Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

From the Labs: Coming Full Circle with Producer Diane Quon


Above: Diane Quon [right] and Emma D. Miller at Sundance Institute's 2023 Producers Lab

By Stephanie Ornelas

It takes a village to make a movie - and a strong, valued producer to hold it all together.

That was one thing first-time advisor Diane Quon discussed with fellows last week at Sundance Institute's annual Producers Lab.

I learned that I had to be more proactive and remind the directors [I was working with] whenever possible to recognize their entire team, explains Quon over Zoom. How do we make sure that producers are valued? And a lot of times it's up to us to not be afraid to speak up and to advocate for ourselves.

As a Producers Lab alum herself, Quon recalls feeling nervous as heck attending the 2019 lab. Minding the Gap, her first project as a producer, had premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival (and nabbed the Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking), and she was on to the next: Finding Yingying. The hands-on Producers Lab gave her the tools she needed to bring the true-crime documentary to life.

It really was life changing being a fellow, says Quon, who went on to produce the award-winning documentary Finding Yingying and a number of others, including Wuhan Wuhan, Bad Axe, and Unseen. To come back as an advisor was really special. It was all around a great time but it was intense.

Diane Quon as a fellow at the Sundance Institute Producers Summit in 2019 Looking back at when she was a fellow, Quon remembers how much of an impact her advisors made on her career. I knew how much the advisors cared based on my experience, and they continue to help me. I'm still good friends with [them], and I count them as mentors still.

So when Quon returned to the Sundance Mountain Resort last week to lead the documentary portion of the Producers Lab - alongside advisors and producers Sabaah Folayan, Cristina Ibarra, Andrea Meditch, and Bob Moore - she saw this as a good opportunity to pay it forward.

Having been a fellow in 2019, now it's 2023, and I've been lucky. I produced many films in between that time period, and I learned a lot. I want to give back to Sundance and all they've done to support me.

As a fellow, Quon didn't just leave the Producers Lab with a week's worth of insight, she left with new relationships that she would hold on to for the rest of her career. In fact, Meditch and Moore were Quon's advisors during the 2019 lab, and Quon and Moore are now working on a project together. It's safe to say she was thrilled to join them on the mentor side.

That's what is so special. I reminded the fellows, it's not only your cohort that you're bonding with, but it's also with the advisors. [The labs are] just fellow producers all trying to support each other.

Ten emerging producers - of both fiction and nonfiction projects - and ten creative advisors gathered for five days of nurturing and mentorship where they discussed and worked through unique challenges they're experiencing with their current projects.

As an advisor looking at the fellows, I'm just so impressed with the work that Kristin [Feeley] and the team did to find the right folks - different projects but all very special in their different ways, says Quon. And the fellows, each kind of in different places with their projects. It was a great combination, so I really appreciate the work they went into to find the right cohort to be together.

Quon may have been brought on as an advisor for the documentary portion of the lab, but one thing she loved about the experience was that doc producers had the opportunity to share their projects with the fiction fellows and advisors.

Quon as a creative advisor at the 2023 Producers Lab We did some combo sessions, and I thought that was so helpful. I love getting a peek into that world, says Quon. The first panel that Michelle [Satter] moderated had two of us from the doc side and two on the fiction side. I think we can learn from each other and apply it to what we're dealing with in terms of distribution. Because these are all independent films.

This close-knit artistic village thrives from having a wide array of voices heard. Fellows worked on delivering their pitches to each other, one of many responsibilities a producer takes on in addition to keeping all the relationships going on a film. You're the person speaking to the crew, the post-production team, to all the funders and investors, and ultimately the buyers, Quon explains. I always say the producer is the spoke in the wheel trying to keep it all going.

And she was thoroughly impressed with the way each fellow took her advice and applied it to their revised pitch in such a short turnaround. After all, advisors and fellows were busy meeting every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I don't know when they had time to revise their pitches, laughs Quon. I was amazed to see how they incorporated a lot of the feedback we had given them into a new pitch so quickly and how impactful it was. [They] improved so much by making those slight changes. I could see that the fellows really took it to heart.

Throughout the lab, Quon also spent time talking to fellows about pressing issues producers are often faced with and how indie-film creators are up against a particularly challenging time in the industry.

I feel like I've gone through a lot of what they're going through because I was just starting out back in 2016. I was in their space not too long ago, says Quon. I really thought hopefully they could benefit from what I've learned, especially because everyone talks about how hard it is right now in the industry.

