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in Filmmaking
on Jan 8, 2009

“What if Sundance isn’t about the sales anymore?” asks Stephen Zeitchik in a Hollywood Reporter piece that’s worth reading for its take on the festival and the current acquisitions market. In it he mentions several films that are screening directly for executives instead of heading towards Park City, and he summons up the following vision of the festival (which is a lot like how it used to be a long time ago):

But what these breakouts show is that the fest’s main value might now lie in the classic indie model, in which little money is spent and little is earned. The payoff comes in the form of critical cachet and awards, not in a Little Miss Sunshine-style plug-and-play blockbuster. It’s a switch that takes the fest back to its emergence two decades ago, when movies like “sex, lies & videotape” were championed not as possible crossover hits but as giving rise to directorial talent and even a new style of filmmaking.

Such a shift would dovetail, in a sense, with the festival’s own ambitions. While organizers haven’t voiced outright opposition to the sales market as they have with swag and ambush marketing, they have had an ambivalent relationship with it: Organizers like the heat and industry attendance it brings but privately worry that it puts the emphasis on the big sale instead of the great film.

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