Starting the Year Off Sundance-Style

Kitty Hu & Chandler Phillips • February 14, 2024

The start of a new year, for us film folks, means one major thing: Sundance Film Festival. Each January, film professionals and audiences from across the globe travel to the snow-frosted mountains of Utah to gather, connect — and of course — watch some films.

We’re always thinking about our role at festivals, especially with a membership of women and nonbinary folks of color. For us, a recurring guiding light for BGDM is always how to make space for folks physically present at Sundance and for those at home. How do we hold both?

UNION Premiere Sundance


Before this, I honestly never thought pitching ‘was my thing’; but maybe that's because I never tried it before. I want to pitch all the time now.

Hearing this sentiment from a member after our virtual industry mixer made us so proud to host an event like this. And just a reminder — pitching is absolutely your thing.

In the last week of Sundance, BGDM hosted our annual virtual industry mixer, BGDM: In The Mix, with a fun new twist: this year was Producers Edition. 55 members pitched their projects to over 20 producers and Executive Producers, receiving recommendations and advice in real time, along with a potential opportunity to build a real partnership. Members shared intimate and invigorating stories, ranging from personal documentaries to investigative and experimental pieces. The funders, production companies, and independent producers alike were excited and impressed. One EP immediately reached out afterwards, “What a great mixer! There are a few people that I would love to follow up with.”

Prior to the mixer, we also hosted a workshop: So You Need a Producer. Over 80 members joined us to hear about the ins and outs of finding the right producer, structuring the work relationship, and navigating challenges that arise. Big thank you to Ursula Liang (BGDM Board of Directors), Jess Devaney (Multitude Films), Maria Santos (IDA) and producer extraordinaire Leah Thomas for sharing your wisdom and experiences with our community.

“There is a particular intimacy in the director-producer relationship. In what spirit are we going to show up for one another?” Jess Devaney asked at the start of the session. “I look at the director-producer relationship as a Venn diagram.” Jess shared more about how Multitude Films works and how access, relationship and positionality come into play when choosing which projects to support.

Leah, often working as an independent producer, offered best practices for navigating conversations about money when bringing on a new producer. “All the nuances in a relationship can be found in the budget. That’s the first place a director expresses what they think of you.” All of our panelist reminded us that finding a producer can be similar to dating — it’s about exploring and building a relationship. Our best advice? Show up authentically and honestly. Know your weaknesses and what you’re looking for. And in some cases — don’t be afraid to break up!

For members who missed this session, you can view the recording in our Community Resource Folder on Mighty Networks. BGDM is immensely grateful to The DeNovo Initiative for their ongoing support of programs such as BGDM In The Mix.


On the ground, it’s always a special time when BGDM members can get together. Whether we’re taking over a restaurant or finding a sweet corner of connection, it’s so important to cultivate space with one another in the beautiful chaos that is a film festival — let us tell you…it can get chaotic! This year, we worked with Apple Original Films to host a night of laughter, celebration and incredibly tasty food in honor of the film GIRLS STATE and our members who worked on the film.

Back at home, we brought the conversation back from the mountain. We warmly and gratefully were joined by four BGDM members who screened at Sundance through our virtual panel: Craft & Culture Work. Moderated by Jamila Wignot (Director, AILEY), we heard insights and reflections from Yance Ford (Director, POWER), Mars Verrone (Producer, UNION) Myah Overstreet (Director, TO BE INVISIBLE), and Ema Ryan Yamazaki (Editor, BLACK BOX DIARIES) about their craft and relationship to collective change work in documentary. Their care, thought, and presence grounded us in the impact and importance of independent filmmakers’ work.

Finally, Sundance always provides space to celebrate our members. It was a week full of cheering loudly anytime a BGDM member's name scrolled across the screen. For some (like our staff) this happened at The Library, for others (also like our staff) this happened on our couches at home. With huge thanks to the Sundance Outreach and Inclusion department, we were able to provide dozens of virtual short film passes and free virtual tickets so that more members were able to witness this year’s program. With over 50 BGDM members who had films at Sundance, it was a year to remember. Festivals are such an important component of our film ecosystem. With this, we must continue to hold ourselves accountable to increasing accessibility to them. We hope to continue in our growth of finding ways to hold both.


We also want to send our biggest congratulations to to the Mafiosxs who won awards at the festival!

UNION - U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for the Art of Change
Producer: Mars Verrone; Editor: Malika Zouhali-Worrall; Associate Editor: Katyann Gonzalez

DAUGHTERS - Festival Favorite Award & Audience Award: U.S. Documentary
Producer: Laura Choi Raycroft

NOCTURNES - World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award
Co-Director: Anupama Srinivasan

Carla Gutierrez - Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary
Director & Editor, FRIDA

Kristina Motwani - Sundance Institute: Adobe Mentorship Award for Nonfiction

Toni Kamau - Amazon MGM Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction

Quotes may have been edited for clarity.

Kitty Hu & Chandler Phillips
Kitty Hu & Chandler Phillips

Kitty Hu (any pronouns) is a queer Chinese diasporic documentary filmmaker and visual journalist with roots in the Bay Area, California. As the daughter of immigrants, Kitty’s work applies community-centered documentary tactics to amplify stories at the intersection of justice and human relationships, looking at topics like labor, housing, culture, migration, and climate.

Chandler Phillips is a social worker, arts organizer, ecotherapist, and visual artist, who employs an integrative approach to holistic care in community organizing. As the former Manager of Impact and Engagement at Sundance Institute, Chandler led initiatives that supported over 500 independent arts organizations.