I like to tell [fellows] that once you get a few [projects] under your belt, there's a way to balance where you, hopefully, are making money on one fi
See more stories from sundance

More from Sundance Institute


For Your Viewing Pleasure: The Sundance Indigenous Program's Must Watch List

Over the course of Native American Heritage Month, we have highlighted some of the Sundance Institute-supported Indigenous artists, including conversations with...


Inside the Archives: A Commitment to Indigenous Artists and Storytelling

(left of center) Native Cinema curator Stephen Roe Lewis and (center) spiritual leader and storyteller Larry Cesspooch along with the In the Tradition: New Dime...


Past Lives and A Thousand and One Are Honored at 2023 Gotham Awards

Earlier this evening the Gotham Film & Media Institute held their annual Gotham Awards and we're over the moon that Sundance-supported projects nabbed two m...


Watchlist: Try to Escape the Holidays with These 14 Films About Being Trapped

By Stephanie Ornelas This time of year can be stressful enough without having to deal with the anxiety we sometimes get from attending holiday gatherings. The...


The 39th IDA Documentary Awards Nominations Are Full of Sundance-Supported Projects

Awards season is in full swing and this morning the International Documentary As...


Colorado's Stanley Hotel will host Sundance Institute's Signature Directors Lab in 2024

Park City, UT - November 22, 2023 -The nonprofit global arts organization Sundan...


A Circular Path: A Conversation with Indigenous Program Alum Alexandra Lazarowich

Alexandra Lazarowich photo by Sam Richardson...


Mami Wata Cinematographer Llis Soares on Creating a New Kind of Gaze

L lis Soares attends the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Mami Wata premiere on January 23, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images) By Step...


What the Chuck? | A Conversation with Native Lab Fellow Jana Schmieding

by Ianeta Le'i Sipping on a frothy homemade vanilla latte, Jana Schmieding is the kind of person you want as your best friend. It's the same way I feel...


Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, 20 Days in Mariupol, and More Take Top Honors at 2023 Critics Choice Documentary Awards

Last month we were thrilled to see so many Sundance Film Festival projects named...


Catch These 16 Sundance-Supported Documentaries at DOC NYC

By Stephanie Ornelas Let the celebration of documentary filmmaking continue. We just wrapped up our annual Doctober programming where we explored a number of ...


An Indigenous Infinity: A Dispatch from Adam Piron

by Adam Piron I've been thinking a lot about time over this past year. In Western European cultures, there's the idea that the future lies in front of ...


Sundance Institute and The Walt Disney Studios Launch the Project Advancement and Completion Fund to Support Underrepresented Directors

The nonprofit Sundance Institute and The Walt Disney Studios have teamed up to a...


You Can Count on Me and Mudbound Among Films With November Anniversaries

Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund in Mudbound. Courtesy of Netflix...


Balancing Themes with Sofia Coppola, Director of Priscilla

By Stephanie Ornelas Sundance Collab participants signed in from around the world to listen to Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie-Antoinette) talk abou...


Release Rundown: Documentaries on Nikki Giovanni and Shere Hite Among Sundance Films Opening in November

Sex researcher Shere Hite is the subject of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival docu...


Sundance Institute Names the 2023 Episodic Lab Fellows

Marking the 10th Anniversary of Supporting Emerging Writers in the Episodic Space...


11 Sundance-Supported Documentaries Reaching Wider Audiences This Fall

Above: a still from Pascale Appora-Gnekindy and Ningyi Sun's documentary Eat Bitter...


Watchlist: Uncover These 9 DFP-Supported Documentaries about Trailblazing Journalists

By Stephanie Ornelas Journalism is crucial in preserving and strengthening our ...


Sundance After Dark: 8 Fang-tastic Films About Vampires to Watch this Halloween

By Stephanie Ornelas Few things are colder than the weather during the Sundance Film Festival, but one thing that stings more than the crisp Utah air is a vam...


A Thousand and One, Passages, and other Sundance-Supported Films Grace the 2023 Gotham Awards Nominations List

The Gotham Film & Media Institute has revealed their complete list of nomination...


Inside the Archives: Taking Up Residence at the House of Docs

Filmmakers William Greaves, Albert Maysles, and Jon Else share a moment with Sundance House of Doc organizers Nicole Guillemet and Meredith Lavitt. Photo by Jil...


Learn What Happened When We Gave 20 Mediamakers $60,000 Each to Live, Work, and Grow as Creatives

Kathy Huang, production for My Uncle the Fugitive. Photo by Alex Bushe. by Hajn...


