For the past year and a half, each new exploit has felt like the pinnacle of Ryan Coogler's burgeoning filmmaking career. Now, this past Friday's event may unseat all of those recent achievements. Ryan Coogler's feature directorial debut and Grand Jury Prize-winning Fruitvale Station opened in select theaters July 12, marking the culmination of what has been an arduous, but unimaginably fruitful two-year process. From their initial meeting in 2011, Michelle Satter (Founding Director, Sundance Institute's Feature Film Program) recalls Sundance Institute's journey with and continuous support of Ryan Coogler and his urgent and captivating film Fruitvale Station...
I met Ryan Coogler in the fall of 2011 when he came in to have a conversation about his script, Fruitvale Station. As I listened to Ryan speak about why he needed to tell this story, his deep, personal commitment to the project became evident. Between his script, a great short film, (Fig), and this meeting, our interest in supporting Ryan was immediate and unflagging.
Soon after, we brought Ryan Coogler to our 2012 January Screenwriters Lab where he worked closely with Creative Advisors Tyger Williams, Jessie Nelson and Zach Sklar on further developing his script. I remember so clearly that Ryan couldn't be at the Lab for the first evening. This is the moment that the group begins their journey forward as they find a common bond and focus-- I was a bit worried about him coming in late. Ryan arrived the next morning and my concerns were quickly diminished. By lunch he had been embraced by the group. Ryan's beautiful soul and honest charisma were infectious. The Advisors felt his passion to learn and all of the Fellows were joined together as a family who cared deeply about each other's work moving forward.
As part of the Feature Film Program (FFP) support, we remain committed to a filmmaker and project throughout the life of the film by offering creative and tactical advice and resources. As Ryan continued his journey, we were there at critical moments to provide strategic granting, creative feedback, introductions to key crew and offer ourselves as a sounding board for everything that this new experience would bring.
After the Lab, Ryan worked tirelessly on rewriting Fruitvale Station and the FFP team and Lab Advisors continued to read and give him feedback on new drafts. Ryan was very excited about the commitment he had from Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang as producers and began to see the possibility that he would be making the film in the summer. Although this meant that Ryan wouldn't attend the June Directors Lab, he knew that he had the opportunity of a lifetime!
At critical junctures along the way, the FFP provided $35,000 in granting through our collaborations with the Time Warner Foundation, Cinereach and Indian Paint Brush. When Ryan needed funding to bring his editors on during production; when he needed funding to do additional shooting; when he needed funding to continue to pay for living expenses, we wanted to be there. As Ryan finished production and started cutting Fruitvale Station, the FFP staff and Advisors gave him crucial creative feedback by watching many cuts of the film. It was so moving to see the film emerge in the cuts and feel the power of Ryan's voice and singular vision.
For the rest of the article, and to find out the culmination of this journey, prior to this weekend's release of the film, please visit Sundance Institute.
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