UCLA at Sundance

Join us in Park City to celebrate the talented Bruins who will be screening work at this year's Sundance Film Festival


PHOTO: Toasting filmmakers at the 2010 edition of the UCLA @ Sundance Film Festival reception are (left to right):"Little Miss Sunshine" producer Albert Berger, Bona Fide Productions; Teri Schwartz, dean, UCLA TFT and Jeff Skoll, founder and chairman, Participant Media.

Enjoy these stories and images of the Bruin experience at Sundance Film Festival in 2010.

Official Sundance Film Festival web blogger writes about UCLA alum Jenn Arnold’s doc, "A Small Act“ and features pix of her with Bill Gates and the doc's cast at a screening.

Interview with alumni Jenn Arnold and Patti Lee

UCLA Alums Jenn Arnold and Patti Lee discuss their heartwarming documentary about access to education in Kenya; audience reaction, meeting Bill Gates and film critic Roger Eberts comments about the film in his online journal for The Chicago Sun Times.

Thabo Wolfaardt MFA ’07: UCLA Filmmaker @ Sundance 2010

Wolfaardt MFA ’07, director of “Joburg,” screening at Sundance 2010 talks about the challenges of shooting in South Africa, security issues, hiring a local crew, how his work on docs creatively fuels his narrative films, dreams coming true and how he cant imagine working on a film without fellow classmate and cinematographer Quyen Tran MFA ’08. The film is about two strangers who share an unlikely bond in the harsh landscape of Johannesburg.

Paul de Lumen MFA ’08: UCLA Filmmaker @ Sundance 2010 – PART 1

For Paul de Lumen ’08, cinematographer of “Southern District” (“Zona Sur”), making this film was the greatest challenge of his career, shooting each scene in a 360-degree pan shot while avoiding lights, the cameras reflection or that of a member of the technical crew. Making its North American Premiere, the film is set in La Paz, Bolivia, in a villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, where an upper-class family experiences their final halcyon days of luxury as social change penetrates their bubble. In Park City, the film screened in the World Cinema Narrative Competition category of the festival. Paul was awarded the Colon de Plata for Best Cinematography at the 35th Huelva Latin-American Film Festival in Spain. The film also screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival and is bound for Berlin in February, 2010.

Click here for Part 2 of Paul’s interview.

UCLA @ Sundance for Sun, Jan. 24

Today, had a pleasant surprise running in to alums Nick Spicer and Nate Bolotin at Sundance representing “Nuummioq,” the beautifully done, poignant Greenland drama in World Cinema competition at the Festival. A wonderful film generating a lot of praise; my question is who decided on the title of the film and why? It may well be the most mispronounced Sundance movie title in the 25-year history of the festival.

The following description of the film appears in the Sundance Online Film Guide.

The most ambitious film ever to emerge from Greenland, and the first Greenland/Inuit–produced feature, “Nuummioq” tells the story of a young man's odyssey from mundane existence into an acute sense of the sacred. Like most regular guys in the tiny capital city, Malik works, cavorts with buddies, and fools around — toggling between Danish and Kalaallisut languages. All at once, when he discovers he's very ill, mortality intrudes. Keeping the news to himself, Malik accompanies his cousin on a boat trip. What begins as an unremarkable outing becomes a transcendent journey at the edge of the world as he grapples with his elusive past and tunes into the present.

So breathtaking and luminous is “Nuummioq's” landscape that you can almost feel the brisk air oxygenating your lungs. The tender play of shadow and light on the characters' faces seems to suggest that we’re only a flicker in nature's vast radiance; but during our short time here, there's family, tradition, and maybe even love.

Partners Bolotin, Spicer and Aram Tertzakian met while earning MFA’s at UCLA's Producers Program and have established XYZ Films based in Los Angeles, CA. XYZ is currently producing a slate of film and television projects, many of which were cultivated from an exclusive one year partnership with Time Inc., the publisher of such magazines as Time, Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated and Life.

XYZ also specializes in representing feature films for worldwide sales with an eye on North American distribution.XYZ sells to all of the major, mini-major and specialty distributors, across all distribution platforms, both domestically and internationally. Additionally, XYZ sources and structures financing on select third party projects via its relationships with investors around the world.

