2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: INVENTING TOMORROW

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IQ 190 Productions

Laura Nix profiles several international students pursuing answers to environmental issues in their science fair projects.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Special Program:
The New Climate

Sundance Program Description:

Indonesia, India, Mexico, Hawaii, and many other countries and communities are rife with the ravages of environmental degradation. But hope comes with a surprising – and touching – group of young people. Meet six brilliant high school students as they prepare for the world’s largest high school science competition: the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Inspired by the issues and problems they’ve witnessed in their own communities, these teens propose big ideas and ingenious solutions to the world’s environmental challenges. With unfettered minds and ambition, they descend upon Los Angeles to participate in ISEF and meet thousands of their peers from all over the world. Soon, a sense of global community forms, focused on making the world a better place.

Director Laura Nix trains her eye on her articulate and loveable subjects and goes beyond the notion of the nerdy whiz kid to create a complete portrait of engaged and inspired (and inspiring) youth. An artful and moving film, INVENTING TOMORROW looks optimistically at the future through the passion and forward thinking of these exceptional teens.

Some Background:

  • Laura Nix
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD (2009, producer)

    For this project, which continues the environmental focus of her most recent feature, the Toronto-debuting THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING, Nix received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and was a Sundance Discovery Impact Fellow (2017).


  • Diane Becker
    Past Sundance docs:

    LEGION OF BROTHERS (2017, co-producer)
    WE ARE X (2016)
    WE ARE THE GIANT (2014, line producer)
    SERGIO (2009, associate producer)

    Becker participated in the Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Doc Lab for this project. She previously worked with Nix as a line producer for THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING.

  • Melanie Miller

    This is the first Sundance credit for Miller, who co-founded production shingle Fishbowl Films with Becker, and has an extensive, varied background in music supervision, festival programming, marketing, and acquisitions.


  • Beth McNamara

    McNamara has a background in producing for reality TV. This marks her first Sundance credit.

Executive Producers:

  • Motto Pictures’ Julie Goldman and Christopher Clements
    Combined past recent Sundance docs:

    WEINER (2016)
    LIFE, ANIMATED (2016)
    BEST OF ENEMIES (2015)
    3 1/2 MINUTES, TEN BULLETS (2015)
    GIDEON’S ARMY (2013)

    The pair also are executive producers of 2018 World Cinema Documentary Competition title THE CLEANERS.

  • Sharon Chang
    Past Sundance docs:

    TROPHY (2017)

    Chang is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and strategist behind social innovation/media strategy-focused Yoxi and founder of Future Architects.

  • Linda A Cornfield and David J Cornfield
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (2017)
    CHASING ICE (2012)

    The Cornfields are philanthropists and environmentalists supporting projects that offer innovative, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions to complex current problems. They also serve as executive producers on 2018 Sundance Doc Premieres titles AKICITA: THE BATTLE OF STANDING ROCK and WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?.

  • Ian Darling
    Past Sundance docs:

    UNREST (2017)

    Darling is a leading Australian philanthropist and social impact filmmaker.

  • HHMI’s David Guy Elisco and Dennis Liu

    This marks the first Sundance credit for both. Elisco is currently the executive producer for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Tangled Bank Studios, and has an extensive background in producing science education and natural history documentaries for NatGeo, the Discovery Channel, and PBS. Liu is the head of educational media and outreach for HHMI BioInteractive and an expert in science education.

  • Patty Quillin
    Past Sundance docs:

    BENDING THE ARC (2017)

    Philanthropist Quillin is also an executive producer of fellow 2018 US Doc Competition title THE DEVIL WE KNOW, World Cinema Doc Competition title THIS IS HOME, and Next narrative NIGHT COMES ON. She has been a past Creative Advisor to Sundance’s Catalyst Forum and also supported the 2017 Sundance VR project THE SKY IS A GAP. Quillin is the wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

  • Andrea Van Beuren
    Past Sundance docs:

    ALIVE INSIDE (2014, Audience Award winner)

    van Beuren also executive produced fellow 2018 US Doc Competition title THE DEVIL WE KNOW and Doc Premieres title WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?. She is also a founder and artistic director of newportFILM.

Co-Executive Producers:

  • Motto Pictures’ Carolyn Hepburn
    Past Sundance docs:

    LIFE, ANIMATED (co-producer)
    3 1/2 MINUTES, TEN BULLETS (producer)
    GIDEON’S ARMY (line producer)
    GOD LOVES UGANDA (line producer)

  • Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (associate producer)
    UNREST (co-producer)

    McEvoy is the chairman and CEO of publishing giant the McEvoy Group, while his partner Berriman is executive editor at textbook publisher Pearson Education. Their philanthropic work encompasses the world of art, film, photography, and music, including the Smithsonian, SFMoMA, and SFJAZZ. They are also co-executive producers of Doc Premieres title WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?.

  • Lynda Weinman
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (associate producer)

    Weinman is a founder of the LinkedIn-acquired online software training website Lynda.com. She previously worked in animation and special effects for Hollywood studio films and taught digital media and graphics.

  • Jenifer Westphal
    Past Sundance docs:

    SEMBENE! (2015)

    Wavelength Productions’ Westphal is also an executive producer for Doc Premieres title WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? and World Cinema Doc Competition title THIS IS HOME and an associate producer for Next narrative feature NIGHT COMES ON. Her philanthropic work includes support for organizations involved with alternative education.


  • Helen Kearns
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE CASE AGAINST 8 (2014, associate editor)

    Kearns’ most recent project was Ryan White’s acclaimed Netflix series, THE KEEPERS.


  • Geraud Brisson

    Brisson previously edited or assistant edited Sundance narrative features CAMP X-RAY (2014), BIG SUR (2013), ADVENTURES OF POWER (2008), and URBANIA (2000), as well as Nix’s THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING.

  • Matt Martin
    Past Sundance docs:

    CITY OF GOLD (2015, additional editor)
    NO IMPACT MAN (2009)
    STEVIE (2002, assistant editor)

  • Langdon Page
    Past Sundance docs:


Why You Should Watch:
Nix eschews the conventional trappings of what might appear on the surface to be a competition-focused doc, concerning her film less with who will win and more with why her subjects are motivated to pursue science – a direct response to real-world environmental concerns in their own backyards. The film is part of Sundance’s environmentally-themed programming strand, The New Climate. It is also one of two docs in this year’s lineup – together with Kids title SCIENCE FAIR – focused, in distinctly different ways, on the ISEF.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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