I know that many of you have "Sundance Visions" that may lead to a chance to maybe be on stage at the Academy Awards. Morgan Spurlock’s "Super Size Me" is a great example of a feature that was filmed entirely on a Sony DSR-PD150 3CCD DV camera. While he didn’t receive an academy award, he has certainly gained notoriety for the concept of shooting feature films with DV camcorders. Last year, Spurlock was one of 6,000 entries to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. His film was one of the 120 features and 88 shorts selected for recognition.
Morgan’s success is an inspiration to all of us! However I can’t help but wonder about more than 5,000 other filmmakers that weren’t as fortunate. I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This 20-year-old festival has literally changed the motion picture industry. Before Sundance only mega-budget features produced by major Hollywood studios had a chance to reach the market. Sundance broke through the market bottleneck that existed between filmmakers and audiences. Sundance helped revolutionize what films we can see in theaters or at home.
For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of attending Sundance was in seeing that a new bottleneck has emerged and it was Sundance itself. Robert Redford told Variety Magazine, "I have no worries that we’re going to run dry of filmmakers and ideas," as the festival got under way with a slate of 35 films and programs. With the streets outside his Zoom restaurant jammed with vehicles and pedestrians and tow truck operators removing cars from illegal parking zones, Redford speculated, "If the festival continues to grow, it may outgrow Park City."
Sundance attracts 45,000 distributors, filmmakers and tourists during its 10-day period in January. The town of Park City, Utah can’t readily accommodate that many people. Another bottleneck to consider is simply the limits of the distributor’s time. How many movies can a person see in one day?
In my opinion, Sundance can be more inclusive and provide more paths for more moviegoers to see the works of more filmmakers. Sundance has not increased its number of finalists or venues with the same pace as the growing number of new filmmakers. If Park City had more theaters, would more distributors pick up more pictures? Would more moviegoers see more varied works?
Sundance should seek these changes that go deep and permanent. I encourage them to open the mind to the possibility of considering things in another way and embrace the frontier spirit. Sundance provides a canvas for ground-breaking work and I hope that economists look at how festivals like Sundance can help more moviegoers to see the works of more filmmakers.
Matthew York is Videomaker’s Publisher/Editor