The history of the University of Utah Department of Film & Media Arts is more entwined with that of the Sundance Film Festival than most people realize. Professor emeritus Tom Sobchack was integral in the programming for the festival.
Sobchack taught the first course on film at the University of Utah in 1968. At the time he was a faculty member of the U Department of English and recent New York transplant (now professor emeritus of the Department of Film & Media Arts). This first course and those that followed in the subsequent years provided a catalyst around which a nascent community of serious Salt Lake cinephiles coalesced.
When Sterling Van Wagenen, co-founder of the Sundance Institute and currently producer-in-residence for the Department of Film & Media Arts, decided to put together an annual film festival in Salt Lake City in 1977, he needed some help with programming. Fortunately, Sobchack and his affiliated film aficionados were there to act as gatekeepers for the submissions. The forerunner of the Sundance Film Festival was born.
Decades later, Sobchack is semi-retired but still teaching film classes in the department he initially set in motion in the late 60s. These filmmakers and critics of tomorrow are in turn given great opportunities for professional training by Sterling Van Wagenen in his role as producer-in-residence, in which he teaches and mentors. Through his influence and connections in the industry, the Department of Film & Media Arts has launched a new professional internship program for the 2014-2015 academic year and beyond. This program allows select film majors to work with local production companies to receive valuable real-world film experience while continuing their undergraduate and graduate studies at the U.