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NEWS | Feb. 3, 2020

Army Reserve Soldiers Opportunity to Shine at Sundance

By Courtesy 3d Medical Command (Deployment Support)

Maj. Satomi Mack-Martin, a 3d Medical Command (Deployment Support) Soldier, attended the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, for the world premiere of Miss Juneteenth where she worked as the 1st Assistant Director. The feature film spotlights the annual Juneteenth celebration — a day that commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation — and its staple beauty pageant.

The first assistant director is directly in charge of overseeing all department heads and ensuring entire cast and crew is working on schedule. Plans all film logistics and serves as liaison between director and the rest of the cast and crew.

Mack-Martin, a graduate of University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, brings insight to two seeming contrasting fields of film and the military. "Creating strategic production schedules and reports for film department heads, planning and organizing the movement of equipment and people to various locations under time constraints, and ensuring a director's intent is met with filming all the scenes planned for the day, feels very much like the military," she said.

Also, safety is a big deal under a First AD's direction. "Working alongside producers to bring about safe alternatives to a director is always a challenge. For example, we filmed a scene that had two horses, a group of motorcycle riders, and a huge crowd of people, in front of a busy street. It got really hectic at one point, so I had to take the director's intent (shot list) and break it down into small sections to film, in order to keep the horses calm and prevent accidents from oncoming traffic. My Army experience and knowledge on creating risk assessments was very key in communicating with other filmmakers," said Mack-Martin. 

The Sundance Film Festival is the largest annual independent film festival in the United States and takes place each January in Park City, Utah, Salt Lake City, and at the Sundance Resort. "Out of 15,000 films submitted, only 118 films were selected, making the energy at Sundance amazing!  It was a wonderful opportunity to see films before they hit theaters this year with acquisition deals from major players like Netflix, Amazon Studios, Warner Bros, HBO, etc.," said Mack-Martin.

Along with attending the premiere of her film, Mack-Martin attended numerous workshops and panels at the festival such as events at The Blackhouse Foundation, encouraged minority filmmakers with hearing great experiences and tips from established showrunners and directors like Ava DuVernay and Issa Rae, and 'Women on the Front Lines: Changing the Game' panel, saying, “It was all very inspiring.” 

Mack-Martin hopes this is not an once-in-a-lifetime experience looking forward, “With being a First Assistant Director, it's a job that I love to do. It's a position that comes natural to me,” she said.