Monday, January 31, 2011

Final Few Thoughts

Now that I'm back home and finally recovered from the Sundance frenzy I think back about the films, the people, the atmosphere. .. the highs and the lows, the successes and failures. Many are saying that this year was one of the best Sundance they have seen in awhile, and I certainly concur. The films were diverse and provocative, the filmmakers were exciting, the panels were strong and thoughtful and the overall lineup was high in quality and fresh in its approach.

But before talking more specifics about Sundance I'd like to point out something about Slamdance, a smaller more independent film festival that takes place right there in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival. Slamdance is held in one location only, all the way on the top of Main Street, with 2 screening rooms, one venue for panels, and of course, venues for parties. It is young at heart, low in budget and edgy in its approach. This year the programmers took some new risks and programmed a few films that have already screened at other festivals, which was a first for Slamdance. Among those films was Stranger Things, a small and wonderful indie film that world premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival this past fall and ended up winning the Lee Marvin Award for Best Feature Narrative. Well, lo and behold, this little film also won the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance! I'm so thrilled for the two young directors, Ron Eyal and Eleanor Burke. Its a great validation of their talent and their work and hopefully will help propel them towards continued work and continued success. So here is to you Ron and Eleanor, and here is to you Slamdance programmers for spotting talent and taking a film that has already screened elsewhere! Your decision paid off!

Back to Sundance. This year is going to be known as one of the best for acquisitions. 27 films sold before I left Sundance with a few more days left for additional acquisitions to take place. And without a doubt more acquisitions will occur after everyone has gone home and the frenzy calmed down.

Many of the films we're associated with have been acquired by distributors. From Carly Hugo's Hot Coffee which was bought by HBO to Martha Marcy May Marlene which was bought by Fox Searchlight; and from Pariah (produced by Joey Carey, son of long time Woodstocker Tobe Carey) which was bought by Focus Features to Morgan Spurlock The Best Movie Ever Sold which was bought by Sony Picture Classics and Salvation Boulevard written by Woodstocker Larry Beinhardt which was sold to IFC and Sony. Buyers felt confident this year, noting the quality of the filmmaking and the level of acceptance of quality independent films by the wide audience. Just look at this year's nominees for Academy Awards. Many of them world premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, including The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone.

Awards night has also recognized some of the more outstanding films at Sundance this year, including films by WFF alums and friends, such as Martha Marcy May Marlene, Buck, Kinyarwanda, If a Tree Falls and Black Power Mixtapes 1967-1975. Congrats to all.

On the way back home from Sundance I met a documentary filmmaker and journalist who attended Sundance for the first time. She attended without a film, but rather in order to have a meeting with potential funders who, if the meeting was successful, would fund her film in full. Coming back to NY on the plane with me she was very happy as the meeting was a big success and the deal was sealed. I was reminded that there are many reasons for people to make the trip to snow Park City each January. Some are premiering their films, others are buying or programming those films, and others are there to meet those who will help them start a new film. Those are only a few of the reasons that people fly to Park City from all corners of the country and the world each year, there are countless more. Each year these type of people will make that trip, and each year I wish them all great success and hope that some of them will make a stop also at the Woodstock Film Festival a few month later, and / or shoot their next film in the Hudson Valley. Until then - do good work everyone and see you at the movies.

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