Film phase:Completed


Users begins with a mother’s question–will my children love their perfect machines more than they love me, their imperfect mother? She pushes the button and a smart crib lulls her crying baby to sleep, flawlessly every time. This question guides her inquiry into the intimate relationship we have with technology that is increasingly driving all aspects of our society. We explore the unintended and often dehumanizing consequences of our society’s embedded belief that technological progress will lead to the betterment of humanity. Is technology an expression of our humanity or is technology destroying our humanity? 

Users was supported through Natalia Almada’s 2018 Chicken & Egg Award.




Natalia Almada looking directly at camera. Black and white portrait.

Recipient of the 2012 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Natalia Almada (she/her) combines artistic expression with social inquiry to make films that are both personal reflections and critical social commentaries. Her work straddles the boundaries of documentary, fiction, and experimental film. Her most recent film Users premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival where it received the 2021 Documentary Directing Award. Her film Todo lo demás (Everything Else) is a narrative feature starring Academy Award®-nominated Adriana Barraza; it premiered at the New York Film Festival and was nominated for an Ariel Award. El Velador (The Night Watchman) premiered at the 2011 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and broadcast on the award-winning PBS program POV, along with her other two feature documentaries Al otro lado (To The Other Side) and El General (The General). Almada’s short film All Water Has a Perfect Memory premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and received the Best Short Documentary award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Almada was the recipient of the 2009 Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, United States Artists, the Herb Alpert Foundation, and The MacDowell Colony. Almada graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives between Mexico City and San Francisco.




Portrait of Josh Penn, a white man with brown hair and a beard in a white button down collared shirt. Black and white portrait.

Josh Penn (he/him) is a producer with the Department of Motion Pictures. He produced Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, the Cannes Caméra d’Or, and was nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Picture). In addition, Josh was nominated for Outstanding Producer at the 2013 Producers Guild Awards. He has also held producing roles on Monsters and Men (Sundance Special Jury Prize), Patti Cake$, Western (Sundance Special Jury Prize), The Great Invisible (SXSW Grand Jury Prize), and the live documentary A Thousand Thoughts among other films. Josh premiered three films at Sundance 2020: Wendy, Farewell Amor and Bloody Nose Empty Pockets and will premiere three more at Sundance 2021: Philly D.A., Users and 7 Sounds. In 2018, Josh was accepted as a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. Outside of his work in film, Josh was previously the Michigan New Media Director for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and a Senior Digital Program Manager for the 2012 reelection campaign.


A portrait of Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, a white woman with red hair and blue eyes wearing a brown jacket. Black and white portrait.

Elizabeth Lodge Stepp (she/her) is an Austin, TX based producer. Elizabeth is a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program Grantee with her film Users, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and won the US Documentary Directing award. She is also a Sundance Feature Film Creative Producing Fellow with Monsters and Men, which premiered in Sundance’s 2018 Dramatic Competition line-up, and won the festival’s Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature. She has produced numerous films, including documentaries Brimstone and Glory, which was named 2017 Top 5 Documentaries by the National Board of Review, and Kerri Walsh Jennings: Gold Within which premiered on NBC in 2016, and co-produced Knight of Cups (2015) and Song to Song (SXSW 2017), both directed by Terrence Malick.