Filmmaker and author Heidi van Lier has a new blog over at Film Independent and her first subject to tackle, naturally, is the immortal question: "Why didn't I get into Sundance/Slamdance?"
There are a lot of hurt feelings out there this week, some people are actually questioning if they should ever even attempt another film, others are pissed and shouting how much they despise the programmers of either festival (I’m included as one of those programmers), and still others are just depressed, feeling defeated, and not sure what to do next.
You should certainly read Heidi's answer (and check out her book), but I have to turn the question around. With thousands of films submitted each year (about 8000 to Sundance alone, according to a recent estimate) and only a few hundred programmed (even if you include Slamdance's 100+ titles), fewer than 1% of the films received by these festivals are programmed. In what other kind of competition do contestants enter knowing that they have less than one chance in a hundred of getting in (based solely on the judgment of other human beings) and then get sore -- in some cases even violently angry -- when they don't win?
This is meant more as a reality check than a lecture, though there are certainly Sundance rejects who could use the lecture. Those, however, are the people who will not pick themselves up and move on to the next thing. Those are the people who won't look at the year's worth of worthy festivals laid out before them and decide that there are exciting and prosperous days ahead. Those are the people who will fail to buckle down, create a festival strategy for themselves, and apply accordingly.
And guess what? Those are the people whose films you won't see at SXSW or IFF Boston or Oxford or Seattle or Austin or Ann Arbor or the multitude of other deserving festivals that kick ass each year. Sure, it would be nice to play Sundance or Slamdance and take part in the madness that is January in Park City. It would also be nice to win the lottery or find yourself at a dinner party seated across from Scarlett Johansson. The difference is that with talent and persistence you can work your way up to Park City. Persistence applied to the other dreams will net you an empty wallet and a restraining order, respectively.