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Highlights

In a white sweater, Greg Jardin enthusiastically introduces his cast.

Genre Mashup “It’s What’s Inside” Thrills the Late-Night Crowd

PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 19: (L–R) Madison Davenport, Nina Bloomgarden, Brittany O’Grady, Devon Terrell, David Thompson, Reina Hardesty, and Greg Jardin attend the 2024 Sundance Film Festival “It’s What’s Inside” premiere at The Ray Theatre. (Photo by Robin Marshall/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

By Annie Lyons

“All of my work before this has been short-form stuff that has gone out on the internet. I’m very used to people telling me that they’ve watched it on their phones, so I’m stoked that you guys can see [the film] on this big screen,” shares Greg Jardin as he introduces It’s What’s Inside, his stylish, science fiction–infused debut feature.

Reflecting on the long process leading up to the film’s January 19 premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, he says, “I started writing the script in 2016 and kept having hurdles in getting it made, faced a lot of rejection. But every new year, I [was] like, ‘OK, it’s a new year. This is the year, this is the year, this is the year.’ Finally, 2022 was the year, and we shot it up in Portland. Honestly, just shooting it was a complete miracle, so being here at Sundance is fucking insane.” Raucous applause from the revved-up late-night crowd greets his words.

During the post-premiere discussion, Jardin recalls his early concept for the film. “Let’s do a movie in a creepy house. Eight friends get together. One dude brings a suitcase. What’s in the suitcase? I just ideated on that for a while,” he says. 

What is in the suitcase? He hopes to leave that question a mystery for now, entrusting the crowd at The Ray Theatre in Park City, Utah to keep the answer under wraps when spreading the word about the film. Let’s just say that the writer-director received an enthusiastic onslaught of questions from audience members eager to dissect the twisty reveal. 

Greg Jardin smiles as he kneels in front of Devon Terrell, Nina Bloomgarden, Reina Hardesty, Madison Davenport, David Thompson, Gavin Leatherwood, James Morosini, and Brittany O’Grady. They are posing in front of a white 2024 Sundance Film Festival backdrop.
Greg Jardin kneels in front of his “It’s What’s Inside” cast members, including (L–R) Devon Terrell, Nina Bloomgarden, Reina Hardesty, Madison Davenport, David Thompson, Gavin Leatherwood, James Morosini, and Brittany O’Grady. (Photo by Robin Marshall/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

The Midnight section film revolves around eight former college friends as they reunite for Reuben’s (Devon Terrell) pre-wedding party. Shelby (Brittany O’Grady) finds it hard to look forward to the occasion. After an attempt to jazz up her stale relationship with longtime boyfriend Cyrus (James Morosini) goes askew, she begins questioning his relationship with their glamorous social media influencer friend Nikki (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Then, estranged and not-entirely-welcome friend Forbes (David Thompson) shows up with the aforementioned suitcase. He suggests playing a new type of party game, launching the genre-blending movie into a whirlwind that leaves the characters questioning their identities as secrets bubble up to the surface.

Unpacking the literal and figurative baggage, Jardin says that It’s What’s Inside grapples with a concept that has preoccupied him throughout his adult life. “[It’s about] the idea of the male gaze, commodification of women, relationships, [and] how we’re fed media, pornography, Instagram, etcetera, and [that] really cultivates this idea of what we want as men, what women ‘should’ be like,” he explains. 

The high-concept premise and comedic dialogue wouldn’t work without the chemistry of the ensemble cast, which also includes Gavin Leatherwood, Nina Bloomgarden, and Reina Hardesty. When asked about a challenge that he faced during the making of the film, Jardin notes that It’s What’s Inside had a long casting process, and he would get hung up on potential actors. “We’d have meetings with someone and then think that person was in and then they’d bail or whatever. I was really upset and felt like it went really wrong. I’m not really a kismet-fate kind of guy, but the fact is that it all led to this cast,” he says, smiling with pride at the ensemble next to him. 

To see more of the magic of the 2024 Festival, click here.

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