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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sundance or Bust

By Margaux Froley Outhred-

Once again, it’s Sundance time. Los Angeles industry types take their winter coats out of storage, strap on their best snotty attitudes, and head to Utah for a few days of the independent spirit.

Lately, Sundance couldn’t be further from the spirit it was a forefather of. The festival is packed with list-only parties, which keep lines of people in the snow just to look more crowded. The air of exclusivity continues inside where gifting suites only let recognizable celebrities or their fast-talking counterparts past. Tickets to screenings are sold out weeks in advance, and only a daring few have the balls to sneak into sold out screenings. And the alternative of getting available tickets early in the morning is not conducive when most people spend their nights drinking in high altitude.

I’ll admit it; I’m not a big fan of Sundance. The best description I’ve ever heard of it is that Sundance is just like Los Angeles, just with turtlenecks and attitude. This year might get back to that independent spirit since many companies are cutting out unnecessary Sundance trips and party expenses. This is a year that should find a feeding frenzy of buyers desperate for product. But, really, the last few years it seems that Sundance has become a parody of itself. (Anyone see the South Park where the Sundance Film Festival comes to town? I rest my case.)

Do I expect an independent film festival to just show movies for free at all times without any lines? I guess not. But, I would argue that the price of being popular is taking its toll. It just seems like Sundance is a teen movie gone awry. Like, Sundance was the nerdy festival wearing glasses in the corner, until someone gave it a makeover and Sundance became the popular girl in school. Now, she’s leaving all her other glasses-wearing nerd friends in the dirt. Because seriously, being a nerd at Sundance totally sucks. Not being on the list for the many clubs and parties leaves you out in the cold or cramped into a too-small restaurant bar. Not being able to get into screenings sucks, especially when they are movies everyone is buzzing about. But, there is also a strange question of, Why am I killing myself to see this movie at 9:30am across a snowy town, after an hour of waiting in line, when it will just be in theaters in 6 months or so?

The best Sundance experience I heard of was an old friend who decided to throw caution to the wind and just show up to the festival. She drove straight from LA, sleeping in her car that final night in Utah. She showed up at the volunteer office on the first day and got herself a volunteer job, and then proceeded to spend a week working at screenings, seeing new movies, and sleeping on the couches of random people she met. That sounds like an adventure, and a truly fun representation of what I imagine Sundance to be. Maybe that’s the best way to go, although, call me crazy; I’m partial to dinner reservations, and a bed I don’t have to share with strangers. But if you’re staying home this year, read a book about how to produce a digital film for $25, rent EASY RIDER and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, get a little drunk, and you’ll be closer (and warmer) than many other people to the Sundance experience. Even the folks in Park City.
ShowHype: hype it up!

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1 comment:

Jake Hollywood said...

When you learn that a film like "Once" was passed over by the Sundance admittance committee, not just once but several times, then you have to acknowledge that the original intent of the festival is not only broken, but is probably lost forever...If not for a freak occurrence, "Once" wouldn't never made it into Sundance, and it's easily one of the top five best films of the year.

Sundance has become not only a parody of itself, it's become just another extension of the Hollywood system. And that's a shame.