Sundance Film Festival: The Bare Essentials

Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival begins on its 30th year anniversary. This indie film fest takes place in Park City, Utah every January for one week. It draws more and more people annually, with 46,000 attendees in 2013.

Before Robert Redford’s involvement in 1978, the festival got its start with three ambitious filmmakers, John Earle,  Cirina Hampton Catania and Sterling Van Wagenen. The Utah/United States Film Festival, as the Utah Film Commission originally called it, hoped to attract more filmmakers to Utah. It was moderately successful but did not really excite the film industry. The festival held seminars and retrospectives of classic American films with a handful of awards aimed toward emerging American independent film and filmmakers.

That is when Robert Redford’s alter ego, The Sundance Kid came into the mix. Already a board member on the film festival committee, Robert Redford was asked to take charge. In 1981, he founded the The Sundance Institute. In 1991, this fete renamed The Sundance Film Festival, cultivated status with A-listers and supported indie titles to reach box office prestige.  Then, the festival was relocated to draw a larger crowd and to garner more publicity. It’s said that film producer and director Sydney Pollack proposed that the Sundance Film Festival be moved to a ski resort during the winter months. “Hollywood would beat down the door to attend,” he promised. The festival added snow to the mix and a star was born.

According to the Sundance site, the festival is committed to artistic expression in film and theater, and to maintaining intercultural discussion between artists and viewers.  Despite any differences – religious, cultural, political or social – the annual festival fosters individualistic storytelling to enlighten, inspire and unite. Its programs encourage artistic development not only for directors, producers and screenwriters but also for film composers, theatre artists and playwrights.

Which films have gained success from the festival? Think Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992. Then, there’s the midnight screening of “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999. Remember the hype? This small, low-budgeted film generated a cult following, making it the most successful independent film release of all time. After the festival screening, it was picked up for $1 million, went on to move mainstream audiences, and finished off generating $249 million worldwide.

This year’s festival is expected to attract actors like Anne Hathaway, Elijah Wood, Aaron Paul and Michael Fassbender. There are grab free “swag bags” stations set up like TR Gifting Suite featuring P. Diddy’s Sean John line, and “it’s So Miami Lounge” introducing Patron xo cocktails, a sampling bar and even a tattoo artist available.

However, let’s not forget that because Sundance’s scope has flourished and it’s generated an A-lister lineup, it’s getting harder for the traditionalist filmmakers to get back to the indie roots of the festival. In Variety magazine, Robert Redford states that this year’s film festival “going a little back to our roots, in terms of very different independent films that are even more different than they have been in the last few years.”

With all the flash, glamour and talent that the festival bares, it’s no wonder that year after year, the Sundance Film festival has snowballed into such a popular event of the year.

by Dawn Levesque



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