The Sundance Film Festival, held in Park City, Utah, is the leading U.S. venue for independent film premieres. Attending the festival allows an immersive plunge into the art and commerce of the Entertainment Industry. The Vanguard Sundance Program takes place during the second week of the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January.

How to Apply

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • Be a Communication Major or Minor
  • Have completed 12 units in Comm Studies and/or Cinema Arts
  • Have and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.2 in Communication courses

Submit your application here on You will need to write two short answer responses (500 words) and submit one video response. Click on the link for the application to see specific instructions and essay questions. You will also need to provide a copy of your unofficial transcript from myVU. There is no application fee.

Application Deadline: April 1st, 2017
Festival Dates: January 21-28, 2018

Selection Process

The selection process is competitive and the students selected represent the best of the Communication Department. Up to 8 funded students will be accepted (see scholarship information below). The process is multi-tiered: First, the applicant list is sent to the Global Engagement Office, which vets applicants with Disability Services, the Academic House (GPA/Academic Probation), Student Life (Disciplinary Probation/Students of Concern), and Spiritual Formation. The Communication Department receives the list back with noted concerns and comments. The entire Communication faculty then reviews all of the application materials for each candidate, scores each candidate on a rubric, and participates in a selection discussion. Candidates are ranked according to the rubrics and the results of the discussion and vetting process, and each selected candidate is confirmed by the Communication Department faculty and staff.

Selection Criteria

The mission of Vanguard University is to pursue knowledge, cultivate character, deepen faith, and equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service. Vanguard pursues its mission by cultivating the Spirit-empowered life in Christian experience and service; promoting academic excellence that integrates faith and life; providing professor-mentors in a dynamic community environment. The Sundance experience is part of this mission, so we look for students that will represent the heart of the university and the department.

Each candidate is assessed according to the following criteria via their application materials, performance in Communication classes, and their participation in the department and the university:

Intellectual Maturity

We look for students who have consistently demonstrated a willingness to think deeply about challenging topics, who work hard, who have critical thinking skills, who care about the quality of their work, and who have a capacity to communicate well--oral, written or visual.

Spiritual Maturity

We look for students who take their faith seriously, who are thoughtfully developing their professional practice with their faith as a key component, not an afterthought. We look for students who are engaged in the spiritual life of the campus, who participate in more than mandatory chapel, and who are honest about their faith to others. Do they demonstrate that they would adhere to good moral standards and their behavioral contract while on this trip? We also consider the student's creative work: do we see the student strive to tell stories consistent with their faith and authentic to their experience or do they attempt to push boundaries merely for shock value?

Emotional Maturity

We look for students that are capable of handling stressful situations with grace, that show Christ-like behavior to others, that are able to disagree with others in an appropriate and civil manner, and can handle being exposed to difficult subject matter. We want students who can process material with maturity, ask good questions, and seek counsel if needed.


Can the student get along well with others? Can they live in close proximity without conflict for a week? Are they responsible and would they look out for their fellow students? Do they have the demonstrated ability to work well with others?

Overall Benefit

Will this program benefit this student's professional goals? Will this student's participation benefit their peers and the department?

Scholarship Awards

All students selected will receive significant funding for the trip, including housing, tickets, Windrider forum fees and shuttle transportation. Students are responsible for their airfare to and from Park City, transport from the university to the airport and back, and their daily food expenses. With careful budgeting, these costs are typically $300-$500, depending on the price of airfare.

About the Trip

The Class.

If selected, students will enroll in a 3-unit class (Comm 486) during the fall semester. Students will read several texts on the history of the Sundance Film Festival, the origins and current state of independent filmmaking, and how Christian filmmakers and critics integrate their faith and practice. Led by a Cinema Arts faculty member, the class will meet throughout the fall semester to discuss the reading and prepare for the trip. The festival will serve as a laboratory in which students attend screenings, discussions, and seminars. The festival takes place in January and usually falls on the third week of the Spring semester. The trip will count as excused absences per university policy.

The Forum.

Vanguard is a proud partner school with the Windrider Forum, a collective of CCCU schools and seminaries that attend the festival and create a space for dialogue and participation from a faith perspective. Windrider invites Sundance filmmakers for intimate Q&A sessions each morning with students. Windrider also hosts an international student film festival, which screens during the festival. Vanguard students will be able to take advantage of the forum session as both networking and learning opportunities.

The Films.

Students will receive a ticket package which guarantees them at least 10 ticketed films and also provides them with some additional vouchers for waitlisting films. Students independently choose what films they want to see and make their own festival schedule. The University expects students to choose their films wisely and in line with their own personal values.

It’s Cold Out There!

The Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, UT in January. Snow, ice and storms are common. The festival venues are scattered across the city, so students should expect to spend a significant amount of time outside, walking and waiting for public transportation. Proper winter gear is a must for this trip. In 2017, one of the coldest festivals on record, students and faculty walked an average of four miles per day in single digit temperatures—and lived to tell about it!

The Buses. Enough Said.

Vanguard Sundance alumni often cite navigating the bus system as one of the more challenging aspects of the experience. Park City runs free buses around the city and to all Sundance film screening venues. Parking is not available at Sundance venues, so all festival-goers, including Vanguard students, take the buses. Students will all see different films, so traveling independently on the buses is a typical occurrence. Be prepared to learn quickly, as missing your bus can mean missing your film or standing out in the snow for prolonged periods of time. Students will be provided with maps and Park City’s transportation app for smartphones.

Sleeping is Overrated.

Expect long days. Student are required to attend the Windrider Forum sessions at 9AM each morning before heading out to watch films. Bear in mind that hours may vary—Sundance films screen from 8AM to 2AM. Students and faculty are housed in one of Park City’s many vacation condos. Students should expect shared sleeping arrangements and bathrooms. Students may be asked to sleep on sofa beds or air mattresses. However, the close quarters creates a great sense of community and provides constant opportunities throughout the week to discuss films and the festival with fellow students and with the supervising faculty.

Staying Fueled and Hydrated.

Students are responsible for their own food during the trip. There is usually a full kitchen available for student use, but Park City also has plenty of restaurants and coffee shops that can be easily accessed. It is recommended that students with special dietary requirements make a plan with the Disability Services office to ensure that their needs can be met with the resources available. Staying hydrated is also a special concern on this trip, as Park City is situated at an elevation of 7,000’. Altitude sickness can occur. Sundance has free water stations at every venue and students can pick up a free reusable water bottle from one of the Sundance sponsor locations. Hot coffee and tea is also available for purchase at every venue, usually in the wait line.