Why (For Most Indie Filmmakers) Getting Into Sundance is a Waste of Time

For a certain generation, the Sundance Film Festival will always be the gold standard.

I admit it. I was one of them.

But these days?

I think Sundance has become an all-but-meaningless waste of effort for most indie filmmakers.

What happened?


And online distribution.

And now?

Celebrating large crews, star-driven projects and mostly meaningless Sundance “deals” seems kind of silly.

Why perpetuate Old World ideas about filmmaking when those ideas are actually misleading (destructive?) for a lot of aspiring filmmakers?

Maybe a metaphor will help to explain my point of view:

Today everyone knows that amateurs in a garage can make rock music.

And that some of those amateurs might go on to make money.

But, for sake of argument, let’s assume (because of an ongoing revolution in the technology for the creation and circulation of music?) that most people didn’t know that.

Imagine a world where aspiring artists didn’t understand how easily they could create and circulate their art. In this crazy imaginary world, infographics and listicles are relied on to give young artists an idea of how to pursue their dreams (nutty world, I know).

Imagine an infographic distributed to aspiring musicians that showed them that it would take scores of people to make music worthy of performance at Radio City Music Hall (including dozens to load in and hang lights, large union crew for making and hanging signage, security and ticket takers, marketing staff and ushers, not to mention guitar techs, caterers and bodyguards, etc.)?

Can you see how such an infographic – based on assumptions about Radio City, a peculiar Old World institution – might be curious and interesting (especially when a big show like the VMAs was coming to Radio City) but not really that helpful to young musicians?

And what if that imaginary infographic implied that going to Radio City was a viable path for obtaining a record deal? Deals that almost invariably left even those musicians “lucky” enough to play Radio City in the hole (broke, responsible for their own recording costs, without ownership of their music and without any meaningful release of their songs)?

Now let's come back to our real world circa January 2015. What are we to make of an infographic (like the one below, from http://www.culturalweekly.com/, based on films that starred Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson, etc.) that simply misses the huge new world of filmmaking opportunities that don’t rely on Sundance – while perpetuating the idea that having a big crew and going to Sundance is somehow the path to a meaningful distribution “deal?”

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Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.