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2023 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival will take place from 19 to 29 January, 2023.


Sundance and other Park City Festivals news, past and future.   #sundance @sundancefest


Sundance Interview: SNOWY a short directed by Alexander W. Lewis and Kaitlyn Schwalje

SNOWY A short directed by Alexander W. Lewis and Kaitlyn Schwalje    -

Interview with the director by Emmanuel Itier 

1/ what inspired you to make this film and what did you want to explore with it?


Kaitlyn: I love taking what seems like an ordinary character, a squirrel, a quiet old man, a turtle living in a basement, and digging deep for surprises--spending so much time and energy developing the story that the character ends up truly surprising people. I’m driven by the idea that no one is boring. We all contain multitudes.


Alex: In making Snowy, we started with this unanswerable question. Which was: what is this creature thinking? Is he content? Is he miserable? As unanswerable questions go this too remains unanswered but I’d like to think we got closer to answering than anyone watching thought we would. Or maybe that we tried harder to answer the question than anyone thought we’d try.


2/ what type of challenges did you face and how tough was it to work with a turtle?


Alex: Getting to Dr. Anna Wilkinson’s Cold Blooded Cognition Lab in Lincoln, England, was a bit of a challenge. Sure enough, a two person crew, 6 enormous pelican cases, and a train ride, devolved into a scene of us furiously chucking pelicans off the train to make our connection and me (Kaitlyn) almost losing a toenail. Next time we would opt for renting a car, but we were making the movie on a shoestring budget.


Kaitlyn: The turtles themselves were the perfect subjects. Photogenic and more importantly slow moving. Lastly, one word of caution: turtles are adorable but they WILL mistake fingers for carrots.



3/ what do you think the film is about, truly, for you? What are the themes explored?


Kaitlyn: It’s easy to take life for granted. It’s even easier to fall into habits and lose sight of the fact that we’re surrounded by incredible people, each a human-shaped time capsule full of story and experience. 


Alex: We hope audiences are motivated to find a Snowy in their own lives. Even more, we hope they realize that there’s always room to better understand life experiences outside our own, whether that’s your grandmother, neighbor or your pet turtle. 


4/ you could have made a short fiction instead of a short doc. Why the choice of the format of doing a doc?


Kaitlyn: Absolutely. There were early dreams of making a kind of hybrid documentary/narrative short--tethering Snowy to little strings giving him wings and set designing his inner world and his idea of heaven. But we stayed in the real-world and if Snowy understood the extent of our plans he’d be grateful we went without the little turtle costumes. I fell in love with documentary because surprises and plot twists hit so much harder in documentary film. It feels like there’s more at stake because it’s real life. 


5/ what are your expectations with Sundance and how different is it during this pandemic times to promote a film?

Alex+Kaitlyn: Sundance and in particular remote-Sundance is all new territory for us. So there’s a certain amount of taking everything as it comes. We’re thrilled and grateful the festivals are happening at all. Of course it’s not ideal. But it’s infinitely better than no festivals at all. I’m heartened by the fact that so many organizers and filmmakers are willing to wade through the technical glitches and awkwardness of zoom meetings to connect. Virtual film festivals are an imperfect replacement for any in-the-flesh experiences but I can’t imagine the year without them.

To any organizers reading this: thank you!!




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