Sundance Film Festival 2022: Emma Thompson, Karen Gillan, Amy Poehler Among Headliners Day Three
Reporter: LaKisa Renee
Emma Thompson, Amy Poehler, Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Lena Dunham, and More Participate in the Third Day of Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival welcomed audiences to an action-packed weekend with the third day of premiere screenings and conversations featuring some of the most notable visionaries in independent film, new media, and culture at-large, including Emma Thompson, Karen Gillan, Amy Poehler, Aaron Paul, Lena Dunham, Kristine Froseth, Jon Bernthal, Scott Speedman, W. Kamau Bell, Nina Menkes, Riley Stearns, Daniel Hart, Saul Williams, Drum & Lace, Sophie Hyde, Katy Brand, Daryl McCormack, and more.
Emma Thompson discussed her very intimate, vulnerable role in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande; Lena Dunham discussed how female sexuality is depicted on screen with the Sharp Stick cast including Kristine Froseth, Jon Bernthal, Scott Speedman, and Taylour Paige; Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul highlighted their surprising dance skills in Dual; Director W. Kamau Bell shared insight on the power of celebrity magnetism, especially in the case of Bill Cosby; and Lucie Arnaz expressed her trust in having Amy Poehler direct the documentary on her parents in Lucy and Desi.
Each year, Sundance serves as a cultural launchpad, helping to expand audience horizons through film and the conversations that occur the minute that credits roll. Continuing to foster this spirit of discussion into 2022, Sundance Film Festival programs a series of panels across discipline and topic to keep the conversation going.
Day Three Highlights of Sundance 2022
We Need to Talk About Cosby Panel | Synopsis
W. KAMAU BELL (Director) on the power of celebrity magnetism to muddle reality:“How we confuse a celebrity’s image with their reality. So, R. Kelly was selling an R- rated image, which is very different from what Bill Cosby was selling. We can look at white celebrities, too, and see that just because we like a celebrity a lot, doesn’t mean that that’s who they really are. That’s one of the ultimate lessons of this film, and it’s harder for Black folks because we don’t have as many powerful figures in the media who are celebrities. So, we really hyper-focus on the few that we have.”
RENEE GRAHAM (Journalist, Featured In The Film) on the protections Cosby had from the media: “There were several journalists that had said, “yeah, I heard things but I didn’t want to lose access to people in the industry.” They didn't want to be the one to bring down the icon. And Bill Cosby PREYED on that to continue getting away with it. I don't think it was a coincidence that at the height of his powers, in the 1980s with The Cosby Show, that his criminality escalated because he had even more access, but he had even more protection from people.”
MAUREEN RYAN (Journalist, Featured In The Film) on the importance of media literacy in these cases: - “I get asked all the time, ‘how can you separate the art from the artist?’ The art is in service to the artist’s image. The image that they have constructed in many ways is the thing that allows them to operate in the way they do.”
LISE LOTTE-LUBLIN (Subject & Survivor) on the conflicting feelings about the “fatherly hero” she’d known all her life and the man himself: “As a survivor of this, I found out in 2014 the actual circumstances of what happened because I don’t have actual memory of the actual incident, but one of the things that was extremely overwhelming for me whas to fight all of those glorious feelings that i had with Bill Cosby as a child growing up. Loving his shows and repeating his comments and laughing at his jokes - there was a lot of happiness around that. And when I realized what he had done to me, versus what I grew up loving and feeling (adoring him), it was such a conflict in me.”
BARBARA BOWMAN (Subject & Survivor) on Cosby’s elaborate facade: “It’s so profound how he was able to perform in his private life the way he performed in his public life. I don't know how he had time to do both… We’re touching on some important things about culture - people don’t want to shatter their illusion. They’ve grown up with an icon, they’ve grown up with a father figure - America’s favorite dad.”
Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power Panel | Synopsis
JOEY SOLOWAY (Subject - Creator of Transparent) on the objectification of women in cinema: “It’s a state of emergency,” and although there’s a lot of work ahead, they see Nina Menkes’ film as a step forward towards equality on and off screen, “we are making history whether we’re on the mountain or not.”
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Panel | Synopsis
SOPHIE HYDE (Director) and Katy Brand (Screenwriter) on working with Dame Emma Thompson: “I always had Emma in my mind as Nancy. I wrote it with her voice and style and cadence.” (Katy) “I could see Emma in the writing.” (Sophie)
EMMA THOMPSON on coming on board: “I was thrilled to read it and read it in thirty seconds flat and wrote back and said ‘You have to do this! We have to make this! We absolutely have to make it. RIGHT NOW! Get on with it, well come on!’ It’s all ready, it’s beautiful. It’s perfect, like nothing I’d done before.” “It was very freeing. It was a beautiful experience.”
