Southern Oregon short film to premiere at Sundance
A short film that was shot and produced in Southern Oregon will make its debut at the country’s largest independent film festival.
“You Go Girl!” — made in collaboration with a team of independent filmmakers and a Southern Oregon-based production company and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival whose artistic director, Nataki Garrett, executive produced the film — will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
The film stars Tiffany Mann as a stand-up comedian from New York named Audrey who reconciles with her past, faces her fears and embarks on a journey into the Southern Oregon wilderness, which culminates with her reaching the top of the mountain in time to catch the sunset.
Getting the emotional closing scene filmed on Mount Ashland required a location more than half a mile off the road and had the roughly 20-person film crew using sleds and snowshoes, according to producer Courtney Williams.
Williams described Mann as an “extraordinary professional performer” with a deep acting range, but she knew it was something special when she watched crew member Eddie Lopez react to Mann’s emotional closing scene.
“I was watching him watch her, and there were just tears streaming down his face,” Williams said. “I just felt like, ‘This is a magical moment.’”
The scene wrapped two intensive days of filming in the Ashland area, according to Tyler Maddox, the film’s director of photography. Between the natural splendor and the emotions of the scene, Maddox said, the wrap was a “real experience” for many on the film crew from New York and other areas.
“I think they were all just beside themselves with the beauty they found here,“ Maddox said. ”You can take it for granted.“
Maddox said he tears up every time he watches the film but added that the movie also has an inspiring side.
“As a cinematographer, I’m extremely proud of it,” Maddox said.
The crew filmed many of the earlier stages of Audrey’s journey in sections of the Ashland watershed near Lithia Park and transformed OSF’s Black Swan Theatre into a small New York comedy club, according to Maddox.
"You Go Girl“ is one of 59 short films selected for Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Program out of a record-setting 10,374 submissions from 26 countries.
Williams said she believes what resonated with film screeners — and what will resonate with audiences — is the excitement of going from the energy of New York to the Oregon wilderness.
“She triumphs doing something really difficult that she never thought she would do,” Williams said of the character’s journey.
Locally based filmmakers Shariffa Ali, Kamilah Long and Adrian Alea made the film with the help of a $20,000 Oregon Adventure Film Grant issued jointly by the Oregon Made Creative Foundation and Travel Oregon, according to a blog post last October from the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television.
Ali, who was working as OSF’s artist-in-residence at the time, first collaborated with Long and Alea in 2020 for a short film called “Ash Land,“ which tells the story of a Black woman living in the Oregon wilds who gets a visitor who causes her to ”reconcile her past and reimagine her future,“ according to a synopsis on Oregon Film.
For their next film, Ali, Long and Alea worked with Oregon Film, the Oregon Made Creative Foundation and Travel Oregon to develop a project that would fit the Oregon Adventure Film Grant's theme of “Oregon’s Outdoors Are For Everyone.” The grant sought projects involving experienced filmmakers and subjects from communities of color.
Williams said coming up with a project that fit the scope “wasn’t a stretch.”
“The problem is we just don’t see enough stories like that,” Williams said. “I think audiences are hungry to see different types of stories you don’t usually see.”
Maddox said many filmmakers spend a lifetime trying to get their film shown at Sundance, and it’s “extremely difficult to get in.”
“This is their second film ever,” Maddox said. “It’s truly remarkable.”
"You Go Girl!“ will premiere at Sundance Jan. 22 at the Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, Utah, and will be available online with the purchase of a $50 “Explorer Pass” from the festival. For details, see festival.sundance.org.
Williams said the plan is for “You Go Girl” to stream on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s O! streaming platform at an as-yet undetermined date.
Films made by Southern Oregonians are rare at Sundance, but “You Go Girl!” is not without precedent.
In 2011, Ashland lawyer Susan Saladoff’s full-length documentary “Hot Coffee” premiered at Sundance. That film — about how the court system is stacked against wronged plaintiffs — included interviews with then-senator Al Franken, author John Grisham and people involved in high profile liability lawsuits, and was promoted around the country.
Maddox said many Southern Oregonians don’t realize what a destination for filmmakers the region has become. For instance, earlier this year the Hollywood-based MovieMaker.com named Ashland one of the top 10 places to live and work as a movie maker.
Maddox, who lives in Jacksonville, has also been involved in filming the Discovery Channel series “Growing Belushi,” about actor and comedian Jim Belushi’s cannabis farm in the Rogue Valley. Through that project, he’s filmed Food Network host Guy Fieri in the Rogue Valley and SNL alum Dan Akroyd in downtown Medford.
“There’s a lot of big things going on here,” Maddox said.
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Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Kamilah Long‘s name and that the crew did not use snowmobiles. The film was produced in association with Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Nakita Garrett served as executive producer. Tyler Maddox is a resident of Jacksonville.