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by Peter Knegt
September 2, 2009 3:56 AM
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With New Fest Section, Sundance Embracing Low & No Budget Movies

The scene at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Peter Knegt.

In a move aimed at showcasing more low and no budget films, the Sundance Film Festival has announced the creation of a new section for its upcoming 2010 event. Dubbed "Next," the section which will feature six to eight narrative feature films, "selected for their innovative and original work in low- and no-budget filmmaking." Festival Director John Cooper made the announcement today, citing "the desire to discover and promote filmmakers forging new ways to tell their stories, limited by resources but uninhibited by creativity."

"Less than equals greater than" is apparently the unspoken motto for NEXT. A festival announcement today said that staffers are referring to the section internally with the symbol: <=>. Cooper calls the icon a bit of an homage to Miranda July. The move by Sundance puts the festival in even greater competition for the sort of smaller films by emerging filmmakers that have become common at other American festivals like SXSW, CineVegas and longtime rival Slamdance.

The selections for the new section, expected to be limited to American work, will not be in the festival's official competition but organizers have been discussing the possibility of a prize selected by the filmmakers screening in the new section. As of yesterday, Sundance organizers had already received 4,964 applications and 3,689 films for their 2010 festival. Submissions for the January event still being accepted this month.

Adding the new section is the first major move by new festival director John Cooper since being named to the post earlier this year after the departure of Geoff Gilmore.

"Programming an event as important to the cultural landscape as Sundance Film Festival, we feel a responsibility both to represent new creative developments in the field and to contextualize films for our Festival goers," Cooper said in a statement. "Historically, we have done this quite successfully with documentary, and most recently with New Frontier, 'saving space' as it were, to support different trends in storytelling. We want filmmakers to feel encouraged and intrigued by this new section of the Festival. We hope to excite audiences as well as inform a budding industry already investing in new models of distribution."

A new aesthetic enlisting low-and no-budget filmmaking techniques has been on the rise. With "Next," Festival programmers hope to provide a platform for filmmakers using new aesthetics enlisting low-and no-budget filmmaking techniques to connect to audiences, industry and press while at the same time "inviting the artists to be a part of an ever-evolving community of filmmakers working outside the system."

"The filmmakers who are working in this realm and who I have spoken to about this have a 'creative impatience' that I find invigorating," Cooper added. "These are not just the films that have been labeled mumble core...or dogma or even guerilla. They are an emerging counter culture within our counter culture."

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival will take place January 21 - 31 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

the complete press release is available on page two

the complete press release:

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES NEW SECTION FOR 2010 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

NEXT, CELEBRATING CREATIVITY BORN OF LIMITATION, TO SHOWCASE SIX TO EIGHT NEW FILMS SELECTED FOR INNOVATIVE, ORIGINAL WORK IN LOW- AND NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING

PARK CITY – The 2010 Sundance Film Festival will feature NEXT, a new section featuring six to eight films selected for their innovative and original work in low- and no-budget filmmaking. Festival Director John Cooper made the announcement today, citing the desire to discover and promote filmmakers forging new ways to tell their stories, limited by resources but uninhibited by creativity. Presented by the non-profit Sundance Institute, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival will take place January 21 – 31 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

A new aesthetic enlisting low- and no-budget filmmaking has been on the rise. With NEXT, Festival programmers hope to provide a platform for these filmmakers to connect to audiences, industry and press while at the same time inviting the artists to be a part of an ever-evolving community of filmmakers working outside the system. Festival staffers refer to the new section with the symbol <=> which literally translates to “less than equals greater than”.

Said Cooper, “Programming an event as important to the cultural landscape as Sundance Film Festival, we feel a responsibility both to represent new creative developments in the field and to contextualize films for our Festival goers. Historically, we have done this quite successfully with documentary, and most recently with New Frontier, ‘saving space’ as it were, to support different trends in storytelling. We want filmmakers to feel encouraged and intrigued by this new section of the Festival. We hope to excite audiences as well as inform a budding industry already investing in new models of distribution.”

“The filmmakers who are working in this realm and who I have spoken to about this have a ‘creative impatience’ that I find invigorating,” Cooper added. “These are not just the films that have been labeled mumble core…or dogma or even guerilla. They are an emerging counter culture within our counter culture.”

As of September 1, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival has received over 4,964 applications and 3,689 films. Submissions are still being accepted. Visit www.sundance.org/submissions for more information.

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5 Comments

  • filmhawk | September 4, 2009 4:46 AMReply

    Correction to last post:

    It is, of course, Larry Clark's KIDS. Ken(neth) Clark, who did the monumental BBC series CIVILISATION, is quite another kettle of fish.

  • filmhawk | September 4, 2009 3:27 AMReply

    Re nhpbob's suggestion that the Next section be based at the Egyptian -- what a great idea! As someone who's attended Sundance since 1987, my head is crammed with memorable viewing experiences in what was once the flagship venue (when the Library was all boarded up, and before the Eccles was built). Super-charged screenings of everything from Todd Haynes' POISON to Ken Clark's KIDS to Gaspar Noe's IRREVERSIBLE -- not to mention the first midnight show to ever sell out: Philip R. Ford's drag extravaganza, VEGAS IN SPACE, which really brought out the Salt Lake City drag queens (among others : =) I LOVE THE EGYPTIAN!!

  • CooperSundance | September 4, 2009 2:17 AMReply

    Hello Tom Whiteside...you made me laugh. You are absolutely right. That is a weird quote. It was a written quote not a verbal one...and I thought I had changed it. I was trying to reference the fact that too many creative choices can be a burden sometimes. Anyway I think you got the drift....but thanks for calling it out. I deserved that. C

  • nhpbob | September 3, 2009 5:47 AMReply

    And I think they should be programmed at the good ol' Egyptian Theater, which though it's the most-photographed exterior of any Sundance venue, has lost its luster somewhat when Premieres and Dramatic Competition (rightly so) moved to larger venues.

    Why not put "Next" films at the traditional home of the Sundance Film Festival? (Especially if I work it again this year...) The seating capacity seems just right for low/no-budget films to have a splashy premiere.

  • Tom Whiteside | September 2, 2009 8:27 AMReply

    This quote does not read well - I don't think it says what he thinks it does. It's rather hilarious, actually.

    Festival Director John Cooper made the announcement today, citing “the desire to discover and promote filmmakers forging new ways to tell their stories, limited by resources but uninhibited by creativity.”