Back to IndieWire

Yes Virginia, there is life after the Sundance Line-up is anounced…

Yes Virginia, there is life after the Sundance Line-up is anounced...

OK, so I looked over this year’s Sundance line-up. Congratulations to everyone who got in. As always, the Sundance programming staff had put together an amazing slate of features, docs, and shorts from around the world. The IndieWIRE headline boasts, “First Timers, Personal Films Dominate Sundance ’08 Slate; Fest Unveils Competition Rosters”

Going to Park City–whether attending Sundance or Slamdance–is an amazing experience. For indie filmmakers, the Park City experience has been presented as the be all, end all. It is not.

While number of rejected filmmakers are prone to offer “sour grapes” comments, the act of disparaging Sundance, or its line-up, for not being “indie” enough is asinine.

Those who question the “indie” pedigree of the films playing in Park City because they feature stars like Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Houston, Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Winona Ryder, Felicity Huffman, Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller, Bill Pullman, Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Amy Adams, Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Method Man, and Mary Kate Olsen shows a complete and utter lack of understanding about the business side of the industry.

Stars do not guarantee that a film will get into Sundance. Nor are stars an indicator of the quality of a film. Sundance plays the highest quality films, with a clear focus on a specific kind of story telling. The independence of vision is beyond reproach. The festival doesn’t need the celebs. It just so happens that there many high quality films made with independent financing featuring AMAZING performances from talented actors WHO JUST SO HAPPEN to be famous. Most actors like to work in indies because these films allow them to expand their range and to take risks they are not afforded in studio or blockbuster films.

Stop hating!

Ask yourself the following: Should a film be penalized for having stars? Where is the line? Who makes the cut? Where does Mary Kate Olsen land? Would anyone pay attention to a Sundance that didn’t screen the best films?

The good news for the rest of the filmmakers is this: NOT GETTING INTO SUNDANCE IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!

In fact, if your film is a “truly indie” low-budget affair, without stars, or name talent involved, you may have a better experience playing OUTSIDE of Park City.

I posted the following last week in response to something Matt Dentler posted on his IndieWIRE Blog about filmmakers’ pre-Turkey Day Park City anxiety:


“Dance Cards

Earlier tonight, a filmmaker friend commented to me, “This is the most anxious, depressing week in American indie film.” He was referring to next week’s announcement of the Sundance Film Festival selections (with the accepted filmmakers notified in advance), an announcement thousands of filmmakers wait to hear. Not to mention, thousands of distributors, journalists, agents, programmers, etc. etc. And, now, we wait. Some filmmakers have heard by now, but most have not. Another filmmaker friend who is waiting for word on a film submission told me that he wasn’t anxious until someone casually asked, “Have you heard anything yet?”

Here’s the thing: Sundance will no doubt have an incredible lineup this year. But, for all those filmmakers who don’t make the cut, fear not. This doesn’t spell the end of your film’s life, let alone yours…”

My comment:

“Amen! Not only is there “nothing you can do about it now…” there are actually countless alternatives to Sundance, starting with a bevy of other festivals. The commercial/theatrical marketplace is brutal for small indie films with no stars, no cache, and little upon which to hang a marketing campaign. Getting into Sundance is a major accomplishment for any film–as is a nod from Slamdance–but neither are a guarantee for a theatrical life. In fact, countless titles languish in the wake of their splendid PC premieres, sidelined for the rest of the season while waiting for a deal to develop.

Many filmmakers mistakenly hold off future festival screenings in hopes landing a deal.

Thanks to festivals like SXSW, and the emergence of remarkable programming at regional power houses like Sarasota (programmed by fellow blogger Tom Hall), Nashville, and too many others to name, filmmakers have legitimate hope once they realize they haven’t hit the Park City lottery. I encourage all the “rejected” filmmakers to buck up, and check out the scene. There’s more to life than a screening at high altitude.

(Also, for those that DO get into PC, I also encourage you to send the film around the circuit to keep the title current, keep audiences interested, and perhaps pick up some prizes along the way as well.)”

GREAT WORLD OF SOUND played Sundance, AND then, en route to landing a distribution deal from Magnolia Pictures, won countless festival prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival, in April

I’d like to add the following note about the Atlanta Film Festival, encouraging y’all to submit:

We are committed to discovery of emerging talent—over 70% of the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival line-up came directly from Without A Box submissions.

For four decades, The Atlanta Film Festival has been discovering new talent, screening early works of established superstars like Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Victor Nunez, Julie Dash, and Su Friedrich.

The tradition of breaking new talents continues to this day…

The 2002 Academy Award®-winning short, THE ACCOUNTANT, qualified for its Oscar® run by winning the Atlanta Film Festival.

2007 Atlanta Film Festival alumnus Lanre Olabisi’s (left) AUGUST THE FIRST was been nominated for the IFP Gotham Award for “Best Film Not Playing at a Film Near You.”

2007 Atlanta Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner Craig Zobel’s GREAT WORLD OF SOUND is up for 3 IFP Gotham Awards including Best Feature.

2007 Atlanta Film Festival Alum James Longley’s SARI’S MOTHER is on the Academy® short list for Short Documentary.

Filmmakers, take note: today is the first day of the rest of your film’s life!

Submit to the Atlanta Film Festival before the January 11 deadline!

While everyone else is in Park City, we’ll be in the ATL watching YOUR submissions!

“With the exciting and diverse selection of films we had in 2007, I’m looking forward to 2008’s submissions to discover even more great new works we can bring to the festival’s expanding audience.”

Atlanta Film Festival Director Dan Krovich

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox