- Sundance is evolving: how the Sundance Institute’s programs are encouraging artists and locals alike
When initially given the enterprise story assignment details, I thought the assignment seemed pretty straightforward and simple enough. This proved to be a little harder than I expected as I got further into the project and realized just a small portion of what journalists have to manage when crafting and publishing a story.
I knew I wanted to present an idea around arts and culture so I played around with the theme in my head for a few days until I remembered Sundance plays a huge role in Utah/Park City culture. While the actual festival is well known, the Institute and what it offers for new, emerging filmmakers as well as locals was pretty vague.
I started contacting sources at the same time that I was conducting research. I knew the best sources would probably be individuals involved in local government and within the Sundance Institute itself. I sent out interview request emails and luckily got responses back pretty quickly from there.
After getting a response from the Institute, a source shared with me more information on the fellowship programs and directed me to LaraLee Ownby, who is the assistant director of Utah Community Programs. She was an excellent source for information about local screenings and different outreach programs the Institute offers both during the festival and year round.
Jenny Diersen, who is the special events and economic development manager for Park City Municipal Corporation, was also a great asset to my story. She shared specifics on how Sundance is contributing to the growth of the arts and culture scene in Park City. Diersen also shared a lot of statistics with me about how many people the Institute reaches and explained how Sundance is ingrained within the culture.
The most difficult part of this process was probably the scheduling and managing of different sources. Attempting to be persistent with communication while respecting schedules and response times became hectic. I had a few sources who were all set to go on record, but for outside reasons backed out pretty close to deadlines. This was stressful as I had to cut out and restructure portions of my story and reach out to new sources asap.
I knew I wanted a source who could comment on the effectiveness of the fellowship opportunities as it would make that portion of my story a lot stronger. I decided the best source I could get was someone who’s been through the program themselves. This led me to reach out to my last source, Maya Cueva, a current Ignite Fellow. Cueva was able to give me the personal experience with the Institute’s programs that rounded out my story nicely.
In terms of the actual writing process, I found it difficult to sit down and just write. I was overanalyzing my writing style and not sure how I wanted to organize my story so it felt cohesive. It wasn’t until I forced myself to go to the library, set aside all other distractions, and poured out all my ideas onto a page that I was able to get a good draft going.
This actually helped me learn that at least for me, the best way to start drafting is to simply “word vomit” on the page and then start organizing and refining from there. Although this project was stressful and frustrating at times, it did help me grow as an emerging professional and writer and ultimately has been a rewarding experience.
Charlene Rodriguez was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and at 3 years old, moved to Park City, Utah, alongside her parents. Growing up in the small ski town, she enjoyed spending time with her friends and family, serving the local community and learning about society and culture.
As she grew up, she found herself interested more and more in understanding multiculturalism both within her community as well as a part of her identity. In attempting to better grasp her cultural identity of balancing both the Guatemalan and American aspects of her identity, she joined Latinos In Action.
Latinos In Action is a community service based elective offered in various high schools throughout the U.S. aimed at developing, encouraging, and engaging young Latinx students through education, leadership, and social advocacy.
She participated in the program for five years from eighth grade through her senior year of high school, during which she was president.
Beginning college at the University of Utah, she initially went in with the idea that she wanted to pursue a degree in business. After her first semester taking entry-level business classes, she quickly found this just wasn’t the exact match. From there, she switched to a communications major with an emphasis in strategic communication.
This was a simple call for a number of reasons. Firstly, this career path would run in the family as her father has a background in advertising. Secondly, the topics covered and discussions had in communications classes mirrored her interests in analyzing society and culture. Throughout this time she also decided to further pursue an interest in social psychology, a subject she found particularly intriguing since her AP Psych class in high school and made this her minor.
Now a junior at the University of Utah, she is looking forward to making the most out of her remaining time on campus before graduating from the U in the spring of 2021 with her first bachelor’s degree under her belt.
While still debating whether or not to attend graduate school right after, she aims to secure a job position at either a PR/advertising firm, or within the media relations departments of larger production companies. She looks to find employment within companies whose core values include promoting positive representations of women and people of color.
She’s excited to continue growing and learning in both her personal life and career as she navigates the complexities and joys of being an immigrant women of color entering the professional world.