Columbia alumni create documentary about students’ Sundance Film Festival journey

By Shardae Smith

The largest independent film festival in the United States always welcomes the film industry’s bigwigs and top professionals, but this year it also introduced a few of Columbia’s own.

The college’s presence was fully apparent at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as alumni, college trustees and staff mingled during a three-day span of events in Park City, Utah, Jan. 21 -24.

While at the festival, a 30-minute documentary titled “Taking Park City” was produced by Dimitri Moore, the college’s facilities coordinator and alumnus, which captures two Columbia graduates and their journey at the festival.

“We thought it would be great to encapsulate that presence Columbia has at Sundance and in film history,” Moore said. “We thought it would be great to make it more of a human interest personal story.”

Bruce Sheridan, chair of the Film and Video Department, chose practicum films created by Columbia alumni Norman Franklin and Tanya Savard to be viewed at the festival. The two were also chosen to be the short documentary’s focus.

The film’s focus will revolve around Franklin and Savard’s first time networking within the professional film industry, which Moore said many want to get into

but few succeed.

“They’re growing up and moving up to different levels,” Moore said. “Everyone should have a passion [for something] they love doing and should do everything they can to elevate and escalate their career further.”

Moore landed a deal with PBS station WTTW to air “Taking Park City” later in the year. The segment will also feature Franklin’s film, “Beast” and Savard’s film, “Marilyn’s Dress.”

“[Franklin and Savard] didn’t know what to expect,” Moore said. “We had to take the training wheels off [and] pull back and become flies on the wall as they

went off and networked.”

While at the festival, the two filmmakers met President of HBO Films Len Amato and “Avatar” cinematographer Mauro Fiore, both Columbia alumni.

Franklin and Savard said meeting the successful graduates was a great reward for them.

“At first we were a little apprehensive about how to go about [networking],” Savard said. “We weren’t sure how to approach them, but after a while we got more comfortable with it. We made some pretty decent connections.”

Savard said she’s looking forward to attending the festival again next year to see films and get into more industry events.

“These film festivals aren’t necessarily about the films all the time,” she said. “It’s about the parties and networking as well. Getting your name out there is more important than making a statement about your film.”

Moore said many Columbia alumni stories aren’t known, and he hopes the documentary will show how far Columbia has reached in the industry. He plans to submit the documentary into next year’s Sundance Film Festival for screening.

“We want people to get something out of this that is personal to them,” Moore said. “We all have to get out of our comfort zone when starting a career, and this is the story of two people [who] are doing that.”