Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sundance Film Festival- a wrap

This is my last piece on this year's Sundance Film Festival, I promise. This time it's my overview of the experience.

First and foremost I had a great time. I was only there for maybe 85 hours, but I went to seven film screenings, three panels, three parties and lots of hanging out. I saw some great films, bad films and some in between. I met a lot of industry folk and learned a few things.

Among the things I discovered:

  • Independent Film is in flux. The small little film that goes big- Sex, Lies and Videotape, Blood Simple, She's Gotta Have It, Stranger Than Paradise, all 20-25 years old- is a thing of the past, BUT also maybe a thing of the future. A good story will go a long way.
  • Distributors have no money for films that don't have a name or can "open."
  • DIY distributing, when put in motion before production is a viable way to get your film seen.
  • Sundance- it seems like all the films in the festival had some Sundance connection- getting into Sundance or the Institute is the trick, once in you are in.
  • 5600 short films for 90 slots. Why even try entering?
  • Where else can one go see a documentary like Old Partner- the Korean film about an old farmer and his 40-year old dying ox. That and the short film panel were worth the trip.
In short I learned a lot. glad I went, I look forward to going next year and hope we can take some students.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Yet Another Sundance Panel

Sorry if this is getting old, but hang on for just a little longer.

Perhaps the panel I was most looking forward to attending was on Tuesday afternoon- immediately following the Obama inauguration. (A side note on the inauguration... I gave up tickets for an 11:30am screening of We Live in Public- which ended up winning the jury prize for U.S. Documentary to see Obama take office. A good trade, I think.) The panel was looking towards at the future of independent film and on it were Sundance Festival favorites- Tom DeCillo, Barbara Kopple, Gregg Araki and Steven Soderbergh.

I love all those filmmakers, but to me Tom DeCillo had the best insights on independent film. DeCillo was the DP on Stranger than Paradise- perhaps the first indie film of the 1980s indie movement. He went on to make Sundance films- Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion (all filmmakers need to see this film), Box of Moonlight and others. He has a documentary about The Doors- called When You're Strange in the festival.

Highlights from DeCillo:

  • Independent Film used to be about saying no to Hollywood, no to the suits. Now it's just the opposite. Independent film (and by extension the Sundance Film Festival itself) is more like Indiewood, or Hollydent. People want to get into Sundance and use it as a launching pad for Hollywood.
  • It's a lot harder to raise money now as an independent because Hollywood has taken over so many independent studios.
  • His definition of a director, "The guy who gets the money."
Other interesting comments from the panel.

Soderbergh: The most independent guy in Hollywood is Steven Spielberg beacuse he can do anything he wants.

Kopple: The most important thing is to be good storytellers. We want to see your vision not what you think Hollywood wants.

That's a good place to end, I think.