"Birth of a Nation" breaks sales records for Sundance and festivals worldwide

"Birth of a Nation" breaks sales records for Sundance and festivals worldwide

From the Hollywood Reporter: The Sundance audience gave the slave-rebellion drama an extended standing ovation, which was followed by mostly enthusiastic reviews. By the next morning, Fox Searchlight had plunked down a jaw-dropping $17.5 million for worldwide rights to the film, the biggest sale in the fest’s history. It also marks the largest sum ever paid for a finished movie at any festival, including Cannes, Berlin and Toronto. 

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

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

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.

Sundance by the Numbers: An Infographic of the 2014 Festival

Sundance by the Numbers: An Infographic of the 2014 Festival

With the 2015 Sundance Film Festival just a few months away, I felt like taking a look back at the 2014 event – in particular this "by the numbers" infographic published by Cultural Weekly. Unlike most crappy infographics which are just articles tortured into vaguely graphical presentation, this one mostly makes good visual use of the data by comparing the last few years of the Festival against one another.

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #18 - Stop Waiting on Sundance 2014 Edition

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #18 - Stop Waiting on Sundance 2014 Edition

The Sundance deadlines are just days away, and I encourage you to submit to the Park City festivals lest you regret it later. However, you should also acknowledge that Sundance acceptance is a miracle no matter what your film is. In this mini-episode I talk briefly about the possible opportunity costs of waiting on Sundance.

Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge: Another You

Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge: Another You

Short film contests are often the default for film festivals anxious to do something besides just show movies but who are just unsure what that something else should be. Sundance has plenty going on, however, so when they announce a short film contest, it's probably going to be something special. 

A preview for the jealous and bitter filmmaker in you

A preview for the jealous and bitter filmmaker in you

Hat tip to ATLFF Artistic Director Charles Judson for pointing out this one. It's parody trailer time again. The latest example, "Not Another Sundance Movie," lampoons some well-worn tropes that visit the indie film scene every year.

Tim and Susan Have Matching Handguns (at Sundance)

Tim and Susan Have Matching Handguns (at Sundance)

It's that time again – a selection of short films from this year's Sundance Film Festival are available on YouTube. I quite like Tim and Susan Have Matching Handguns because it's a great example of what you can do with a film in just a couple of minutes -- and then play the most coveted festival in the land.

Kickstarter at Sundance 2014


After highlighting their favorite projects of 2013, Kickstarter follows up with a review of the 20 projects that have a presence at the Sundance Film Festival. (Interestingly, not all of them are films.)

One of the best things about crowdfunding films is that little thrill that happens when a project you back makes it into a big festival. Two of the projects I backed (Blue Ruin and Drunktown's Finest) are playing in Park City this week. I had little to do with that success other than giving a few dollars to each, but it's a nice feeling regardless.

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #15 - Crowdfunding with Sundance Institute's Joe Beyer

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #15 - Crowdfunding with Sundance Institute's Joe Beyer

Episode #15, in which Chris Holland talks crowdfunding with Joseph Beyer, Director of Digital Initiatives for the Sundance Film Festival & Institute. As one of the founders of Sundance's Artist Services program, Beyer has worked with Kickstarter on the successful funding of more than 90 crowdfunding campaigns, raising more than 2.8 million dollars since 2011. Joe now faces his biggest challenge in his first personal crowdfunding campaign — and because of the nature of the project, he can't use Kickstarter as his platform. Tune in for an informative and personal look at the technical, strategic, and emotional aspects of fundraising online.

Sundance Institute's Creative Producing Labs

Sundance Institute's Creative Producing Labs

If you have a project in pre-production, applying to the Creative Producing Lab (CPL) is not only a powerful learning experience, it's a support system for the entire life of your project.

Sundance Flu Scare: Park City Medical Center to Hand Out 5,000 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer

Tatiana Siegel, writing for SThe Hollywood Reporter:

As the flu wreaks havoc nationwide, the Park City Medical Center is trying to keep the pesky virus from crashing the party by handing out 5,000 free bottles of hand sanitizer.

[Festivalgoers are encouraged to] Get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink lots of water, and eat healthy foods.

As one commenter points out, these are three things that are basically impossible to do at a film festival.

(Hat tip to Lisa Vandever at Cinekink.)

As for Sundance, the PCMC is urging fest-goers to:

Sundance Director John Cooper - ask him anything on Reddit


This afternoon at 3pm Pacific time, Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper will take questions from the general public in Reddit's "AMA" ("Ask Me Anything") format. AMA is an interesting way to hold a mass Q&A with the general public, and if you've ever had questions about the inner workings of Sundance, this is a rare opportunity to get some answers. Sundance has held public Q&As before (like a live video chat back in 2010), but the AMA format is well-suited to the task of getting the most sought-after answers to an audience. (Reddit members can "up-vote" questions from other members to indicate common curiosity.) 

