Interview: Head of Projection at Sundance on the Year 35mm Died

Photo ©2009 Christopher Holland

Holden Payne, Technical Director of Exhibition and Projection at the Sundance Film Festival, talks about the behind-the-scenes of festival projection on the occasion of the festival's first year without a single 35mm print. From the interview with Oakley Anderson-Moore at NoFilmSchool

NFS: What's your experience with DCP? How's the road been for DCP adoption?
HP: I actually have a pretty good time with DCPs as long as the person that's getting it done actually gets it done by a post house. I would recommend to filmmakers, if you're going to show in a festival, just invest the time and money into your deliverable. Don't have your cousin that can make a DCP in his basement do it.  . . .  why risk it being tragic when you can have it be magic?

I had the good fortune to meet Payne in September at a Sundance Institute Artist Services event and his dedication to a good experience for the audience and the filmmaker was immediately apparent. This is good stuff and should be required reading for filmmakers entering the festival circuit.

If you want to have the best chance of a successful screening at any given festival, give that festival a print in the format it requests. Not every festival has the resources of Sundance – some will want DCP, some will want some flavor of a Quicktime file, some will want Blu-Ray (which, you'll notice, Payne says he'll only play as an absolute last resort). 

If you try to push some other format onto a projectionist, their equipment might not be able to handle it or they might try to convert it to their preferred format on their own – with no guarantees about the quality of the end product. If you're not in possession of the original editing files, consider carefully your ability to produce different kinds of digital deliverables for which festivals are likely to ask.