Presented by Adobe, Presenting Sponsor and official editing solution of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. For more information, click here.

The future of filmmaking has arrived, thanks to the Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellow program and its illustrious alums. Select filmmakers with projects at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival returned to discuss their upcoming films in a panel discussion moderated by IndieWire’s crafts editor Chris O’Falt.

Speakers Gerardo Coello, Gabriela Ortega, Iliana Sosa, and Sean Wang shared how their creative processes have shifted since being an Ignite x Adobe fellow, and how their unique, respective backgrounds inspired the stories they opted to bring to the screen. Since 2015, Adobe has been proud to work alongside Sundance through the Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellowship — a year-round artist development program inspiring creativity and supporting emerging filmmakers ages 18 to 25.

Director/screenwriter Gerardo Coello, whose short film “Viaje de Negocios” debuted at the festival, was a 2018 Sundance Ignite x Adobe alum. The short, whose title translates to “Business Trip,” focuses on the differences in upbringings between Mexico and the United States and the process of Americanization across the border. Coello recalled how the fellowship impacted his career, leading to being the first assistant director on “Shiva Baby” and an assistant director on “Reality” and “Fargo.”

“I think it’s important to mention it’s a long journey,” Coello said. “There is plenty of heartbreak and plenty of hardship along the way, but you just have to move past it. I was blessed with the Ignite fellowship in 2018, which was truly an amazing experience that gave me not only access to the festival but more importantly the community of the fellows that you meet there. It’s a very, very beautiful community.”

Similarly, “God Save Texas: La Frontera” director Iliana Sosa talked about how being raised in El Paso, Texas impacts her vision to showcase what it’s really like at the border.

“There’s a lot of complexities with the border, and when people think about the border, they think about the violence,” Sosa said, citing that she felt like she existed in the “in between spaces” growing up.

“I can say that growing up there, this sort of ‘in between-ness’ is something you experience very young,” Sosa said. “I hope that people find a different take on the border.”

The docuseries “God Save Texas” is executive produced by Richard Linklater, and Sosa was specifically contacted to helm the first episode centering on El Paso.

“Sadly there’s not many documentary filmmakers from El Paso,” Sosa said. “I thought that was really special because they wanted someone to hone in and tell their story from there. Being from there, it was important for me to do it justice.”

“Border Hopper” short film producer/actor Gabriela Ortega weighed in on how she wanted to represent her Dominic Republican heritage and educate viewers. Ortega is one of the 2023 Sundance Women to Watch x Adobe Fellows.

“It was really important for me to tell a story about immigration,” Ortega said, “and show people that it doesn’t get easier even if you’re doing it the ‘right way.’”

“Dìdi” writer/producer Sean Wang, a 2020 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellow, is the sole feature filmmaker in the panel. The film is debuting in the U.S. Dramatic Competition program. The title translates to “little brother” in Mandarin, with the coming-of-age feature centering on a 13-year-old Chinese American boy. Wang said the film is inspired by “Stand By Me,” “Eighth Grade,” “The Sandlot,” and “Waterlilies,” but instead is a hyper-specific story about the Chinese American experience set in the late 2000s.

“Ultimately I think our story is about shame and love and the ways in which shame can manifest itself in a young Chinese American boy’s life, personally, culturally, and socially,” Wang said, citing the film has been in process since 2017, and took another shape after his short film “HAGS” led him to revisit his own middle school yearbook.

“It just goes to show that something small and personal and honest [can break through],” Wang said of releasing his debut short film online.

Check out the full interview below.

Other IndieWire x Adobe discussions include talks with the cast of “Your Monster” and a panel with Duplass Brothers Productions president Mel Eslyn and producer/director/actor Mark Duplass about their upcoming TV series “Penelope,” among other projects.

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