Sundance’s Local Lens event is an opportunity for Utahns to see films outside of the typical festival schedule and on a smaller scale. Photo courtesy: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance in The Summer: Local Lens with Basil Tsiokos


Even seasoned Sundance Film Festival veterans and Utah locals might be surprised to find that Sundance isn’t something that just exists for a couple weeks in January. Sundance’s Local Lens event is an opportunity for Utahns to see films outside of the typical festival schedule and on a smaller scale. “Not everyone recognizes or realizes that we’re more than just a festival,” says Basil Tsiokos, Senior Programmer for Sundance and liaison with the Utah Community Program (UCP)—a non-profit that connects with the local Utah community to promote the arts, culture and socials issues—within the Sundance organization, which stewards the event. 

Local Lens is about “taking some of our beloved films from January and bringing them back to Utah audiences to have another shot at seeing them,” Tsiokos says. From July 26–29, nine screenings and one special event will be at this year’s Local Lens, all taking place at various indoor and outdoor locations in Salt Lake City, Park City, West Valley and Oakley, Utah. This year’s Local Lens will feature films lauded by both critics and audiences such as Polite Society and The Deepest Breath.

Many of the films shown through Local Lens haven’t had a wide release yet.  The event provides a perfect opportunity for Utahns to catch those special films they may not have been able to snag tickets for the first time around. Similar to the main festival, audiences will also be given a peek behind the curtain at some of these screenings. “Just like at the January festival, we have filmmakers that come to support the films with Q&As, interaction with the audience, etc.,” Tsiokos says. “We try to replicate that where we can with this series as well.” This year, audiences can expect interviews with Joe Brewster (director of Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project), Tracy Droz Tragos (director of Plan C) and Anaita Wali Zada (lead actress in Fremont).

Local Lens also hopes to appeal to a broader local audience than the main festival, partially by offering outdoor screenings that make use of the summer weather. “We’re trying to sort of give people a little bit of the taste of the January festival but without all of the craziness that goes with it,” Tsiokos says. “If you want to just bring a friend who’s not necessarily going to movies all the time, I recommend going to the outdoor screenings.” Venues will include Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City or City Park in Park City. “You don’t have to know anything else about films,” Tsiokos says, “but you know you like being outdoors, and you’re gonna enjoy a really fun experience with hundreds of other people.” By that same token, Local Lens also takes note to screen films that play well to general audiences and families. “We’re also vetting films just to see like, ‘Does this make sense to do an outdoor screening of it? Is it too risque?’” Tsikos says. “We want some of these films to also be appropriate for families, or to be able to bring big groups, etc.” Even if you aren’t a dyed-in-the-wool cinephile, Local Lens is the perfect opportunity for any viewer to enjoy the great films that come out of Sundance.

Local Lens also provides opportunities for aspiring Utah filmmakers.  “We recognize that there is a vibrant filmmaking community in Utah,” Tsiokos says. Local LensFilmmaking Deep Dive event will be an opportunity for a group of Utah filmmakers to hone their craft and to get their foot in the door with the Sundance Institute. “We’re having four local filmmaking teams pitch to a panel of industry experts to get advice and feedback,” Tsiokos says. “The general public is absolutely welcome to come, but it is really geared especially for filmmakers, and it’s a deep dive into how pitching works.”

Local Lens is all about giving back to the Utah Community through the shared love of film. “We’re so happy to introduce and, in some cases, reintroduce these films to Utah audiences at a different time of year,” Tsiokos says. “We love our films, and we want people to see them.”

For more information on the Local Lens events, visit

Read more movie events going on in Utah:
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Director Anthony Mandler on Surrounded