From Cooper's announcement on the Sundance site:

On Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 3:00 p.m. PT, on the heels of our announcement of the first 60 or so films selected for the 2013 Festival, I’ll be taking questions about just about anything — why we’re excited for this Festival, how we watch more than 10,000 films each year and narrow it down to 200, what it’s like to work for a festival that has launched the careers of many great artists, and why we love Park City, Utah!

The AMA section of Reddit is here - if you don't have a Reddit account already, go ahead and register for one ahead of time. Get familiar with how reading, posting, and up-voting works so you'll be ready to participate when the AMA begins. To see the AMA format in action, check out this AMA with animator Don Hertzfeldt, or this one with documentarian Eugene Jarecki.

Here's a link to the AMA with John Cooper, or you can read the full AMA announcement on the Sundance web site.

Why do festival-winning films fare so middlingly at the boxoffice?

Shawn Levy, writing for OregonLive.com:

In fact, it turns out that few films that win even the most prestigious prizes at the most prestigious film festivals ever become true box office sensations.  Consider these Sundance-winning titles:  “Like Crazy” (2011), “Frozen River” (2008), “Sangre de Mi Sangre” (aka “Padre Nuestro”) (2007), “Quinceañera” (2006), “Forty Shades of Blue” (2005), “Primer” (2004), “American Splendor” (2003), and “Personal Velocity” (2002).  It’s an estimable list, with some real treats and a couple of Oscar nominations in the bunch.  But the eight films made a total of $14,980,000 -- combined.  Boxoffice success is surely not a sign of quality, but it seems that films that get such a huge boost from America’s premiere festival ought to do better, no?

I am shocked, shocked to discover that festival programmers and audiences don't represent the general moviegoing public.

15 Film Festival Darlings That Would Have Been Better as TV Series

Evan Shapiro, writing for The Huffington Post back in January during Sundance:

Each year, there are a few great films that get Park City buzz, only to disappear into a sea of megaplexes and blockbusters. These are tweeners -- terrific stories, with great direction and unique characters that for various reasons are difficult to categorize and tricky to market. I submit that many of these would have fared better on TV. Would they have been better pieces of art? I cannot say. But with the reach and influence of cable TV right now, I can say they would have had a better chance of reaching an audience and influencing the culture, and their directors and producers may have seen a bigger return on their efforts.

It's an interesting read but it mostly makes me think of all of the independent filmmakers who bypass film festivals and go straight to their audiences with short serial content online. In years past these would be people who would have made films and submitted them to film festivals (and some of them still do, I'm sure), but now there's a generation of filmmakers being trained on YouTube instead of on the festival circuit. 

The Internet's Infiltration of Indie Film

Angela Watercutter, writing for Wired:

From crowd-funding to the visual language of online video, internet culture is slowly but surely seeping into independent film.

Nothing illustrates the web’s growing influence on filmmakers more effectively than Me @the Zoo, a feature-length documentary that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Zellner Brothers Fill Idiosyncratic Niche at Sundance

Christopher Kelly for the New York Times:

Then there’s the story of David and Nathan Zellner, filmmaker siblings from Austin, who prove that starry-eyed Sundance still embraces deeply idiosyncratic work made on a shoestring budget. After screening some of their short films at the festival, the filmmakers introduced their eccentric debut feature, “Goliath,” there in 2008. A comedy about an aimless thirtysomething (played by David) whose life begins to come unglued after his cat goes missing, “Goliath” received encouraging reviews and eventually secured a video-on-demand and DVD release through IFC Films.

But the brothers didn’t immediately book one-way tickets to Los Angeles. Instead, they chose to remain in Austin, where they continued to make shorts and direct music videos for their favorite local bands.


Sundance offers distribution "safety net" for its alumni

John Anderson at the New York Times:

a wormhole has opened up between Sundance Past and the Online Present. Through it, films seemingly lost in time — or swallowed up by the gaping maw of bad distribution deals, or no distribution deals — might find commercial redemption.

Thanks to a recent arrangement between the Sundance Institute, which operates the festival, and the Manhattan distributor New Video, six Web homes — Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and SundanceNOW — are making Mr. Noonan’s movie, and any other eligible Sundance film, available for streaming online. The option is open to every film ever shown at the festival, or brought to a Sundance lab, or given a Sundance grant. Filmmakers don’t surrender their rights. They (17 so far, with thousands of potential participants) can opt to go with any or all of the half-dozen sites. They have, in essence, a guaranteed means of distribution.

Read Sundance Offer New Video Streaming for Films - NYTimes.com.