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“This Experience Really Felt Rare”: Justin Ducharme on Sundance Native Lab 2022

Sundance Native Lab 2022 fellow Justin DucharmeSundance Native Lab 2022 fellow Justin Ducharme

With the Sundance Native Lab having returned to a (hybrid) in-person model for the first time in two years, Filmmaker asked 2022 fellows to reflect on their recent experiences through short diary entries. Read the rest of the 2022 cohort’s responses

It’s an interesting thought process trying to find the right words to describe my time at the Sundance Film Festival’s Native Film Lab. From the beginning. there was an obvious feeling of kismet, an almost too good to be true energy to have when going into any creative development lab, let alone one from an institute like Sundance. But I guess if I had to start somewhere, it would probably be at the heart of the whole lab, the Indigenous staff at Sundance—the people who carefully put every single one of us in that room together knowing we each had something to share or learn from one another. There’s something incredibly special about showing up to something knowing there was deep thought and consideration for why you were chosen to be there.

I think sometimes it can be really easy to tell people that you think they are talented and believe in what they are trying to say, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually walk the walk and show them. Sundance did that for me in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. Finding confidence in my work in these types of settings has always been rough footing, and imposter syndrome is something I am all too familiar with. Though even in the first week of the lab with our virtual sessions, there was that sense of belonging and necessity that was impossible to ignore. I had to get over the feeling of not being enough, it was time to get to work. I was there in that space with these incredible Indigenous filmmakers, all seeking a variety of answers and questions about this craft we love, about the stories we want to tell. And now was not the time for self doubt.

Before this, my development experience as far as writing was one that was quite insular. I’ve always kept it close, safeguarding it probably, but this lab helped me loosen that grip, helped me be open to the idea of showing people those maybe early ideas or not quite cooked thoughts. Something I knew before this lab, but was highly important in it being successful for me, was to never underestimate the power of community, of your kinship networks. The cohort that is chosen and the energy that is provided at the Native Lab allows for these kinds of relationships to form and to find answers for those questions we all have. It’s really amazing to put a group of Native filmmakers together like this and give them the freedom and permission to be curious or clumsy or inquisitive without that fear that is usually so apparent in situations where one is being creatively vulnerable.

Finding the right words to share about the experience probably feels the way it does because I’m in many ways I’m still processing the whole experience. From the creative development I got on my project Positions, to the relationships and community I’ve built with fellow lab participants and advisors there, is so much to share but also feel protective over. To process with the same amount of care I feel I’ve been given on this journey. I’ve done a few film labs before, and this experience really felt rare. I really left the whole thing feeling ushered into a new confidence with both myself and my creative choices. A confidence I think I was maybe looking for permission to feel, a confidence that was supported by this lab.

Follow Justin Ducharme @jstindchrme on Twitter, @jayuhstin on Instagram

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