Education: I have two degrees from the University of Texas at Austin's School of Communications, one in Radio-TV-Film and one in Advertising, with a minor in Business Foundations from the McCombs School of Business.
Career background: I started at the William Morris Agency in August 2007. Right before the writer's strike, I became an assistant in the agency's independent film department. Work didn't slow down for our department during the strike, so I threw myself headlong into the job and never looked back. A few months after the merger with Endeavor, Graham Taylor promoted me to coordinator, a new position within the department. And within a year and a half, I was promoted to agent in WME Global, in June 2010.
Agency tenure: I've been at this agency, in both of its forms, for a combined total of about five and a half years.
Ambitions: As agents in an ever-changing global financial climate, we need to be in front of these changes, which is a daily goal! But I love it. This job is incredibly fulfilling, and I constantly aim to stretch outside of my comfort zone and be better, every day. I love putting films together, structuring new ways for our clients to make money. And I have an amazingly talented pool of resources at WME that I look to for insight and inspiration. Right now, I don't know of any other career I would like to pursue than the one I'm living.
Filmmaking and filmmakers that inspire you: I love working with teams. I really do think it takes a village — and the success stories that come from those who work in teams are incredible. The Court 13 team that made “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a great example. But I also love working with teams, and individuals, who are passionate about telling a compelling story, in documentary or narrative form. Stories that have a unique voice and say something about the human condition. We should prioritize the impact our stories can have on others, whether told through comedy or tragedy. “Compliance,” “Beginners,” “Pariah,” “Another Earth,” “Blue Valentine,” “Undefeated”… the kind of movies that make people talk, and think. And laugh. I'm still hoping to organize an annual Waynestock event in L.A., where we screen “Wayne’s World” 1 & 2 back to back with a live band and a lot of beer.
What you spend your time doing at Sundance: A very large portion of my festival is spent freezing outside of theaters, looking for buyers under their parkas and, when I can, making someone's day with a leftover ticket. The rest is spent back in the condo, negotiating deals till the wee hours of the night and making ice cream sundaes, pizza and nachos to keep everyone happy. I am definitely the junk food queen of the group! But I've seen Bagel Bites close deals. True story.
What young or new filmmakers could learn from you in a five-minute conversation on the street in Park City: Stand out — for the right reasons. There are SO many resources at your disposal. Use them before you cold-call an executive. Because you only have a few chances (sometimes only one) to get it right, so be ready when you strike, and stand out. Tell a new story. Put your script through screenwriting or directing or producing labs. If you're a first-time director, make a sizzle reel or a short film to showcase your talent. And most importantly, know your audience. Whom are you making this film for? Know the answer to this question. You're going to have to convince actors, executives and financiers that you have an audience to get your film made.
Head of your department: Graham Taylor
Best/most useful thing learned from those above you: Support your team, trust your team, respect your team, and put the team first — and they'll do the same for you.
CHRISTINE D’SOUZA, WME Global
Education: University of Arizona, B.A. Media Arts, Business
Career background: As the vice president at Preferred Content, I was responsible for acquisitions, sales and financing of the company’s entire film slate, which eased my transition into the agency side of the business. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work closely with Graham Taylor. From selling international titles for him to co-representing films while I was at Preferred Content, it was finally time to join his team. I’ve always been inspired by his passion and enthusiasm for the film business. Graham is a great leader and mentor.
Agency tenure: I joined WME as an agent in the Global Finance & Distribution Group three months ago.
Ambitions: Though I’ve been in sales my entire career, I look forward to collaborating more closely with talented filmmakers. I want to play a bigger role in shaping the careers of filmmakers and continue to build innovative distribution strategies across many platforms worldwide.
Filmmaking and filmmakers that inspire you: I get most excited when filmmakers really hone in on their personal experiences and passions and are able to make them accessible to a worldwide audience. I think it’s as important to have a unique perspective on a subject as it is to tell a good story. I am thoroughly entertained by every genre of film, so for me it’s really up to the filmmakers to tell stories in new and interesting ways.
What you spend your time doing at Sundance: My focus at Sundance is 100% on the films I am representing at the festival. Sundance creates an environment for young filmmakers to emerge by embracing new distribution models that allow people outside of Park City to see the brilliance showcased at the festival. From pushing buyers to the right screenings to negotiating the best deals on behalf of our clients I’m quite busy, and there’s not a lot of time for sleep.
What young or new filmmakers could learn from you in a five-minute conversation on the street in Park City: Young filmmakers often arrive on the festival scene with films that are cutting-edge, eye-opening and breathtaking. However, they sometimes lack a worldwide commercial appeal. Some questions a filmmaker should focus on would be, “How do I expand the concept of the movie to find an international audience? How do I find the best foreign sales agent to handle the film? What level of cast makes the film commercially viable and a possible breakout at a festival?”
Head of your department: Graham Taylor
Best/most useful thing learned from those above you: I’ve learned a great deal about the value of teamwork. We have a remarkably diverse team with talented agents from many different backgrounds in the entertainment industry. Everyone has different skills and experiences, so we share a wealth of knowledge to work toward a unified goal. Graham Taylor has built the team into a family that values loyalty, communication and friendship. I am proud to be working alongside such driven and thoughtful people. Though I am new to the team, everyone has made me feel at home.
The keys to making the most of the junior position, from Graham Taylor, head of WME Global: Treat everyone like you would your own family/friends and work with vigor and passion. In time the outcome will be magical.