For emerging filmmakers hoping to take the next step in their artistic and professional journey, finding a community of like-minded creators is crucial. With this goal in mind, Adobe has partnered with Sundance Institute on the Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellowship program which, since 2015, has provided mentorship and support to promising filmmakers early in their careers. With an eye toward elevating underrepresented voices, the fellowship enables the next generation of creatives by offering an opportunity to share their stories with the world.
This year, as a presenting sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival, Adobe launched a short spot highlighting the work of four Sundance Institute alumni, which was co-directed and edited by 2018 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellow Carol Nguyen. The vignette, titled “When I Tell the Story,” epitomizes the importance of giving new filmmakers a platform to share their work and their voice. “When I tell the story, it’s dark and glittery. The underdog wins,” says filmmaker Ro Haber. “When I tell the story, people feel like they belong,” adds filmmaker Amber Fares.
Who are the current fellows (and how can I see their work)?
On February 1, Adobe is presenting Ignite Day, a curation of free events and programming with free access for emerging filmmakers and those interested in participating, where the fellows’ work will be screened. The 10 filmmakers, who are each between 18 and 25 years old, are an impressive group, and speak highly of the way the program has challenged and pushed them as artists while helping them build a creative community.
“As a filmmaker, I often find myself in situations where I’m the only black woman in the room, which can feel extremely alienating,” said Aurora Brachman, a 2020 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellow who directed the short film “Joychild.” “Through Ignite I’ve found a cohort of incredible artists, many of them black, brown, and queer, that are constantly affirming and challenging me and my work.”
“The most important thing I learned in this fellowship is the potential for intimacy even during these absurd times,” added Natalie A. Chao, another Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellow from 2020, who directed the short film “To Know Her.” “I will never forget how at the end of our (virtual) Ignite lab last July, when we were all just a bunch of video thumbnails on a screen … most of us started getting teary-eyed when we had to say goodbye on our last call together. It was such a surreal moment.”
In addition to Brachman and Chao, the remaining 2020 fellows are Jacob Anderson, with his short film “Bodies”; JoeBill Muñoz, with “Follow the Sun”; Sasha Argirov, with “Personals”; Sean Wang, with “Still Here”; Zenzele Ojore, with “The South is My Sister’s Skin”; Mariales Diaz, with “Undone”; Giselle Bonilla, with “Virgencita”; and Kourtney Jackson, with “Wash Day.”
“Before this fellowship, I didn’t know how to present my work to potential supporters,” said Muñoz. “Regular meetings with my mentor, Jeff Orlowski, have given me insight into strategizing fundraising and given me confidence to present the strongest pitch to potential funders.”
What have past fellows gone on to do?
Alumni of the Ignite program have continued to challenge our perceptions and broaden our perspectives through their filmmaking and artistic work. This year’s Sundance slate features a short film, “Bruiser,” from Miles Warren, a 2016 Sundance Ignite x Adobe fellow. The short follows a boy named Darious who grapples with the concept of masculinity after his father gets into a brawl at a bowling alley.
Carol Nguyen, a 2018 Sundance Ignite x Adobe fellow, was plumbing her relationship to her family when she came up with the idea for her short “No Crying at the Dinner Table.” “Growing up not speaking the same language as fluently as your parents puts a strain on your relationship,” Nguyen said in an interview. Her film, a 15-minute documentary that’s Oscar qualified this year, chronicles Nguyen’s journey to understanding her family’s background and the trauma that makes them who they are today.
Another 2018 fellow, Crystal Kayiza, also has a short film which is qualified for Oscars this year. Set in a Brooklyn nail salon, Kayiza’s short “See You Next Time” is in Mandarin and English and charts the relationship between a Chinese nail artist and her Black client. The film played at Sundance in 2020 and bodes well for the future of Kayiza’s career.
How do you take part in the Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellowship?
To earn a spot in the Sundance Ignite x Adobe fellowship, artists are asked to submit an original short film up to 15 minutes in length. Ultimately, 10 filmmakers are selected — and the creativity, craft and originality of thought on display in the 2020 fellowship class bodes well for the future of the entertainment industry.
Applications for the 2021 fellowship opens March 2 – April 6 through the Sundance Ignite x Adobe Short Film Challenge.
What resources is Adobe making available to emerging filmmakers?
In addition to the fellowship, Adobe also offers year-round resources, grants and career opportunities in their ongoing mission to promote creativity for all.