Tuesday, January 24, 2017
What happened to the Sundance Film Festival?
Unfortunately, Hollywood took notice. They snatched up the best of these little gems and distributed them. A few made money. So major studios opened indie divisions. Agents and studio people started gravitating to Park City. “Reception” stopped meaning a little post-screening party at a local pub; it meant: “how many bars are you getting on your cellphone?”
For Hollywood it was perfect – a chance to buy pre-existing product they didn’t have to develop and fund, a ski vacation they could write off, and most important – a chance to finally get out of town. After taking the entire month of December off, they had been back at work for three whole weeks. Finally! Some light at the end of the tunnel.
Sundance became not about showing but selling. Bidding wars broke out for desired projects. Novice meggers were getting signed by the major ten-percentereries. Show business had arrived at the slopes.
Thus it became much harder to get your film accepted by Sundance. The amount of entries swelled to a ridiculous number. And since investors figured out there was gold in them ‘thar Utah hills, they started making movies with ringers. Known actors began appearing in these small films. Then big actors. Needless to say, these were now the films being selected. And why not? More buzz for the festival. Movie stars up close and personal. Ben Affleck getting out of a cab!
So when I read that movies starring Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Nick Offerman, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Keanu Reeves, John Krasinski, Sam Elliott, Krsyten Ritter, Carrie Preston, Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Abbi Jacobson, Allison Brie, and Molly Shannon (to name but a few) have beaten the odds to make the long journey to Sundance I have to scoff. The only way Jay & Silent Bob break into Sundance now is if Kristen Stewart directs their motion picture.
And then this weekend, the studio that produced the ABC sitcom DOWNWARD DOG got Sundance to screen four episodes for a full house screening in the hopes that the strong reaction will change ABC's mind about the upcoming series. It is slated to premier in the summer, pretty much as a throwaway. So has that what the festival has now become, a way to better position network television series?
I miss the Sundance Film Festival.