Artist and filmmaker Lynette Wallworth joins the likes of Emma Thompson, Amy Poehler, and Karen Gillan in the Sundance Film Festival’s Beyond Film line-up for 2022.
Her contribution to the free program is an immersive film entitled HOW TO LIVE (After you Die), in which the Emmy and AACTA award winner recounts her coming-of-age in a radical Christian community and charts the artistic journey she has undertaken to reclaim her voice. She will appear in conversation with moderator Tabitha Jackson following the presentation.
The project was initially intended as a live performance at the Egyptian Theatre but became an online production after Sundance announced on January 5 it would be cancelling the in-person portion of this year’s event due to the prevalence of the Omicron COVID variant.
For Wallworth, the pivot meant shooting an 85-minute film in the space of a week, a process for which she enlisted an array of collaborators.
Melbourne’s More Studio created the graphics for the project, while Perth duo Sohan Ariel Hayes and Radheya Jegatheva did the VFX animations. Also involved were dramaturg Louise Gough, sound designer Liam Egan, production manager Neil Simpson, and hair and make-up artist Briana Garbutt, as well as singer-songwriter Anohni.
Rachel Chanoff executive produced the film, which was commissioned by RISING Festival, Sydney Opera House, and producer The Office NYC.
Despite the pressure of the timeframe, Wallworth said adapting to a new format was not altogether foreign to her as someone who has worked across a range of disciplines.
“There are challenges but they are exciting challenges,” she said.
“It was an incredible ask to hear less than two weeks ago that the festival was going online and then to be able to conceive what this project could be and how it would work.
“The wonderful thing for me is that I work across many forms, so changing form is something I have traditionally done.
“I’ve made digital full-dome films, feature documentaries, XR and VR work, as well as immersive installations, so that process is known to me.”
The film will be the fifth time Wallworth has had her work showcased at Sundance, building on an association that began in 2009 with her New Frontier installation Evolution of Fearlessness and continued in 2013 with her full-dome film Coral: Rekindling Venus, also for New Frontier.
In 2016, she has since received the inaugural New Frontier-Jaunt VR residency, for which she developed the Emmy-winning Collisions, and was also named on the Sundance Institute’s board of trustees in 2019.
Wallworth said the Beyond Film section had the potential to provide a level of audience reach she had seldom seen.
“The fact that it sits where it does means it is accessible to anyone who signs up for a Sundance account, who can then experience this work as its premiering for the first time,” she said.
“I often work with new technologies, which means the audience can be quite restricted, in terms of how many people have got a headset, for example.
“So there is something wonderful about this opportunity Sundance is giving to the work to make it so accessible during the festival.”
She said she still intends to tell the story live when she is able.
“I had always imagined that this work would go from a live performance into a film format and so what’s happened is just that the order has been flipped,” she said.
“It’s going to go from a film format into something I can deliver live.”
Find out more about the film here.