The Sundance Experience

Seth Cohen

After my experience in Park City I realized valuable and career-changing events happen for a filmmaker overnight.  Seeing a piece of work released at the festival with an opportunity for executives and other investors to promote and advance the film and artist is an exciting process to participate in.  At times during certain screenings it was palatable that the people responsible for creating the films would become successful and eventually well known.

Independent film remains an important aspect of the film industry because it is the breeding grounds for aspiring and up and coming filmmakers, actors, directors, and distributors.  Festivals like Sundance allow independent film a jumping off point and a spotlight to allow innovate and creative people to take risks and push the boundaries of film.  While the industry is a business and only the filmmakers who can manage a profit are the ones that have staying power, the fact is none of them would have a chance without festivals like Sundance.

The audiences at Sundance were extremely knowledgeable and film savvy.  Whether they were in the industry, genuine movie lovers, or celebrity stalkers there is a different vibe when attending the films at the festival when compared to the average movie experience.  The crowds were always engaged in what they were watching and often times audible and theatrical reactions allowed for a more satisfying viewing experience.

Seeing the degree of difficulty it took for a film to merely be admitted into the festival precipitated a great deal of respect for all the filmmakers.  In particular there was no noticeable drop in quality from the films that had major financial backings and the films that were done on small budgets.  The creativity and ingenuity involved to create a successful film was a very high level and I credit Sundance and their system of selection for this.

The range of topics presented at the festival was also extremely interesting.  Perhaps out of pure coincidence the topic that seemed to be prevalent in quite a few films was pornography.  Whether it was the presentation and business end or the obsession an individual can have with it, it was clearly a topic that was explored by quite a few films.  This is probably a window into the current times and the boundaries that many new filmmakers wish to explore.  Another subject that was examined by many films was race and the oppression or confusion it has caused within the culture.  Linsanity did an excellent job portraying an athlete who was overlooked because he did not fit a racial stereotype despite his skill level being superior to many of his competitors.

Becoming part of the Sundance crowd always involved new and unusual encounters.  Perhaps the strangest event that happened to me was meeting a person who was consumed with government conspiracies and explained to me that the world was ruled by a group of elitists who controlled the masses by means of tap water.  I told him he had to start working on a screenplay, but he was worried about the government stopping him.  I also met the wife of the owner of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team.  She had an unusually keen taste in movies and had attended the festival for over five years.  I think my most gratifying meeting was after a screening of Shopping.  I accidentally ran into the lead actor after the movie and he told me it was his first attempt at acting.  I told him his character carried the movie and he had to continue acting.  He seemed to be in high spirits as the film showcased his talents to a large number of people in the audience.  If I ever find the time to go back I definitely would, but I would buy more tickets in advance.

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