EXCLUSIVE: The Sundance Institute and Peter Luo’s Stars Collective (Crazy Rich Asians, Midway, Marshall, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) have partnered on the new Imagination Award that grants $25,000 each to three metaverse-based projects that show innovation “in a rapidly evolving mediascape.”
Candidates were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Program with winners were selected by fest programmers and reps of Stars Collective, a talent incubator.
The award extends a Sundance-Stars Collective partnership from 2020 that launched the Granting Fund to support diverse filmmakers from historically marginalized communities. The cash has provided project advancement and completion support to over 30 films so far, including works by Jamila Wignot (Ailey), Alison O’Daniel (Tuba Thieves), Nikyatu Jusu (Nanny) and Isabel Castro (Mija). Nine have premiered at Sundance.
Inaugural Imagination Award winners:
40 Acres: Lead Artist, Tamara Shogaolu. A multi-platform exploration of Black American farmers and herbalists and their changing relationship to the land.
Block Party Bodega: Lead Artists, Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari, Andres Perez-Duart. “A psychedelic Banksy meets Brooklyn open world universe celebrating culture, diversity, and creative mischief where cooperation is king, competition is a party, and players are the mercenaries of joy.”
Year 2180: Lead Artist, Vanessa Keith. A multi-platform game set in a virtual utopian world where players can undertake climate quests in various cities to save our future.
“We are very excited to join forces with Sundance once again to support filmmakers with ideas and the ability to innovate,” said Luo. “The film industry has evolved to a point where it needs innovative genres, styles, narrative structures, expressions, and business models that are more in tune with the current times. The third revolution of the Internet will also have a profound impact on cinema. We at Stars Collective will continue to support filmmakers in this direction.”
“Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program is elated to join forces with Stars Collective, a company that we have joyfully found an alignment in values around diversifying our community of creators, and growing vital, human centered innovation on our dynamic media landscape,” said Shari Frilot, Sundance fest senior programmer and chief curator of New Frontier.
The award go to so-called Metaverse Ecosystem Projects and can be narrative, non-narrative, films, videos or TV series and in any creative format — digital, film and VR/AR/MR/X — if they “show a complete metaverse worldview and visual concept.” Entrants must show “artistic creativity, ecological extensibility of the meta-universe, and IP commercial feasibility.”
Stars Collective will launch its web3 film platform Footage and its metaverse platform, SC Meta, in the current first quarter.
The venure financed and co-produced Justin Chon’s Sundance-premiereing music drama Jamojaya with Indonesian rapper Rich Brian that played in Park City to great reviews in last week. Chon and Alan Pao (Under The Silver Lake) are producers. The film is executive-produced by Luo, Chris Lee (Superman Returns), Jennifer Pritzker and Shaun Sanghani (The Fallout).
Others include Nezouh, directed by Soudade Kaadan, which won the Armani Beauty Audience Award at the Venice film festival; Playland, artist-filmmaker Georden West’s debut feature, which will premiere in the Tiger Competition at the 2023 International Film Festival Rotterdam; and Wuhan Wuhan, directed by Yung Chang, produced by Donna Gigliotti, Diane Quon and executive produced by Donnie Yen.
Luo, an advocate for bringing Asian culture to Hollywood, has brokered content deals with prominent filmmakers such as Robert Zemeckis, Sam Raimi, Sylvester Stallone, James Wan, F. Gary Gray, Roland Emmerich and Jon Chu.