It's a Party at Sundance

Texas filmmakers party at Sundance Film Festival — but it's work too (honest!)

Texas filmmakers party at Sundance — but it's work too (honest!)

Stephen Jannise, Sarah Harris, Ramtin Nikzad at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Stephen Jannise, Sarah Harris, Ramtin Nikzad Photo by Jane Howze
Richard Herskowitz, Sundance Film Festival
Richard Herskowitz Photo by Jane Howze
Dallas Film Commission director Janis Kirklund at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Janis Burklund Photo by Jane Howze
Phil Goetz at Film Texas party at Sundance Film Festival January 2013
Phil Goetz  Photo by Jane Howze
Paul Eenhoorn and Martha Stephens at Sundance Film Festival Texas party
Paul Eenhoorn, Martha Stephens Photo by Jane Howze
Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hodges at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Sam Wainwright Douglas, David Hodges Photo by Jane Howze
Adam Donaghey and Janis Burklund at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Adam Donaghey, Janis Burklund Photo by Jane Howze
Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
The Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival drew a large crowd. Photo by Jane Howze
Stephen Jannise, Sarah Harris, Ramtin Nikzad at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Richard Herskowitz, Sundance Film Festival
Dallas Film Commission director Janis Kirklund at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Phil Goetz at Film Texas party at Sundance Film Festival January 2013
Paul Eenhoorn and Martha Stephens at Sundance Film Festival Texas party
Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hodges at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Adam Donaghey and Janis Burklund at Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014
Texas Film party at Sundance Film Festival January 2014

Although there aren't an abundance of Texas movies at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Lone Star spirits were high as guests jammed the AFI-Beyond Cinema Media Studio for the Film Texas reception Friday night. Even without a lot of films to showcase, the party provided a prime opportunity to tout the Texas film community and network with colleagues from across the U.S. and the world.

"It's a great way to connect with people in the industry," said Adam Donaghey, a Dallas film producer and co-founder of the Oak Cliff Film Festival. "I get deals done here."

The party was hosted by the Texas Association of Film Commissions, which includes film commissions in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and the Austin-based Texas Film Commission. It provided a chance to showcase the abundance of talent in front of and behind the camera in Texas, said Adam Zehner, vice president of acquisitions and licensing for Dallas-based Group 2000.

 "It's a great way to connect with people in the industry," said Adam Donaghey, a Dallas film producer and co-founder of the Oak Cliff Film Festival. "I get deals done here." 

"It's a big deal to let people behind the curtain and find out what is available in Texas," he explained. "The spirit of collaboration at Sundance is unparalleled. It fosters a lot of new projects."

Houston Cinema Arts Festival artistic director Richard Herskowitz was on the lookout for entries for the November event, so he concentrated on the New Frontier offerings that combine art, film and new media. He loved Finding Fela, award-winning director Alex Gibney's film about the charismatic singer who created the Afro beat and used the musical movement as a political forum to oppose the Nigerian dictatorship.

And he was impressed by Living Stars, in which everyday people in Argentina dance to pop songs. "I could see showing it at a [Houston] dance club," he said.

Austin camera salesman Phil Goetz, wearing a University of Texas Longhorns wool cap, was excited to be at his first Sundance festival. His company, the Omega Broadcast Group, is funding a filmmaking competition, so he was spreading the word.

"I like the parties here. They don't require passes," he said, in noting the biggest difference between Sundance and SXSW.

Seen in the throng were Texas Film Commission president Heather Page; Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burklund (wearing a Dallas Mavericks jacket); Houston Film Commission deputy director Alfred Cervantes; and San Antonio Film Commission director Drew Mayer-Oakes, who spoke enthusiastically about a filmmakers grant programs in the Alamo City.

Also joining in the fun were Dallas International Film Festival director James Faust and senior programmer Sarah Harris (a dead ringer for Meredith in The Office); Alec Jhangiani, director of the Fort Worth-based Lone Star Film Society, and its managing director, Ramtin Nikzad; and Stephen Jannise, film programmer for the Austin-based Paramount Theatre

Standing out in Pittsburgh Pirates baseball caps were co-producer and editor Sam Wainwright Douglas and executive producer David Hodges, who worked on No No: A Dockumentary, the Austin-made film about Dock Ellis, the Pirates star who pitched a no-hitter while on LSD. The documentary is having its world premiere at Sundance on Monday.

Among the non-Texans in attendance were director Martha Stephens, a West Virginia native, and actor Paul Eenhoorn, from Australia. Stephens' movie, Land Ho!, is debuting at Sundance.

"It's a little surreal, but it feels good," she said about having a film accepted to Sundance for the first time.