UCLA @ Sundance News: Alum Speaks Out on Prop 8 Film

UCLA alumnus Dustin Lance Black ’96 (Academy Award-winner for Milk, narrator of 8: The Mormon Proposition) participated on the Sunday, Jan. 24 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) panel discussion on the film "8: The Mormon Proposition." The event is tied to cineGLAAD, the program which works to amplify films withLGBT content and by LGBT filmmakers. For more information:

The filmmakers behind “8: The Mormon Proposition” have documented the Mormon Church's decades-long strategy to defeat LGBT civil rights through front organizations and the systematic use of its resources to defeat legislators who support marriage equality. The film also uses personal stories to show how institutionalized religious discrimination against LGBT people destroys lives. Panelists discussed the power of film and its role in the LGBT movement today. They also examined how the film looks to move the nation to question the role of religion in politics – particularly around the passage of anti-gay Proposition 8 in California, which removed the right to marry from gay and lesbian couples.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit

"A Small Act" at Sundance, directed by Jennifer Arnold '99

Highly respected film critic Roger Ebert draws a parallel between UCLA alumna Jenn Arnold's popular Sundance Film Festival documentary and Davis Guggenheim's doc in his online journal for The Chicago Sun Times. The docs, "A Small Act" by Arnold and "Waiting for Superman" by Guggenheim, focus on access to education. In the piece, published Jan. 24, Ebert says "Both films are powerful. Seen together, they are devastating. They both end in the same way, with a competition among young students to allow them to continue their education."

Click here for more

UCLA Alum Produces “Douchebag” Drama in Competition @ Sundance

Competing in the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition is “Douchebag” produced by Marius Markevicius MFA ’02. The story is about Sam Nussbaum who, on the verge of getting married, insists on escorting his younger brother, Tom, on a wild goose chase of a journey to find Tom’s 5th-grade girlfriend. The cast includes Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau, Nicole Vicius, Amy Ferguson and Wendi McClendon-Covey. The film will have its world premiere in Park City on January 22, 2010 at 8pm.

We caught up with Markevicius before he traveled to the Festival and asked him a few questions about the project.

In your words, what is "Douchebag" about?

MARIUS MARKEVICIUS: "Douchebag" is a story about two estranged brothers, Sam and Tom, who are begrudgingly brought together for Sam’s upcoming wedding. A couple days before the wedding, Sam drags Tom on a misguided journey to find Tom’s 5th-grade girlfriend. On their road trip, it becomes evident that the journey is simply an excuse for Sam to avoid his impending commitment. At the core, the film is about family, about past hurts, about being truthful to yourself and your loved ones and about growing as a person. I think these themes and issues will really resonate with our audiences, because they hit home for a lot of people.

How did you get involved in the project?

The creative team behind "Douchebag" all worked together last year on a film titled "Spooner" that premiered at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival. The director of "Spooner," Drake Doremus, approached me and my producing partner in crime, Jonathan Schwartz, and said he had this crazy idea to make a movie starring the editor of "Spooner," Andrew Dickler. Andrew had never acted before and at first we thought the idea was a little off the wall. But as Drake pitched the idea and we saw how passionate he was about it, we started to really believe it could be a great film. We also had a great experience working with Drake, Andrew, and Lindsay Stidham (writer, co-producer). They are all such talented and fun people to work with. So, Jonathan and I got the team back together, got the financing together and off we went.

Is the story based on a true life incident?

In the film, Sam, the Douchebag character, takes his younger brother Tom on this crazy journey to find his long lost childhood girlfriend named Mary Barger. Well, our director, Drake Doremus, really had a girlfriend in 5th-grade named Mary Barger and that was one of his inspirations. In fact, Drake just recently reconnected with the real life Mary Barger since we wrapped the film! Apparently, she has a boyfriend though, so it ain’t gonna happen.

"Douchebag" is in the dramatic competition but by the description it sounds like it could be comedic, is it a comedy, drama or both; a “dramady?”

The film definitely has both elements. It’s a heartfelt journey about the relationship of two estranged brothers that must endure some very difficult real life circumstances and emotions. But there are some hilarious moments as well. Because the film was shot in a semi-scripted style, there is a lot of incredible improvised comedy from our great actors. The comedic moments are always grounded in reality though, which make the laughs very real.

What do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing the film?

