By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Observations On Sundance 2012
Today is Getaway Day for Sundance. It started in earnest on Tuesday, but by the end of today (Wed), the town of Park City will look a lot more like Park City and the city infrastructure that is created each year to manage 10,000+ visitors over a 5 day period will begin to seem excessive.
Every category of festival attendant falls in numbers, by half or more, today. Buyers, filmmakers, talent, journalists, publicists… everything but the great staff and volunteer staff of the fest.
The journey to today has been interesting. The noise around the festival was much reduced this year. There were still dinners and concerts and parties (oh my!). But even over the crazy first weekend, there seemed to be literally half the number of people on Main Street, clamoring for parties and celebrity sightings, than last year or any year in the last 6 or 7. The SWAG houses were here… but in much smaller numbers as well.
What there was, ironically, were more branded spaces by media than in the past. So while there used to be just an EW photo studio, there seemed to be 4 or 5 on Main Street. While there used to be 3 or 4 people from the New York Times in town, this year, there seemed to be a dozen. indieWIRE’s footprint in town was significantly greater than its output of content. And there was even more video going on than last year, which was really the year of the video boom up here. (This was our 5th year producing video during the festival.)
There was a ton of hype going on before the festival about how great a year this was going to be for sales. It hasn’t panned out that way. I have no doubt that in the end there will be a lot of these films rolling out to the same group of veteran and newcoming distributors as we saw here last year and in Toronto in September. And you can’t even say there won’t be some crazy buys, as no one saw Searchlight paying over $6 million to get a movie about a guy in a bed… even if it wins an Oscar for John Hawkes next year at this time. (No doubt they loved the film… but didn’t they look at the grosses for The Sea Inside and Whose Life Is It Anyway?)
There have been some buys – including Lionsgate/Roadside trying to re-create the magic of Margin Call with Arbitrage, which strikes me as comedic – but it’s not been a ferocious market… not even with a bunch of newcomers jumping in a’ la TIFF. (The most interesting newcomer is LD Distribution, aka Mickey Lidell and David Dinerstein, which picked up Black Rock, a challenging sell, but potential big-return thriller with three hot chicks fighting 3 disturbed Iraq veterans to the death.)
The big critical darling has been Beasts of the Southern Wild. The most commercial film so far is Bachelorette. The group “found footage” horror film, V/H/S is a born classic for its core audience. There are a load of great docs, many of which are exposing extreme stories of power inequity in very creative ways… though there is no clear rock star this year so far.
I, for one, am looking forward to the next few days of movies first and machinery second. And away we go…