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NO FILM SCHOOL, “The Biggest Challenges 2023 Sundance Filmmakers Faced (And How They Tackled Them)”

by Jo Light

Access original article here.

Take notes from these filmmakers.

Sundance is often the pinnacle of indie film—we all have stories of submitting to the fest, waiting to hear back, hoping to get in. Regardless of whether we've gotten that coveted notification yet, we should all continue to learn from others in our field, including those talented creators who got accepted to the festival this year.

We know making a film isn't easy. So that's why it's great to hear from directors, screenwriters, and other team members who perhaps hit roadblocks, had creative challenges, or faced huge creative setbacks. We spoke to over 60 amazing creators this year to learn what their biggest obstacles were, and how they overcame them.

Dig into this valuable advice, then add your own in the comments!


PJ Lopez SPC, DP, The Fishbowl

"I think one of the most challenging moments in the production was our shooting in the Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Puerto Rico. We had to work with natural light in a night space, as it is a protected environment. and also because we had to capture bioluminescence on camera in the most organic way. A combination of no lights at all and night time."

Glorimar Marrero-Sánchez, director/writer/producer, La Pecera (The Fishbowl)

"Unpredictable events and obstacles were constant factors during the development of the film. In 2017, Puerto Rico (which is where the film takes place) was embattled by a category 4 hurricane, causing catastrophic damages across the island and shifting the priorities of many of the people involved in our production. Then in 2020, a series of uncommon earthquakes rattled the island. These two events set in motion many delays in the development process and the situation was aggravated by what would come next. Like the rest of the world, we were faced with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which further delayed our production plans and then put an unexpected pressure on our timeline. We were about to lose part of the financing of the film if we did not shoot before the end of 2021.

"This was very challenging because we needed to develop and implement a health protocol for Covid-19. Initially, I intended to work a hybrid form allowing more instances for documentary elements, but we needed to follow the protocol that required a more controlled set. This changed my initial proposal and turned it into a much more intimate and measured one. In some sense, with this new approach, I felt unprepared, but I think this is a common feeling for a first-time feature film director in any situation. This scenario opened doors for closeness with the cast and locations due to the necessity of creating a “bubble”. We had boundaries that allowed us to go deeper in many senses and discover new catalysts. We also had some limitations with locations and we really turned that into uniqueness. A great example of that is the end of the film. That location did not have a bath inside of the house and the tree outside perfectly provided the set for the scene and revealed a deeper development of the main character. Every obstacle was faced by rewriting on set and rethinking as a tool of the daily process. The unpredictable was essential to the film’s growth."


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