Student Volunteers Make the Most of Sundance Film Festival

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The 10-day experience helped them connect with Dartmouth filmmakers.

Cece King '23 and Loane Bouguennec '25
Cece King ’23, left, and Loane Bouguennec ’25 sport their Sundance jackets at the film festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Grace Boyd ’23)

A half dozen undergraduates volunteered, and made important connections, at the Sundance Film Festival this winter, thanks to a faculty-student collaboration and support from campus partners and the extended Big Green family. 

Held each January in Park City, Utah, the 10-day festival is a film-lover’s paradise that brings together artists and cinephiles from around the world for screenings, workshops, and lots of networking. 

“Those connections matter,” says Harriette Yahr ’87, a filmmaker and writer who teaches digital storytelling, oral history, and screenwriting in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

“Attending Sundance can be transformational,” says Yahr, who has been attending and writing about the festival for nearly two decades. “In addition to the numerous educational and experiential components, it can help jumpstart careers.”

With that in mind, Yahr connected with campus partners, the festival’s volunteer coordinator, and others to develop the trip, which was several years in the making. She also had assistance from her student Cecelia “Cece” King ’23, a geography major with an Arabic/Middle Eastern studies minor who has taken two gap years to work on films. 

“Having Harriette facilitate our volunteer experience was incredible,” says King, who received funding to attend Sundance from the Center for Professional Development. “I think we had a much richer experience because of it.”

At Sundance, the students had the opportunity to learn from emerging filmmakers, attend film premieres and Q&As, network with potential collaborators, and usher at some of the festival’s most beloved theaters. They also bonded with Dartmouth alums and families, some of whom provided housing, and, in one case, a job.

King and Loane Bouguennec ’25, both members of Sigma Delta, stayed with sorority alum Julie Turner ’95, and later with the family of King’s friend Jack McCooey ’23. 

A chance meeting with Jacqueline Donohoe ’13, executive vice president of Maven Screen Media, led King to a gig with the production company in London, where she is now working under Sophia Pedlow ’15 on a movie by Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha.

Loane Bouguennec '25
Loane Bouguennec ’25 uses a clicker to count people entering a theater at the Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Cece King ’23)

“After Sundance, I think we all realized that Dartmouth has a very robust alumni network in film and alums who are really interested in supporting young filmmakers here,” says King, who will return to campus next term. “There’s a lot of potential to grow that connection.”

Hudson Rogers ’25, a film and media studies and philosophy double major, says he was grateful for the chance to volunteer at Sundance, and inspired by stories from first-time directors and writers who “really believed in themselves and pushed themselves to make it.”

He also was happy to catch up with film students who had recently graduated, among them Mariah Eli Hernandez-Fitch ’23, whose short film Ekbeh was screened at the festival. 

“That was really fun to see them and reconnect, because in 10 years, who knows, we could all be working together,” says Rogers, who is interning in Los Angeles at AGBO Films, which produced Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Rogers was stationed at two venues, including the Library Center Theatre, where he joined the Dartmouth cohort that also included Grace Boyd ’23 and Jack Sinatra ’25.

Bouguennec, a philosophy major minoring in human-centered design and creative writing, says Sundance provided insight into event design, which is a driving factor in how people engage with art.

With funding from the Design Initiative at Dartmouth and Leslie Center for the Humanities, Bouguennec is creating a podcast about using film to encourage students to engage critically with the world. 

Everything is oversaturated, from media, “to what you eat,” she says. “It’s important to take a step back, otherwise you get a little bit lost.”

Grace Boyd '23 and Cece King '23
Grace Boyd ’23, left, and Cece King ’23 sign their volunteer team poster. (Photo by Annaliese Fagan)

Bouguennec, who is now in Paris for her project, says she appreciates Yahr’s efforts to expand career-related programs in the arts for Dartmouth students.

“Opportunities like this that diversify the different fields that we have access to are really important and fun and exciting.”

Yahr, who is currently in Los Angeles on a faculty research grant developing a film project, says she is already thinking ahead to next year and would like to see the initiative expand so more students can experience the benefits of participating.

“Students are already asking about Sundance 2025,” she says.