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DAILY NEWS: Sundance Hoping for Digital Projection at 2000 Festival; Event Sees Drop in Early Submis

DAILY NEWS: Sundance Hoping for Digital Projection at 2000 Festival; Event Sees Drop in Early Submis

DAILY NEWS: Sundance Hoping for Digital Projection at 2000 Festival; Event Sees Drop in Early Submissions

by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

If all goes according to plan, the 2000 Sundance Film Festival will mark a
significant development in the evolving e-cinema movement. indieWIRE has
confirmed that Sundance intends to be the first major film festival to
incorporate digital projection into its event. Other festivals have
certainly created sidebars and showcases for movies made digitally, but
Sundance is hoping to offer digital projection as an option within each of
its sections. Details are still being worked out, but if successful, the
move would be landmark development for makers.

“Digital video has arrived,” senior festival programmer Rebecca Yeldham
told indieWIRE yesterday, “We want to present it on a par that is alongside
film, we want to give filmmakers the option to present their movies in any
format they want.” However, Yeldham cautioned that the arrangements are
still being worked out. “We don’t have the equipment as of yet,” she said,
“But it is our intention to project digitally should we have digital work
in the program.”

“We are taking it very seriously, we are hearing from the filmmakers that
this is a medium that they are choosing to work in, its not just a fad,”
continued Yeldham, “We have not set aside a category specifically for
digital work — what we will do is incorporate digital work in any
program where we feel it belongs, maybe in the competition, at midnight, or
even world cinema.”

The ramifications of a such a move by a festival of Sundance’s stature are
staggering. Digital filmmakers accepted into the Festival would be able to
forgo the costs of striking a film print, giving them the ability to gauge
reactions from audiences and the acquisitions community before investing in
the pricey print process. Equipping Sundance’s venues with state of the art
digital projectors will be no small feat — with each Festival section having its
own home venue, organizers have their work cut out to achieve the goal
of providing digital projection as an option for filmmakers in each section.

“To me the significance of a major festival like Sundance having digital
projection is that it lowers a significant hurdle for filmmakers who in the
past have had to find the money and time to complete their movie and make a
print,” Next Wave President Peter Broderick told indieWIRE yesterday when
asked about the importance of Sundance’s intentions.

Organizers expect that once digital projection becomes an option at
Sundance it may result in a larger number of submissions. Yet this year
submissions to Sundance’s early call for entries are off from last year.
The Festival received 150 feature submissions this year by the August 6th
early deadline, while last year they received 180. Of course with the
feature deadline still one week away, it is certainly too soon to determine
what the final tally will reveal. As of Wednesday, the Festival had
received 232 dramatic feature submissions, 68 feature documentaries and 551
shorts. Less than a dozen of the feature submissions are digital, while
Sundance has received about 30 digital shorts thus far. In total, 850 features
and 2,000 shorts were submitted to Sundance last year.

Of the 150 movies submitted early, Yeldham explained that under a dozen
works have already been accepted by the Sundance programming team of
Director Geoff Gilmore, Associate Director John Cooper, Programmers Shari
& Trevor Groth and herself. Admitting that the Sundance programmers
“set (their) barometer very high during early call,” she cautioned that a
number of early films are on a list for consideration after the final submissions

As the final feature deadline approaches next week, the Sundance
programmers are entering a nearly two-month phase of seven-day work weeks.
While the team fanned out to catch potential work at the Montreal, Toronto
and San Sebastian film festivals over the past few weeks, they will be
screening movies daily at Sundance’s Santa Monica office and at their homes
until the lineup is finalized in November.

To those who would see the potential for digital projection in Park City as
a change in the Festival’s programming standards, Yeldham offered, “We’re
saying digital cinema is still cinema — we’re going to be evaluating it in
the same way we evaluate other work.”

Punctuating his comments on the digital subject, Broderick concluded, “Its
great that Sundance is not only being so supportive of filmmakers who have
limited resources and limited time, but also standing up for the
opportunities that digital tools are presenting to filmmakers.”

[The deadline for feature submissions for the 2000 Sundance Film Festival
is Friday, October 8th. Visit the official website at:
http://www.sundance.org, or call the Sundance Institute at 310/394-4662.]

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