SVFF 2015: Behind the Velvet Rope

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Trevor Groth
  • Trevor Groth
Perhaps the biggest difference between Sun Valley and every other film festival (it’s estimated that there are 4,000-plus film festivals on the planet), is access. Each March, scores of burgeoning filmmakers sit alongside hundreds of movie fans to get some pretty impressive face-time with the men and women who make quality American films. True to form, the fourth annual Sun Valley Film Festival offered some all-access insight on March 5.

This reporter was humbled to be asked to moderate the first of this year’s SVFF Coffee Talks on March 5, where Trevor Groth, director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival, shared some fabulous insight on what has become the planet’s most prestigious film festival.

In a fast-paced 60 minutes, Groth talked about the herculean task of winnowing down thousands of entries to a slate of 120 films each January. Boise Weekly made a point of asking Groth for a sneak preview of films coming out of Sundance this year that should make their way to the nation’s screens sometime in the next 12 months. He had particular praise for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which took both the audience and grand jury prize; The Witch, a 17th century horror-thriller that descends into religious hysteria and madness; and The Wolfpack, a documentary about a mysterious family of Manhattan shut-ins whose only “reality” comes from DVD movie rentals.

Stephen Gaghan
  • Stephen Gaghan
A few hours after the Coffee Talk, Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) held court at SVFF’s newest feature, the Apres Ski Salon.

In a packed-to-the-gills salon-type setting that more resembled a cushy living room, Gaghan sat with dozens of budding screenwriters and directors to talk about the triumphs and heartbreaks of filmmaking. Gaghan reminded his colleagues-in-the-making to trust their instincts, pay particular attention to scene transitions, not to underestimate the importance of a script outline and, most important, don’t quit.

“And remember: the truth is, if you’re really honest, you’re always a little scared,” said Gaghan.

To the person, the filmmakers nodded, knowing that the terror and wonder of making movies can come in equal measure.