Last Sunday, Jon Watt’s film “Cop Car” at Hollywood Forever Cemetery kicked off Sundance NEXT FEST in Los Angeles. The festivities continue this weekend with a fantastic film and music lineup at The Theatre at Ace Hotel August 7, 8 and 9. As a programmer for the festival, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what goes into creating a dynamic program so I put together a few tracks that inspire my Sundance NEXT FEST experience.
But first, here is a little background on why we created this festival.
Three years ago, it started out as an experiment to provide a singular festival experience exciting enough to draw new viewers to independent film and to showcase the renegade spirit of independent artists. The name was derived from the NEXT category at the Sundance Film Festival, which showcases stylistically adventurous and bold films. Since Sundance Institute’s mission has always been dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences, we wanted to program a lineup that features what’s new and next in film and music.
Once we learned that the good people at the Ace Hotel were turning the original United Artist movie palace in downtown L.A. into a new multi-use event space, we knew we had our home. To fill the massive 1,600 seat house, we decided to pair each film with either a special music performance that embodies a shared artistic sensibility or with a special conversation between the filmmakers and the luminaries who inspired them. We hope the program draws audiences to discover these films and musicians who they may not know otherwise. But most importantly it just seemed like a cool, fun idea. It’s the type of event I’ve dreamed of attending since I was a kid, so why not finally make it happen?
On to the tracks! Below you will find some of the tracks that inspired my Sundance NEXT FEST experience. At the very bottom of the page, you can subscribe to the mixtape/playlist/what-have-you through Spotify.
This was the first Sky Ferreira song I obsessed over, so it was on repeat until my MP3 wore down. It makes me feel like a teenager who stayed up all night talking on the phone with a new crush. Sky’s first album covered a range of youthful emotions that are buried deep down in me, which is why she’s playing with “Mistress America” at Sundance NEXT FEST. Both she and the film express the frustrations and excitement of coming-of-age in perfect pop form.
I knew Rick Alverson directed this music video for Sharon Van Etten, so she was always in my head as a potential artist to pair with Rick’s new film “Entertainment.” It wasn’t until after we locked in Sharon that Rick told me she played to a small gathering of friends following a NYC screening of his first film “The Builder” back in 2010, so this night was meant to be long before Sundance NEXT FEST existed.
Last year, we found ourselves in a position where we needed to match a musical act with a zombie relationship comedy (“Life After Beth”), which is no easy task. A solo Josh Tillman (“Father John Misty”) took the stage after the film armed only with his acoustic guitar and quickly had the crowd laughing at his lyrics in unison by the first song. Since then he’s released his new album “I Love You, Honeybear,” one of my favorites of 2015, and “Bored in the USA” highlights what makes Josh such an inventive songwriter.
For his senior thesis film at NYU, writer/director Michael Larnell returned to his hometown St. Louis, MO to make “Cronies,” a film featuring a cast, crew, and soundtrack of St. Louis talent. I think it’s one of the best representations of St. Louis I’ve ever seen on screen. I love that he sourced a local hip-hop soundtrack from artists like A-Game, L.A. Raye Cole and Itz Dre.
“Turbo Kid” is the batshit love letter to 80s post-apocalyptic cinema I’ve been waiting for all my life. It should be enough that Le Matos’ score is synth-heavy perfection but to make the rest of us insecure about our talents one of its members, Jean-Philippe Bernier, served double duty as the film’s cinematographer.
If Sundance NEXT FEST has two major goals, it’s first, to celebrate art not afraid to carve its own path. And second, to create a unique festival for Los Angeles, one of the great art capitals in the world. The musician that most exemplifies those two attributes to me is Flying Lotus. He worked on two projects we premiered at last year’s festival (“Imperial Dreams” and “m.A.A.d.”) and we hope to have him back in the program soon. He’s done more to put Los Angeles on the map than any other current musician I can think of.