Julianna Yonis, ’21
Connecting artists during a pandemic
At the beginning of the pandemic, nonprofit arts organizations were reeling. I joined the Sundance Institute team in a moment of intense innovation, as the Institute tried to support independent voices online and with decreased funds. Sundance’s mission to serve artists shone through in this moment of crisis.
My supervisor and mentor at Sundance always said that our job was to put people first. This emphasis on personal connection and community-building inspired me to create the Sundance Collective Kitchen—a space where filmmakers could come together to discuss their creative passion projects. Each session, three Sundance artists brought screenplays or rough cuts of their current films to receive feedback from their peers. I designed the workshop format, crafted an intake form for participants who wanted to share work, and—with my incredible supervisor—chose the pieces we would workshop at the inaugural session. I also created a set of community norms for the Collective Kitchen to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment where people could connect with friends and collaborators.
When I hosted the first session, I was awed by the generosity of every artist present. Their feedback was insightful and compassionate. I almost forgot that I was in service of the artists because, in that space, they were all in service of each other’s creative journeys. People were enthusiastic about the program’s future—so much so that the Sundance Collective Kitchen became a full-fledged Sundance program and was even part of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
One of the most important parts of the fellowship experience to me was increasing equity in programming for artists. Sundance’s work—from its Indigenous Program to its Women at Sundance division—puts diversity, equity, and inclusion at the center of the conversation. No organization can do this perfectly, but the frank conversations Sundance has about race—both internally and with the larger film community—were some of the most important discussions I participated in that summer. It was vital to me that these values were also reflected in the Collective Kitchen, from the projects that were highlighted to the culture of care nurtured between the artists.
Looking back on the summer, I am so grateful to have built a gathering space for independent artists in a time when connection is all too rare.