Watchlist: 7 Impactful DFP-Supported Documentaries by Artists with Disabilities

By Stephanie Ornelas For years, independent filmmakers with disabilities have welcomed audiences into their personal narratives. They've worked to gain ag...


Sundance Institute Names Nina Fialkow, Pete Nicks, Kimberly Steward, and Tessa Thompson to Board of Trustees

Park City, UT - October 19, 2023 The nonprofit Sundance Institute today announ...


Sundance-Supported Films Stuff a Stacked 2023 Critics Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

With days getting shorter and the crisp feel of autumn swirling in the air, we k...


2024 Sundance Film Festival Ticket Packages & Passes On Sale Starting Wednesday, October 18

PARK CITY, UTAH - Packages and passes for the 2024 Sundance Film Festival will b...


TAAF and Sundance Institute Announce Second Cohort of AAPI Artists for Fellowship and Collab Scholarship

12 AAPI Filmmakers Selected for the Annual Program to Strengthen Representation ...


Watchlist: Six Sundance Festival Films About Latinx Musicians that Rock

By Stephanie Ornelas Nothing brings us together like music and art - especially when celebrating the unique stories and melodies of one's culture. The ab...


Eight Nonfiction Films Highlighting Diversity In Science Selected For The 2023 Sundance Institute | Sandbox Fund

Los Angeles, CA - The nonprofit Sundance Institute and Sandbox Films today annou...


The Station Agent, American Promise, and More Celebrate Anniversaries This October

Michelle Williams and Peter Dinklage in Tom McCarthy's directorial debut, T...


Celebrating Community through Cinema: Anpa'o Locke Reflects on Shooting Kaw

By Adam Piron In celebration of Indigenous People's Day, Indigenous Program Director, Adam Piron, spoke with Anpa'o Locke (Hunkpapha Lakota and Ahtna D...


Watch These 8 Documentaries to Fuel Your Fight for Gun Violence Prevention

By Paola Mottura Over the past seven years, thanks to the generous support of The Kendeda Fund, the Sundance Documentary Film Program has nurtured, supported, ...


Supporting Our Resilient Nonfiction Filmmakers

Fellows, advisors, and staff at DFP Producers Lab 2023 Sundance Institute _ Photo by Jonathan Hickerson...


Our Community of Artists Supported This Year

Dear friends, When some people hear Sundance, they think of those magical days in January when we come together on the mountain to celebrate independent film...


Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know C.J. Fiery Obasi, the Writer-Director of Mami Wata

One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a fro...


Inside the Archives: Registering for the Sundance Film Festival When Postage was Required

By Tanya De Angelis Let's travel to the days of dial-up internet, NES games...


2023 Merata Mita Fellow Caroline Monnet on the Power of Art and Film

During the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, the Indigenous Program announced Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe/French) as the recipient of this year's Merata Mita Fe...


Get Familiar With This Fall's Filmmakers Through These 20 Sundance Films

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in Yorgos Lanthimos' black comedy The Lobster...


Introducing Sundance ELEVATE, presented by MUBI, the Institute's Professional Development Track

By Shira Rockowitz, Director, Producing & Artist Support, Feature Film Program ...


7 Tips for Navigating a Career as a Cinematographer According to the DPs of Mudbound and The Woman King

By Stephanie Ornelas 2018 was a year of progress for the field of cinematograp...


After Tiller and Thumbsucker Among Films With September Anniversaries

Heart-wrenching documentary After Tiller released to wider audiences in September 2013....


Sundance Institute Announces 2023 Latine Fellows & Collab Scholarship Recipients

Los Angeles, CA, September 6, 2023 - The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced today the recipients of the 2023 Latine Fellowship and Collab Scholarship, launc...


Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Liz Sargent, the Writer-Director of Take Me Home

One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a fro...


Release Rundown: What to Watch This September, From Suspenseful Fair Play to Inspiring Invisible Beauty

Alden Ehrenrich and Phoebe Dynevor heighten the tension in thriller Fair Play....


5 Transformative Sports Films Based on True Stories

Gael Garc a Bernal portrays the titular role in Cassandro, a biographical drama about the Liberace of lucha libre....


Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Richie Mehta, the Director of Poacher

One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a front-row seat for the bright future of independent filmmaking. While we can learn ...


Grief, Hustling, and Kindness Center the Brilliant Scrapper

PARK CITY, UTAH JANUARY 22: Director Charlotte Regan and Lola Campbell attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Scrapper Premiere at Prospector Square Theatre...