he was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and Vimeo recently hosted the online premiere of his new short film, “Dramatic Relationships.” Defa’s films have a certain unnameable quality to them. They seem frozen in time — or maybe out of time? Like his peers the Safdie Brothers, he shoots on 16mm and uses many non-actors to play key and supporting roles. Now he’s back at Sundance with a feature adaptation of his short “Person to Person,” but this time he rounds out his cast with Philip Baker Hall, Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, and Tavi Gevinson. Expect a breezy, charming, and very New York story replete with philosophical moments and off-beat humor. Nice.
Over the years, video essays have quietly emerged as one of the most exciting subgenres within Vimeo. And if we had to pick one essayist who has had the most significant impact, it would probably be Kogonada. With 12 Staff Picked video essays to his name (which isn’t even his real name, rather a tribute to YasujirÅ Ozu’s screenwriting partner, KÅgo Noda), we fully expected Koganada’s feature-length directorial debut to be a 90-minute rendering of his signature style. Columbus, however, is not a video essay. Far from it, in fact. Starring John Cho, who you might remember from Harold & Kumar or the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboots, Columbus is a drama about two people from opposite sides of the globe who bond with one another against a backdrop of modernist architecture. Given that Columbus promises to be such a significant departure from Kogonada’s previous work, we could not be more intrigued.
We have been big fans of animator Julia Pott for quite some time. Julia made her first splash on Vimeo in 2010 with “Howard,” the first of six Staff Picks that she has earned. “Howard” is a magical, atmospheric story of a human and a polar bear. We’ve heard her much buzzed-about short showing at Sundance, “Summer Camp Island,” has many of Julia’s signature filmic elements: strange creatures (aliens! unicorns! monsters under the bed!), best buds attached at the hip, and sensitive characters exploring what it feels like to grow up.
In hardly a year, Field of Vision has emerged as one of the most exciting startup production teams in the documentary world. On Vimeo, they have already racked up a staggering ten Staff Picks, including the stylish and eerie short “Project X,” which is part of this year’s Sundance shorts lineup. Founded by AJ Schnack, Charlotte Cook, and Oscar-winning director Laura Poitras (Citizen Four), Field of Vision is part of First Look Media, the company behind the film Spotlight as well as the online publication The Intercept.
Jim Cummings brought down the house last year as the writer, director, and actor behind the hilariously heartfelt short, “Thunder Road.” Not only did he win the entire Vimeo staff over, he walked away from last year’s Sundance Film Festival with the Short Film Grand Jury Prize. He’s always working on something new, be it with longtime collaborators Ornana, with Julia Bales on their most recent Staff Pick, “Us Funny,” or on his own projects. We always look forward to see what Cummings creates next and we are definitely not going to miss his short film, “The Robbery,” playing this week in Park City.
There is as much to say about Shola Amoo’s film, “Dear Mr. Shakespeare,” as there is to see and think about in its short five and a half minutes. Shot over two and a half days as part of the Shakespeare Lives 2016 project, this mesmerizing piece uses spoken word and interpretive dance to ponder themes of otherness, blackness, and immigration in Shakespeare’s Othello. “Dear Mr. Shakespeare” is a work of art that you’ll want to watch repeatedly in order to catch each of its brilliantly woven rhymes.
Lily Baldwin wears many hats. She’s a writer, director, actor, dancer, dreamer, and now, virtual reality storyteller. It makes sense that a filmmaker with such an immersive imagination would move towards VR. Just over two years ago Lily burst onto our radar with “Sleepover LA,” a short that radically redefined the dance film by using the movements themselves as a diaphanous storytelling tool. So when she popped up in omnibus feature film collective:unconscious, a peculiar project where different filmmakers literally interpret each others dreams, we knew she’d be right at home. Now with two Staff Picks under her belt, she arrives at Sundance with a piece that combines her previous work. In “Through You”, her VR piece co-directed by Saschka Unseld (Oculus Story Studio), she uses dance to travel through time and space in order to experience love. We can’t wait to check it out.
Credited with five Staff Picks, director Peter Huang keeps proving that he is someone to keep an eye on. In 2015, Huang created what we at Vimeo deemed to be the best music video of the year with the suspenseful thriller “Cazette – Sleepless.” Always pushing the envelope with how story can drive a music video, it is no surprise to see Huang now take his skills to narrative shorts. His “5 Films About Technology” is one of 14 international narrative shorts selected this year, and with Huang’s signature approach, it’s bound to impress.
Online dating is an extremely well-trodden theme addressed by young artists these days. The ups and downs (and sometimes rock-bottoms) of this app-induced phenomenon has been written, drawn, and sung about so much that you’d think we’ve already seen every sigh and yawn of the experience. However, when we saw Zachary Zezima’s relatable and strange animated short, “It’s a Date,” we were glad to see that not everything had been addressed, at least not in the way that Zezima is capable of showing. We’re super proud to say that “It’s a Date” made its world premiere right here on Vimeo as a Staff Pick Premiere. Read more about the film in our interview with Zachary.