EMMA THOMPSON and DARYL MCCORMACK (actor) on portraying intimacy and vulnerability: “Part of our vulnerability and the ability that that has – seeing these two people face their own vulnerability is what gave each other access to dig further.” [Daryl] “As soon as we actually look into one another’s eyes and exchange our experiences and our humanity all of that just goes. It goes in an instant because we’re humans.” [Emma]
Dual Panel at Sundance 2022 | Synopsis
RILEY STEARNS (Director) on the inception of this unique concept about duality using clones for a film: “The initial idea came about where an actor would act opposite themselves, but then I really wanted to confront what that means, existentially and really think about who this person is. Is this a better version of you? How does that make you feel? How does that make you go forward in life? And then from there came up with the “duel” concept - fighting to the death.”
KAREN GILLAN (Lead Actor) on doubling up on lines and playing against herself, again: “I’ve actually acted opposite myself in two other films prior to this! Because I’ve acted in a lot of sci-fi and time travel [genres], I’ve met past and future versions of myself before. So that was something I’m weirdly accustomed to.”
AARON PAUL (Actor) and KAREN GILLAN (Actor) on the film’s surprising dance sequence: [Aaron] “First of all, I can't tell you how terrified I was to do that dance... we had the same dance instructor.” [Karen] “She basically, whenever we were dancing would laugh at us so directly, like she didn't even try to stop herself from laughing. She was pointing and going 'it's so funny when you concentrate so hard.' We were trying, we were really trying!”[Aaron] She would just aggressively point and go HAHA”
RILEY STEARNS (Director) on shooting in Finland: “ We were the very first U.S. production to be shot there all the way through. We had the best experience there…The coolest thing about it is that it really makes it feel like a new world, like Dual exists in an alternate reality.”
Sharp Stick Panel at Sundance 2022 | Synopsis
LENA DUNHAM (Director/Actor) on her character Sara Jo: “I was asking a lot of questions at the time of how we depict female sexuality on screen and how it’s inexplicably linked to trauma. I was thinking about some of the trauma in my life, and some of it being medical trauma and what it would be like to have a character informed by this medical trauma. That really created this naïve and specific worldview in her and when she meets someone who cracks it open.”
SCOTT SPEEDMAN (Actor) on what it was like to work with Lena: “It was a very safe space, and it was such a joy that you just never heard no, you didn't feel controlled and that's rare for me. It kind of created this environment where you felt like you could step out and do whatever you wanted to really let it go.” LENA on what it means to create your own family: “I am a woman who can’t have biological children and thought a lot about what it means to make your own family and design your own family and how it’s just as meaningful.”
TAYLOUR PAIGE (Actor) on standards in society: “She has a white mother and a white sister and compares herself to white standards of beauty and doesn’t realize the social media world she aspires to white influencers are actually influenced by black influencers and black culture.” LENA on how she came about the title of the film: “It came from doctors in the UK who say if they give you a shot or take your blood it’s going to be a sharp poke or sharp scratch. It’s a way to comfort you. That made its way into a monologue of Sara Joe’s about trying to predict pain before it comes to dull the effects of it. It’s aggressively poetic.”
LENA on the porn industry: “Porn can liberate people. It’s an industry that is just as complicated as Hollywood and as vast and probably more prolific. It’s very important to recognize the very healthy role it can play and the role that porn actors can play in shaping people’s identity.”
Lucy and Desi Panel | Synopsis
LUCIE ARNAZ on trusting Amy Poehler to direct: “I was excited when I learned Amy was attached. I felt that with her sensibility as a performer, as a female, as a mother would be amazing. I somehow trusted this group so much that I decided to turn over everything to them”
LUCIE on the recent feature film about Lucy and Desi: “The feature film that came out was wonderful, and the actors did a fine job, but it was a very small snippet of their life. There was 6 more years and there was a lot more to tell.
AMY POEHLER on using Lucy and Desi’s tapes in the film: “We wanted Lucy and Desi’s voice in the film. We wanted to get a sense of what they were thinking and feeling, to give it some context.”
AMY on learning of Lucy mentoring up-and-coming women in entertainment: “Anecdotally I had heard about it from Carol Burnett, she spoke about how Lucy and Desi had encouraged her. There’s often so much focus on how women are not helping each other or are competing against each other. In fact I think there aren’t enough stories about ways women have been mentored by older women who have taken them under their wing.”
AMY on her goals of telling this story: “We wanted to remind the humanity of this story, the complicated way that people can be. What we were really hoping was we could keep this relationship as an anchor. It was a way for us to tell the story. A lot of what we are telling is the feeling of rupture and repair, kind of like the moments in ‘I Love Lucy’ when Lucy and Ricky make up.”
LUCIE on what she was surprised to learn about Lucy and Desi: “Listening to my mother tell stories in her own words, I read her book, but finding the tapes talking about those answers in her own words in the rhythm was invaluable to me. And finding these radio shows from the 60’s and realizing the subject matter that was important to her, like family and raising a family, had never occurred to me was on her mind.”
