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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Live@Sundance Opening Presser… from a café in Chicago

The first Sundance I’ve attended where I couldn’t make it to opening day, and I’m missing the tradition of the opening presser, where Robert Redford offers his opening invocation of the ideals of Sundance. (All’s missing is thin air and the murmuring of cynical scribes seated nearby.) The work of the Sundance Institute gets described in general terms before the specific results light up the screens for ten days to come. But for 2011, the opening remarks by Robert Redford and new Executive Director of the Institute, Keri Putnam [profile], as well as John Cooper. “It’s great to be in a second year, and not a first year, let me tell you,” Cooper says. “I’m almost relaxed!” “We are live-streaming this, so hello out there!”

Cooper repeats his prediction that it may be one of the most packed festivals in years, but warns that’s anecdotal. “We’re already sold out, but the word on the street, I think, it’s going to be a very big year and maybe very crowded on the streets. I fear that this kind of constant, ongoing situtation of ambush marketers may be back—I like to call them riff-raff. At an event of this size, that is to be expected. I wish they could find a way to contribute to independent film in generral, but I have to keep looking at the sponsors who support this festival and the year-round stuff that we do.” The magic happens in the theaters, he added, “because that’s what we do.” Cooper also adds that for 2011, the festival received over 10,000 submissions.

“Mr Redford, you’re in your 70s, any plans of retiring?” a woman asks and Cooper bolts from the stage. “Who are you?” he laughs. Redford says, “I think you’ve just given me a great idea! I have not thought about retiring. I’m going to die,” he says, laughing, “but I haven’t thought about retiring.”

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch