Sundance Is Not Just Another Film Festival
By Lisa Lindo
"SFF will turn Park City into ground zero for the
year's need-to-see indie comedies, dramas,
documentaries and nouveau cult classics."
~~ Phoebe Reilly for Rolling Stone
Why an entire website devoted to the love of one festival? What is it about Park City that has kept the festival and the town growing exponentially for decades?
The Getting Readies
Every year around December, festival regulars start reaching out to one another. It's an alumni of sorts, a gathering of the round table. We start by sharing tidbits about events we all need to attend and RSVP for. We consolidate schedules, make sure we know each other's dates of attendance, and start to circle the wagons. It's always a good idea to form your own posse if you can. That way, between all of you, you're bound to be on top of whatever is going on throughout your time in Park City. Reaching out to all your industry contacts before the festival - even ones you might only speak to annually - is not as hard as you might think. Just find their contact info and whip out an email with a simple ask, "Going to Sundance this year?"
If you've never been to one of the larger independent film festivals, you can't possibly understand the feeling of family one gets as the festival plays out. There's a bonding of sorts amongst Sundancers - a love affair with the town, the films, and the artists. Catching up with everyone, even just once a year, is something we all look forward to, and plan for.
This year, we thought we'd additionally reach out to our long list of LinkedIn and Stage32 friends who are in the industry. Most everyone was indeed going, with a few exceptions who were really bummed they couldn't attend - many of them promising us a meal or a beer in February if only we'd share the crazy stories bound to ensue.
One of the directors we reached out to - who shall remain nameless - responded as follows:
"I am in post-production on my last two movies... and
prep of my next movie that shoots this Spring 2015...
I don't have time for film festivals as I am making movies back to back..."
uncharacteristically, he added,
"Do you know the difference between films & movies?"
Obviously, we are thrilled that our director friend - unlike so many others - is gainfully employed in this ever changing marketplace. Nonetheless, we suppose we are rather lucky, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, that we do in fact have time to go to film festivals.
Ignoring the obvious snark, and recognizing a good question when we see one, let's start today's entry with a word or two on the difference between a movie and a film, pop and art - and how, sometimes, the two are actually one.
Movies are released and marketed to everyone. Huge blockbusters designed and distributed just to make the big bucks. We're talking TITANIC, TWISTER, GODZILLA, X-MEN, TRANSFORMERS, and the like. Overall, there's a general consensus that Movies are made as fodder for guilty entertainment, and we - the general public 'we' - eat it up. We munch on popcorn, we dress up on dates, and we wait in line on opening weekend. A movie is also most often produced for the sole purpose of making money, with little regard for message or artistic integrity. Not that that's a bad thing, just sayin'.
Further, a movie is not meant to be intellectual or multi-faceted. Instead of aiming for a higher plain, a movie generally settles on trying to please the largest possible audience. This is the realm of the summer blockbuster, placing fun and adventure above asking the audience to think through the eternal questions of humanity; like 'the meaning of life,' or 'how to save the world.' That's a film thing.
A film is supposed to be a labor of love, a work of art, something that is meant to influence you on many levels. Films are supposed to be like BLUE VELVET (1986), the brilliant David Lynch commentary on social mores. On top of the layers of meaning to the piece, we are treated to some tremendous performances that are also kinda creepy from the likes of Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper. We leave the theatre unsure of whether we've been raped or moved, definitely infinitely affected by what we saw.
Films are supposed to be that way - they are supposed to be an experience, and every year Robert Redford's festival delivers on those expectations. They sift through the thousands of submissions with a dedicated team of programmers giving their all - and eye damaging hours - to make the choices. This year, one of those important pieces showing comes from the Oceanic Preservation Society, an inspiring affirmation to preserve life as we know it: RACING EXTINCTION.
"My goal is to make a film that doesn't just create awareness,
but inspires people to get motivated to change this insane path we're on.
Films to me aren't just entertainment — they are for me the most
powerful weapon in the world, a weapon of mass construction.
~ Louie Psihoyos, Director RACING EXTINCTION (Sundance, 2015)
Films can actually change the world. Films can reach out to the heart of an audience and touch their soul, leave the screen and make a difference in our lives. When you aren't worried about studio execs and marketing people, it's amazing the stories you can tell with a camera, and a creative crew. It's securing distribution of these projects that becomes difficult. But Sundance doesn't choose its programming based on market viability. They select their films based on the quality of the storytelling itself.
"With stakes as high as the survival of life on the planet, the documentary
film RACING EXTINCTION dispenses with apathy or fatalism,
emerging as an urgent, affirming call to action to stem the tide before it's too late."
~ Robert Redford
But wait, aren't there some films that have made a lot of money? Yes, of course there are. In fact, that's what Sundance is all about. Giving those films a chance to be commercial successes as well. We're talking projects like Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD (with a box office of $25,295,600) from Sundance 2013, Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (box office of $119,194,771), and Jesse Peretz's OUR IDIOT BROTHER (box office draw $24,816,118) from Sundance 2011.
"It's a charmed experience at Sundance because
people are rooting for you and they want your film
to exist. And they want to be affected by it."
~~ Courtney Hunt
Vintage Main Street (Sundance, 2011)