NYU’s Tisch: Devoted to the indie ‘Dance

NYU Tisch: 20 Years at Sundance

When NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts decided to sponsor the Sundance Film Festival 20 years ago, it was just a few years after the debut of “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” and indie film was exploding.

Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell, appointed to the post in 1991, deduced that the two groups would be a natural match. Two decades later, the relationship is still going strong.

“Our missions are closely aligned,” says John Tintori, chair of Tisch’s graduate film program. “We’re always looking for interesting people who are natural storytellers so we can teach them how to make films. That’s what Sundance supports too — new storytellers, new voices.”

“In an era where big studios are moving toward mass market film, it’s important for us who are championing singular distinctive voices to support each other,” says Joe Pichirallo, chair of undergraduate film and television at Tisch. “Sundance is an approved and accepted place for talent to be discovered.”

Tisch provides financial support for the festival and holds a party for industry insiders and student/alumni filmmakers as well as a private dinner. So many students plan to go to the festival, either with or without projects, that Tintori says they’re starting their winter semester a week late. “It’s really hard for us to run classes otherwise, because so many students are at the festival,” he says.

Indie filmmakers who have bridged their studies at NYU with Sundance include “Jane Eyre” director Cary Fukunaga, “Pariah” helmer Dee Rees and “Winter’s Bone” director Debra Granick. As they learned, a strong NYU connection can lead to attention, and often success, through Sundance.

Last year, writer Christopher Ford brought “Robot & Frank” to Sundance with director Jake Schreier, a fellow alum. The film, an expansion of a short Ford wrote at Tisch, won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the festival.

“I learned through making tons of mistakes on my short,” Ford says today. “Years later, a little wiser, we pulled off the feature version and I found myself at Sundance. When I looked around, I saw a lot of my classmates from NYU.”

The relationship benefits both sides: Sundance is guaranteed an influx of trained, independent-thinking, hungry newcomers while Tisch burnishes its image by turning out filmmakers who land development deals, get distribution and establish long-term, award-winning careers.

This year, four of the films in competition are written or directed by Tisch alums, including “Kill Your Darlings,” “Mother of George” and “Dirty Wars.” The school says that one in three films at the festival this year involve Tisch alums or students behind or before the cameras.

“They encourage the independent spirit and vision with students,” says Michelle Satter, founding director of the feature films program at Sundance. “Tisch’s program has been a great source of filmmakers that we’ve supported over the years in their first features.”

Satter says the industry also benefits from the relationship. “We look to the next generation of independent filmmakers to seed the industry moving forward,” she says. “These are exciting new voices that will be entering the marketplace.”

NYU alums pay tribute to Tisch

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Mariah Carey Tracee Ellis Ross

    Mariah Carey, Tracee Ellis Ross Celebrate Biracial Heritage at “Mixed-ish” Premiere

    Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross embraced their “ish” at Tuesday night’s series premiere event for ABC’s “Mixed-ish” by reflecting on how their biracial identity makes working on the new show even more personal. “I’m just so thankful that this show exists,” Carey told the assembled crowd during a Q&A with series creator Kenya Barris. [...]

  • #WorldIsInOurHands Campaign

    Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Joaquin Phoenix And More Join #WorldIsInOurHands Campaign

    At the 44th annual Toronto Film Festival last week, in addition to attending red-carpet premieres and promoting films, some stars also joined in the fight to tackle the climate crisis. Antonio Banderas, Susan Sarandon, Joaquin Phoenix, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Neve Campbell and Alfre Woodard are among the bold-faced names to join forces with the [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content