Independent’s Day

Martin Scorsese recently wrote an open letter to his daughter in an Italian news magazine about the current state of movies. In the letter, he sees a bright future ahead for her due to the current low cost of making a movie. "You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras," he wrote. "You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color correct at home. This has all come to pass."

But on the opposite spectrum, Steven Spielberg predicted that the film industry would soon implode due to high marketing costs and the rise of television. According to the director at a panel at USC, his Oscar®-nominated film, Lincoln, likely would be produced today for HBO and not the silver screen.

Creating an artistic movie that also will make money at the box office are two different things, and for the non-Scorseses and non-Spielbergs of the world (i.e., indie filmmakers), we’re living in both the Golden and Dark Ages for movies. Digital technology and social media have leveled the playing field for filmmakers to the point where you no longer have an excuse not to make a movie. The only problem is that everyone with a DSLR, or even an iPhone, is creating content, and their finished movie is then dropped into a sea of bobbing corks. How do they get their film noticed, and more importantly, make money? This has become the flip side to the digital democracy.

God Help The Girl (dir. Stuart Murdoch)

And, still, Sundance marches on. Celebrating its 30-year anniversary, Sundance 2014 is still the place to see cutting-edge films you won’t find at your local multiplex. Although criticized for being too mainstream in the past, Sundance has made great strides in bringing back the rebel spirit of the ’90s’ indie film scene and cutting down on industry "red carpet" events.

"The films selected for our 2014 Festival show that filmmakers are empowered and emboldened by the 30-year legacy of the independent film movement," said John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival, at the opening press conference. "The confidence to play with the medium and to surprise audiences indicates the vital role independent film has come to serve in the cultural landscape."

Happy Christmas (dir. Joe Swanberg)


Sundance 2014, which ran from January 16-26, kicked off with Day One, where one film from each of the four competition sections was screened, as well as a shorts program.

For this year’s festival, 118 feature-length films were selected, representing 37 countries and 54 first-time filmmakers, including 34 in competition. Feature-length films are represented in the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, New Frontier, Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections. This year, there were 12,218 submissions (72 more than in 2013), including 4,057 feature-length films and 8,161 short films. Of the feature film submissions, 2,014 were from the U.S. and 2,043 were international.