Documentarians from the USC School of Cinematic Arts have a long tradition of covering the most challenging subjects. The Sundance doc Sugarcane covered the discovery of mass graves in Canada and was edited by alum Nathan Punwar ’07. Congratulations, on bringing this important film to light.


Check out USC Thornoton alum’s Good Bad Things at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival!

Matthew O’Connor – Graduate of USC Thornton: Master in Music – Screen Scoring 2022

Back when I was a student at USC, I scored a short film by Shane Stanger (director/producer) that turned out to be the beginning of a fantastic project called Good Bad ThingsGood Bad Things is the first feature film credit for a lot of our team members and we just sold out our Slamdance premiere! The score is heavily influenced by pop and techno music with some really beautiful intimate moments.

Link to the film’s website –

Follow Matthew on Social Media for updates on the film-

“There’s Not A Bad Seat In This House!” Reliving an Immersive Sundance Experience

By Kate Dowd

As a volunteer led us down the stairs into the basement at The Ray theatre in Park City, he said, “I’ll tell you what I’ve been telling people all week. There’s not a bad seat in this house!” Of course, how could there be, when everyone’s eyes were just inches away from a personal screen where we’d be experiencing an immersive, synced VR experience?

The Ray hosts something called the New Frontier initiative, created in 2007 to support independent artists who work with the intersection of film, art, and technology. The room where we’d be having the experience didn’t exactly look like a futuristic version of an opium den where people could come to get their fix of virtual reality, like I’d secretly hoped. The dim gallery was filled with about thirty evenly spaced office swivel chairs, all with head-mounted displays resting on the seats. Wires were everywhere, and even though they tried to organize them together into neat bundles, it still called to mind a cyberpunk den where we’d be doing something along the lines of “jacking into the mainframe”.

My friend and I took a seat next to one another, even though it didn’t matter, and I placed my headset on my lap. It’s a weird feeling, because when you look at a headset like that, you are struck by the sudden urge to bury your face into it right that second and discover what could possibly be in there, and how something so small can trick your perception into creating a whole world inside its plastic shell. I tried to get a peek but the light only flashed back at me in crescent shapes, silently taunting me that whatever world existed inside was to remain a secret for now.

Once we were given the go-ahead, everyone’s cold-weather clothing rustled loudly as the whole room scrambled to pull on their headsets as fast as possible. I was greeted instantly by that endless world that it held inside, and suddenly, I was standing at the peak of a mountain with yellow desert stones bathed in early morning light. In real life this was a view I would have had to hike for hours to get to, but it left me just as breathless. Floating above the valley below, in text that looked like I could run up to it, pluck it down and gather up into my arms. It said “Sundance ‘18 presents…”, and I could barely contain my excitement for what was to come next.

VR Mobile Program 3 by Two Bit Circus had a 27 minute runtime, but no moment was wasted as it led all of us collectively, yet privately, through every exhilarating scene as a wheelchair-bound police dispatcher struggles to stop a violent man as he cuts a path of crime across town, each victim contacting his call center first, some remaining on the line as they were attacked. It wasn’t live action like I’d assumed, but relied on geometric, interconnected lines to stand in for the human form, and used a limited color pallet of glowing white, blue, and hints of red against a black backdrop, which actually made more of the subtler details pop.

We watched with bated breath as the perpetrator jiggled doorknobs and tried every window to break in. We rode alongside in the passenger’s seat during a car chase as a victim’s wife floors it and barely beats an incoming train. My sweating hands were in tight fists all throughout. It was nothing short of exhilarating, and I realized it was no wonder they instructed us at the beginning to close our eyes for ten seconds if we felt overwhelmed. It was the culmination of amazing voice acting talent, animation, and cutting edge technology. We both left the room like we’d woken up from a vivid dream. It took a few minutes to adjust back to what I’d like to call “RR”, or real reality.

Virtual Reality has massive untapped potential as writers work to harness the incredibly immersive and 360 degree storytelling power this technology offers. To some, VR might seem like it’s only a passing fad, but I believe we are currently only scratching the surface for what the future of immersive entertainment can become.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Sundance Film Festival By Kuba Soltysiak

My experiences are based off the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and are entirely my own.


“Don’t do it. Don’t go past the studio zone.” – Joe Wallenstein after I asked him permission to leave for Sundance.

To get to the film festival I drove with my dear friends and fellow SCA students: Ben Scott, Tim Schauer, and Eri Takada. The 12 hour drive from LA to Salt Lake City may seem grueling to some but I’ll share our secret: some Muddy Buddy snacks and at least two Kanye albums (Yeezus and Life of Pablo).


“I got blasted into space and left the safety of our ship to walk on the moon so that I would have a leg up on networking.” – Neil Armstrong on the importance of Networking.

One of my companions on this trip got a sweet hookup through his mom and got us very cheap housing in Salt Lake (about 30 minutes away from Park City). It’s clear that my friend has been listening in class and actively using the dark magic of networking. I recommend you do the same.


After I made Chef and had the experience of molding and crafting food, that was truly something else, I realized I was doing the wrong job” – Jon Favreau on how food inspired him to become a gaffer.

This was the most painful part of the festival. So many of the food places around the theatres were incredibly expensive…however some were delicious.

Best Meal: Davanza’s – Diabolo Burger (1/3 lb. of fresh ground beef, grilled jalapenos, caramelized onions, bacon, andjalapeno cream cheese on a garlic buttered bun.)

Yes you read that correctly, cream cheese. My friends thought I was a madman ordering cream cheese with a burger. Well guess what? It paid off. One of the best burgers I have ever eaten and only $8.29.

Worst Restaurant: Main Street Pizza and Noodle. Very mediocre and crazy expensive. Lame.

Pro tip: I highly recommend going to any of the many 7/11s and stocking up on snacks. This is also a general life tip too.


I hate making movies, it bores me, the hours are long, the people are weird, it just bums me out generally.” – Steven Spielberg to a child waiting for the bus.

Go see them! Sundance uses their app to get festival goers on the waitlist. It is very glitchy but can certainly pay off. However, don’t be like me and accidentally go to the wrong theater.

My Two Favorite Films:

“Kuba has fantastic taste.” – Dr. Drew Casper  to Dean Daley on Kuba Soltysiak’s taste in cinema.

Eighth Grade – A teenager tries to survive the last week of her eighth-grade year before leaving to start high school (IMDB).

Simply incredible. First-time director Bo Burnham has made a modern telling of middle school that anyone can connect to. It is simultaneously hilarious, painfully awkward, terrifyingly tense, and wonderfully heartwarming (hell yeah I cried during this movie).

Assassination Nation –  This is a thousand percent a true story about how the quiet, all-American town of Salem, absolutely lost its mind (IMDB).

This movie was so visually striking and had such a 21st century plot revolving around the impact of social media and technology on our private lives.


“Gee whiz that was a hell of a ride.” – You reading this article.

The ingredients to having a great time at Sundance: good food, warm clothes, great friends, and 7/11.

This was a Sponsored post by the 7/11 corporation.

Student Reflections of Sundance Lily Harty

Going to Sundance Film Festival as a USC Student is one of the best positions you can be in as a spectator at the festival, provided you take advantage of the opportunities handed to you. The Sundance Ignite program allows students and young people ages 18-25 to see up to 15 movies at the festival, and gives special access to panel discussions, networking events, speed dating, parties, screenings, and more.


I’m a senior in film production here, and I traveled to Sundance with 14 other students in my cohort, across the divisions in Production, Cinema & Media Studies, Screenwriting, and Animation. Traveling with such a big group of students was ideal, because we could hear from our peers who we know and trust about which movies were worth standing on the waitlist for, which were worth getting up early to go to the box office, and which ones we should just skip.

Seeing the films with my peers and being able to spend every moment between screenings discussing what we’d just seen was a fantastic way to hone my critical eye, and sort through filmic techniques I might apply to my own work. Though we think of Sundance movies as an endless parade of quirky indie comedies and tear-inducing family dramas, the selection is actually quite varied if you spend the time looking through each film and curating your schedule to give you the most personal benefit.

Beyond seeing and discussing the movies with my SCA peers, we were able to share in a number of networking experiences. The Ignite program allows you to network with the other Ignite attendees at both formal and informal events- through these, I connected with several potential collaborators: a DP, producer, and actors that live in LA. I was also able to support the two USC students I know that had short films featured in the Ignite screening.


More beneficial even that networking with other up-and-coming filmmakers were the industry speed-dating events. In these events, you sit at a table with 5-8 other Ignite passholders and are visited by a rotating group of 1-3 filmmakers who had work featured at Sundance. Through this event, I met the director of a short film who’s shooting a feature I’m hoping to work on, the director of one of my favorite experimental films at the festival, I met a producer at a small production company who’s looking for assistants, and I met an acquisition executive at a bigger production company I’ve been hoping to connect with. My peers had similar degrees of success- one met a director who’s working on exactly the type of films he wants to create, another met an executive looking for a script that fit his bill, one reconnected with supervisors from a previous job.


While my favorite part of Sundance is still seeing the incredible movies that indie filmmakers are putting out, these networking events provide a fantastic opportunity that any student would be remiss not to take advantage of.