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A Who’s Who of Emersonians at Sundance 2024

theater marquis lit up at night reading Sundance Film Festival

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ramona Diaz ’85 will premiere her latest film, And So It Begins, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, running Jan. 18-28.

Diaz is one of more than two dozen Emerson alums who have worked on films being screened at Sundance. To celebrate and welcome alums to Park City, Utah, Alumni Relations will host a gathering for Emersonians and industry professionals at the Spur Bar and Grill on Friday, Jan. 19.

woman in pink shirt, pink mask stands before crowd showered with confetti
A scene from Ramona Diaz’s And So It Begins.

And So It Begins follows a grassroots movement to defend the Philippines against encroaching autocracy by embracing collective joy. Diaz has been nominated for Sundance Grand Jury Prize awards for three previous documentaries, all tackling issues within her native Philippines – A Thousand Cuts, Motherland, and Imelda. A Thousand Cuts won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award.

Kristen Correll ’09 was cinematographer on My Old Ass, also premiering at Sundance. My Old Ass, starring Aubrey Plaza and Maisy Stella, is about a recent high school graduate who meets her future self during a mushroom trip.

The following alums also worked on films premiering at Sundance:

Samara Levenstein ’97 was Associate Producer, and Salvatore Schiavone ’14 was Casting Associate on Presence.

Peter Davis ’04 was Visual Effects Producer on Rob Peace.

Beth Friedland, MA ’95 was Post-Production Supervisor on Sue Bird: In the Clutch.

Julie Musbach ’14 was Art Department PA and Lia Nagamatsu ’16 was Assistant Costume Designer on A Different Man.

Quinn Beswick ’10 acted in Thelma.

Cara Conaway ’18 was Production Assistant on Freaky Tales.

In the U.S. Dramatic Competition, Rachel Halilej ’17 was Co-Producer on Exhibiting Forgiveness, about a Black artist who is visited by his estranged father, a recovering addict. Ryan Tunick ’12 was Associate Producer on Ponyboi, about an intersex sex worker on the run from the mob. In the U.S. Documentary Competition, Thomas Coughlin ’22 was Production Assistant on As We Speak, about how U.S. law enforcement uses rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases.

Sean Hanley ’10 is Director of Photography for Conbody vs. Everybody, a six-part documentary series about a formerly incarcerated man who opens a gym committed to hiring formerly incarcerated trainers and breaking the cycle of recidivism, playing in the Episodic category.

In the same category, Kenzie Woodrow ’17 is First Assistant Editor on Penelope, part of the Episodic Pilot Showcase.

In the NEXT category, dedicated to innovative storytelling, Lili Eve Kaytmaz ’11 was Makeup Artist and Matt Planer ’17 was Key Grip on Little Death.

In the Midnight category, featuring provocative films and the “next cult classics,” we have:

Kayla Foster ’13, Actor in (Maizie) and Producer of Your Monster, about an actress who finds her voice again when she meets a monster living in her closet. Scott Anderson ’13 was Casting Director for the film.

Maggie Ambrose ’16 was Unit Production Manager, and Justin Landsman ’24 was Production Assistant on I Saw the TV Glow.

Caitlin Brown, MFA ’19 was Additional First Assistant Camera, and Tatiana Melendez ’20 was Casting Assistant on It’s What’s Inside.

In the Family Matinee category, David Lebensfeld ’04 was Visual Effects Supervisor on Out of My Mind.

In the Short Film category, Elizabeth Baudouin ’02 was Producer/Music Supervisor on ALOK, about the acclaimed nonbinary writer, comedian, and public speaker.


Sundance isn’t the only film festival to grace Park City in late January.

Slamdance, a festival that spotlights “divergent voices” in cinema is taking place January 19-25 in Park City and the University of Utah (and virtually January 22-28), and Bliss, written and directed by Visual & Media Arts Assistant Professor Joseph Maggio, will be screened as a Spotlight Feature.

Bliss, the second installment of the Virgil Bliss trilogy, is “a dark fable of persistence, perseverance, and the transformative power of love” and a “searing indictment of the American carceral system and our ongoing opioid epidemic.”

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