I’m up at Sundance for the Filmmakers Lab, where I serve as an advisor.
I’ve written about previous sessions, and the overall experience is remarkably consistent year-to-year. The projects change, but the work is largely the same — helping writers (mostly writer/directors) get their scripts into their best shape before shooting.
I learn a lot from the fellows and their projects — many of them are international, and focus on stories and situations I would never otherwise encounter. But I pick up a lot from the other advisors as well. I quoted one of them on Twitter yesterday:
“Writing is betraying the people you love to impress people you’ll never meet.”
That was Chris McQuarrie, re-quoting an advisor from several years ago.
When writers give notes, they can often articulate issues in ways that feel more like poetry than problems. Etgar Keret felt one script had a bunch of sticks very cleverly holding up the roof, but what it really needed was a central pillar to support the weight. Susannah Grant wanted to help that same writer find a taproot to drink from. Both clever ways of expressing an idea that you wouldn’t get from a producer.
To the degree there’s a formula to the labs, it’s that sense of literary philanthropy. Not only are the notes you get here more thoughtful than a producer’s, they’re also genuinely disinterested and agenda-free.