AMY on growing up with I Love Lucy: “I thought I Love Lucy came with your TV (laughter). I was a big Carol Burnett fan and Lucy was on her show a lot. As an older woman I watch it in a very different way. There is a tenderness in it that I didn’t see when I was in my 20’s and 30’s.”
AMY on responding to whether she would make another doc: “Yes, I have high respect for documentarians. I love the form. It’s a very beautiful form. I can’t think of a better first feature to be part of than this one, with people I love and subject matter that changed my life.”
Cinema Cafe at Sundance 2022 Karen Gillan (Actress, Dual) and Emma Thompson (Actress, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) talk about their respective projects at Sundance, with Emma even acknowledging fellow co-star Daryl McCormack’s 29th birthday. Moderated by Shirley Li (The Atlantic) |
EMMA THOMPSON on how these roles are familiar to the women: “You and I know these are women so well Karen. These are women from the British Isles who have not lived their lives according to the rules and then suddenly find these rules have not served them emotioinally, physically, they have not served them as people in the world but I’ve in fact locked them in two. Female stereotypes and then suddenly have to change this… I found this irresistible.”
EMMA THOMPSON on how the world could fall apart: “It’s important in our culture to be nurturing because without that everyone loses their shit”
EMMA THOMPSON on her most vulnerable scene: “I had never stood in front of a mirror completely naked without judging and without doing something to my body that somehow changed it so I had to look at it the way it was presented in a mirror.”
KAREN GILLAN on Decompressing after the shoot: “I would watch the trashiest reality I could find… it was saunas and trashy reality TV.”
EMMA THOMPSON on watching her work: “You gotta watch your work otherwise how will you know what you are doing? I just wouldn’t watch it again.
Sundance 2022 Acoustic Range Panel
Reflecting on how artists respond to what’s happening around the world, this conversation focused on electrifying musicians and their creative process heightening the cinematic story through music and ambience. With origins in live performance, this group has expanded their reach to composing for feature length films, animation and musicals, and discussed their work premiering at Sundance and beyond. It featured Daniel Hart (The Green Knight), Saul Williams (Neptune Frost), and Drum & Lace (Summering). Moderated by Dan Wilcox (KCRW)
SAUL WILLIAMS on his full circle moment: “When it came time to approach “Neptune Frost” this is something that I had focused on since a teenager and it was a full circle moment and now I am ready to compose this thing.”
DRUM AND LACE on having “it”: “I don’t have “it”. You have to have “it” to be someone like Karen O or to be anyone on stage.”
DRUM AND LACE on how composers can be awkward: “You have to be able to be a good hang. Whether it’s with the directors or backstage. You don’t want to be that person who doesn’t know how to be social. There are so many composers that are so wonderful, but they don’t know how to hang.”
DANIEL HART on his biggest highlights: ”I opened up for David Bowie for a month which was one of the highlights of my life.”
SAUL WILLIAMS on one of his inspirations: “I was really inspired by the movie “Once” , the Glen Ballard musical. I consider it to be revolutionary primarily because the music that happens in that film happens in real time like how music happens in real life.”
DRUM AND LACE on how she approached the score: “I was like ‘what if it’s a concept album’. These days they are so overlooked. I want to create this mood that takes you on a journey, even if you aren’t necessarily watching this film. It’s definitely an accompaniment to the film.”
New Frontier Suga’ - A Live Virtual Dance Performance
VALENCIA JAMES (Lead Artist/Performer) on her motivation to highlight the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the sugar industry: “This piece all started in the summer of 2020, so we were in lockdown and we all just witnessed the horrific murder of George Floyd, and at this time I found my coping mechanism was to seek a closer relationship with my ancestors.”
TERRI WRIGHT (Rehearsal Director) on the experience of doing live performances in virtual reality: “That same feeling you might get from performing in a theater with a live audience… butterflies in your stomach, anxiety, wondering what people are seeing, wondering what they’re thinking in the moment, all of that is intact in there with this technology.”
How To Participate
The Festival takes place digitally via our enhanced online platform at Festival.Sundance.org, on the New Frontier Spaceship, a bespoke immersive platform allowing festival goers to gather virtually, and in-person at seven Satellite Screens venues around the country during the Festival’s second weekend. Additional programming includes a daily talk show (“How to Fest: Daily”), and Satellite Screen conversations as well as partner offerings in the Festival Village. To note, all talks are available online via livestream or posted later on festival.sundance.org to view globally. Sign up for an account at festival.sundance.org to access online. All times are U.S. Mountain Time. Tickets are on sale.
About Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Flee, CODA, Passing, Summer Of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape.
The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute. 2022 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, AMC+, Chase Sapphire, Adobe; Leadership Sponsors – Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, DoorDash, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, WarnerMedia, XRM Media; Sustaining Sponsors – Aflac, Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, IMDbPro, Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, Rabbit Hole Bourbon & Rye, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health, White Claw Hard Seltzer; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Shadow and Act, Variety, Vulture. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Visit sundance.org/festival for more.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute.