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A Thriving Industry: Sundance, Festivals, and Independent Film

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by

After seeing an interesting article by Reuters who sat down with John Cooper, director/chief programmer of the Sundance Film Festival, a few things crossed my mind when considering how the phenomenon of Sundance as well as other festivals projects onto the many tones of the film industry.

When asked how he felt the relationship between Hollywood and independent film had changed or remained the same coming into this year’s Sundance, Cooper replied that he thought the divide is growing. He went further to suggest that “as Hollywood has its problems with financial things and needs to make films of a certain size, you are splitting, where maybe 10 years ago there was a blending a little bit.”

Once upon a time the indie filmmaker was a misunderstood artist, slowly turning into a type of taboo that fastened itself to any person “just making a film.” Nonetheless, we are gradually approaching a time in which filmmaking is becoming even more increasingly accessible as is evidenced by established filmmakers like Hooman Khalili creating films on devices like a smart phone (Olive – Pictured right) instead of high-end, exclusively film-y equipment. Some may consider this to be the pinnacle of indie film’s demise as the industry is clearly destined to be over saturated with bad films.

But not so, in the opinion of Cooper though not specifically toward this argument. More so, with the technology currently out there and clearly accessible he feels that the quality of films coming into Sundance has remained good and actually improved. “What I am seeing in general is that the independent film movement or community is maturing a little bit. The bar gets set higher each year” says Cooper in reference to the selected films for this year’s Sundance.

Finally, we reach the ultimate question of whether or not these festivals just service the same persons every year and do little to nothing to further the careers of others in the production. When you’re dealing in Hollywood I suppose its also true that there are certain roles that receive fame while other may go by the wayside without a volume of success: think maybe a one time dynamite screenplay versus a one time dynamite direction, though within the film world both are recognized the same generally leans toward the director.

Cooper comments that, too, the festival is doing advancing and doing more for the community of film. When asked how festivals expose roles other than break out directors he comments that the discoveries have “ramped up… It is not just an event for the filmmakers.”

Looking to Sundance and all the other great festivals out there we are beginning to see that independent film hasn’t gone the way of the wildebeest much like critics may have predicted after the market began to play less toward the theater experience. Instead, the indie film community is growing and thriving with an unwillingness to compromise itself.

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