By Deneia Washington
After a whirlwind application process, MFA candidate Israel Vasquez was named a 2015 Sundance | Knight Fellow; this prestigious fellowship, offered by Sundance Institute in partnership with John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, offers support and opportunities to emerging filmmakers.
While Vasquez can’t be certain, he believes the nomination for the film fellowship comes from a previous opportunity with the Sundance Screenwriting Intensive. For this intensive workshop, Vasquez needed to submit an artistic statement and synopsis for a future script. A year after applying and getting accepted into the intensive, he was nominated for the Knights Fellows Project.
“In a way it was a stamp of approval. It made me feel good,” Vasquez says about how this nomination was a personal confidence booster. “It’s hard to make a living, and I have a wife and a kid so the pressure is kind of extra intense if I don’t make it.”
The Knights Fellows Project, through the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in partnership with the Sundance Institute, allows filmmakers to have the opportunity to meet representatives in the film industry, attend seminars and gain essential information about becoming successful in the industry, all while networking with the other fellows and enjoying free screenings of different independent films at the festival in Park City, Utah.
Philadelphia, along with Miami, boasts itself as one of the cities of this year’s filmmaker selections, allowing the City of Brotherly Love to be represented well through visual storytelling for five days.
“Just having a chunk of time, like five firm days, to really focus in on the craft and talk to other filmmakers who are actually making work and getting their work screened,” says Vasquez, is one of the many reasons he believes the Sundance Film Fellowship is a great opportunity. “Its really collaborative and the more people you know, the stronger your supportive community is.”
Jeff Rush, Associate Professor in the Film and Media Arts Division of Theater at Temple University, believes that as a student, Vasquez stands out due to his strong sense of leadership. “He had distinct, personal ideas and could express them in very compelling ways,” said Rush.
“He clearly had a path he wished to follow, but was, at the same time, very responsive to discussion and learning,” Rush added.
The 2014 fellows, including Temple TFM ’07 alumnus Heidi Saman, will join this year’s fellows, as they embark on this new experience.
“I don’t know if I have any specific goals…I mean there’s a big part of me that feels like I’m on the path that I wanted to get on,” says Vasquez. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to make work that is important to me and is also challenging.”