We hope that audiences feel as if they have gone on an emotional journey with our lead characters and can connect with them. Nobody’s family is perfect. Everybody has had a meltdown with their brother or sister or parent or cousin at some point. So, we hope the audience can relate to Sam and Tom and their relationship that is in need of some serious healing. We also hope our audience sees the light at the end of the tunnel for our characters and that there is hope to mend familial wounds.

What were the challenges of producing this film?

Due to the semi-scripted nature of this film, we had a very interesting shooting schedule. We shot the film in two sections that were several months apart and then did re-shoots. After the first shoot, we had about half a film. Since we were working with two talented editors, Drake Doremus (director/editor) and Andrew Dickler (actor/editor) we knew we could shoot this first part, edit, and then write the rest of the film. So, we went back for a second round and shot the rest of the film. Then, a little while later, we did some last re-shoots. We knew in advance that we were going to shoot this way, but it was still very challenging to keep continuity in everything from plot advancement to the visual appearance of the actors.

How did you hear the news that the film was accepted to Sundance?

My producing partner Jonathan pulled the old, “I’ve got to meet with you in person, there's an emergency on the film routine.” I had a sense that something was awry, and it happened to be the same week the Sundance selections were coming out… I met Jonathan on the side of the road in West L.A. and sure enough, he was pulling my leg. There was no emergency; he had just got the news that "Douchebag" was accepted in the Dramatic Competition category! We exchanged a big hug and then looked up…we happened to be standing out in front of the S.F. Saloon on Pico Blvd. Needless to say, we walked into the bar and had a shot of tequila to celebrate, it was the best shot of tequila I’ve ever had! We were elated and honored to hear the news!

What type of distribution do you think would work best for your film?

We feel confident that this film would do well in a theatrical release due to the fact that it’s a very relatable film that a broad audience can connect with. We want it to have the widest release possible and hopefully we can find a home for the film where the people will love it as much as we do!

How are you feeling in these days leading up to the festival?

I am just very excited and honored to have "Douchebag" competing in the Dramatic Competition category at Sundance. When you look at the films that have premiered in this category over the past few years, it’s humbling just to be a part of it. I owe a big debt of gratitude to everyone at Sundance, to all the programmers and staff that have supported our film. And, I also have to thank all the professors and staff at UCLA TFT who laid the foundation for me in my filmmaking career and set me on the right course!

Overview of Bruins @ Sundance

World Cinema Narrative Competition

Paul de Lumen '08, cinematographer, "Southern District (Zona Sur)” In La Paz, Bolivia, in a villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, an upper-class family experiences their final halcyon days of luxury as social change penetrates their bubble. Cast: Ninón del Castillo, Pascual Loayza, Nicolás Fernández, Juan Pablo Koria, Mariana Vargas. North American Premiere.

U.S. Documentary Competition

Alumnus Alex Gibney, director, "Casino Jack & The United States of Money" A probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies. World Premiere.

Jennifer Arnold MFA '99, director, "A Small Act," co-editor Carl Pfirman MFA ’00, cinematographer Patti Lee '88, associate producer Neil H. Weiss MFA ’00.

A young Kenyan's life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received. World Premiere.

Professor Bill Barminski, animated segments in “Lucky,” directed by Jeffery Blitz (“Spellbound”).

The film crisscrosses the country examining a handful of past lottery winners as they navigate their newly found riches. The winners' lives are undoubtedly changed forever but not necessarily in the ways we may expect.

U.S. Dramatic Competition

Marius Markevicius MFA '02, producer, "Douchebag."

On the verge of getting married, Sam Nussbaum insists on escorting his younger brother, Tom, on a wild goose chase of a journey to find Tom’s fifth grade girlfriend. Cast: Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau, Nicole Vicius, Amy Ferguson, Wendi McClendon-Covey. World Premiere

Windrider Forum

Thabo Wolfaardt MFA '07, director "Joburg,” cinematographer Quyen Tran MFA ’08. Two strangers share an unlikely bond in the harsh landscape of Johannesburg.

Alexandra Fisher MFA ’08, director, “Desert Wedding.”

The story of a “bridezilla” stranded in the desert on her wedding day with a dying limo driver.

The Windrider Forum was created in 2005 to screen films in a workshop atmosphere during Sundance. Forums are now also held annually in several U.S. locations, including Colorado Springs, and internationally in Canada (Toronto Film Festival), Italy (Milan , Rome and Tuscany) and the Czech Republic (Prague).