Arts and Entertainment

Film students excited about trip to Sundance Film Festival

Student Film Organization members making the trip to the Sundance Film Festival include (from left): Kevin Clancy, Caleb Yoder, Cora Hankey, Maria Gagas and Tiffany Breon. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the fourth time, members of the Penn State Student Film Organization will be among the thousands of people to flock to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival.

Six students will attend the largest independent film festival in the nation, which kicks off on Jan. 21 and ends Jan. 31.

Senior film-video major Cora Hankey, with the help of her travel partners, organized the trip to the world-renowned event, which helped catapult independent films such as “Boyhood,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Whiplash” and many others to box office success and critical acclaim through the years.

Independent films do not receive funding from big-budget studios in Hollywood. These films are usually funded by smaller studios or are self-funded by filmmakers. The Sundance Film Festival gives these films an opportunity for publicity.

The University Park Allocation Committee, which allocates portions of Penn State's student activity fee toward events or travel experiences to enhance learning, helped fund much of the trip for Hankey and her companions — Tiffany Breon, Kevin Clancy, Maria Gagas, Adam Letavish and Caleb Yoder.

The students set up a GoFundMe account to take care of the rest. Students will purchase their own movie tickets, as well as meals, while on the trip.

Hankey, a native of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, also attended the festival last year, which helped her with organizing this year.

“Last year when we went, we were all just amazed,” said Hankey. “In Park City during those two weeks, everyone loves films. Just watching a movie with these people is unlike anything else because everyone is watching it with the same intensity and same love for the art.”

In her final semester at Penn State, Hankey knows the trip to the festival provides a valuable opportunity to meet others in the business. As part of a student package the students purchased, they get to participate in a networking lunch with filmmakers.

“Last year, I learned so much about the business that I would never have known, like how to get your film distributed after you get it into a festival,” said Hankey. “This year, I really wanted to go because as a graduating senior, it’s a huge opportunity to network and to meet people and represent Penn State. Going out there as a senior and handing out my cards is a huge opportunity to get my foot in the door.”

The festival also gives Hankey and her peers the chance to evaluate work by others and pick up creative tips and ideas that could possibly be incorporated into their own films someday, building off of what they have already learned at Penn State.

“Going there and watching the short films as part of the shorts program, that’s exactly what Penn State students are making now that are in this festival. It really gives me hope,” said Hankey.

Last Updated June 02, 2021