The annual Sundance Film Festival programme has it all: animated projects, documentaries, dramatic features, episodic content, and short films. It’s meant to be a coming-together for audiences interested in fresh perspectives and new voices and original storytellers. Sundance also hosts conversations between filmmakers, discussion panels, feature films, short films, and workshops.
In 2023, the Festival unfolded between the 19th and 29th of January and those interested in attending were able to do so in person or by using on-demand online viewing.
- Filmmakers’ chances of making it through the selection process are below 1%.
- The 2022 Festival lineup included 82 feature films, 15 New Frontier projects, and six indie episodic features.
- 91% of the Festival’s feature films in 2022 were world premieres.
- Of the nearly 11 000 Short Films that were submitted for the lineup in 2023, only a little over 60 were eventually selected.
- 4 Indie Episodic projects in 2023 were chosen from over 500 submissions.
- The 2023 Short Film programme featured work from 20+ countries.
- In 2023, over 40% of the directors willing to share identity information identified as women.
- In this same programme, nearly 60% of directors identified as people of colour.
Did You Know…?
Robert Redford is commonly credited with coming up with the Sundance Film Festival concept but this is apocryphal. Sundance was originally called the Utah/US Film Festival, although its purpose has always been to encourage independent filmmakers and boost the profile of the Beehive State.
Sterling Gray Van Wagenen is the guy we have to thank for the festival. He brought Redford on board as chairman in 1985, a full four years after the Sundance debut in 1981.
Several big names got their break at the Festival. This list includes the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Ryan Coogler, and Steven Soderbergh. This group has given us movies like Blood Simple, Reservoir Dogs, Waking Life, Fruitvale Station, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
Due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Sundance Institute made the hard decision to move the 2022 Festival online entirely. Although there were hopes that the event could be a hybrid one, featuring in-person and virtual experiences, a mere two weeks before the planned start, Omicron’s high transmissibility rates could simply not be ignored and it was decided that the festival would unfold entirely online.
This year’s film festival, on the other hand, kicked things off with in-person screenings in Park City, Utah. During its 11-day run, virtual screenings were also available across the USA. The good news for everyone who manages to get into the festival is that it’s very likely that they’ll get a distribution deal as a result. Many movies screened here enjoy this amazing outcome.
There are multiple ways to attend the Sundance Film Festival. You can choose single film tickets, the World Cinema package which includes 10 in-person tickets to movies in this category, and the Award Winners package, whereby you can enjoy access to eight acclaimed features. The Salt Lake City Pass lets you take advantage of priority access to the entire festival and the Local Pass gives residents a little something extra.
Sundance Film Festival Trends
Trends have sweeping effects, no matter what industry we’re talking about. Firstly, they frame the feel of a particular time. Secondly, they work to stimulate innovation and this process continues forward, affecting the future indefinitely. Trends are what shape the feel, look, and sound for contemporary art and its evolution is always exciting:
- The Future is Hybrid
In 2020, film festivals made the move online, running their events virtually because of the mandates for the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19. While no one welcomed this idea initially, it quickly went on to become the new normal and organisers woke up to the value of online platform screenings and their ability to reach a far wider audience.
It just makes sense that festivals will start embracing a hybrid model where their events are viewable in-person and online.
- Increased Immersion
The rise of augmented and virtual reality has given filmmakers the option of telling their stories in a new way. AR allows us to experience the invented world of the characters within the movie firsthand and VR lets people fully engage within the invented narrative.
- Lower Initial Sales
A trend noticed back in 2020 was that, while sales overall at festivals like Sundance are breaking records, this is not predictable by films’ opening weekend numbers. Sales are currently taking place some time into the festival and frequently take days and even weeks to conclude.
This is likely because distributors are becoming more selective and viewing more projects before acquiring an expensive project.
- More Bums on Seats
More and more people are going back to movie theatres and this is another trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Industry analysts put this down to people becoming more comfortable returning to theatres and films worthy of the money in your pocket are finally being released on the big screen.
- More Diverse Submissions
All film festivals are inundated with submissions from would-be filmmakers, with Sundance alone receiving in excess of 11 000 each year currently and that number is set to increase exponentially.
As things currently stand, the majority of these are short- and feature-length films, but forecasters are predicting that podcast and unproduced screenplay submissions will increase. These categories are both becoming more marketable and hold great value for networking.
Sundance Is Here to Stay
Globally, hundreds of thousands attend the Sundance Film Festival each year. Utah’s charming, historic buildings tucked in at the bottom of snowy mountains provide a magical backdrop for the latest and possibly greatest voices in movies to strut their stuff and who can resist the opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and famous?