Sundance lineup offers a new commitment to independence
The Sundance Film Festival begins this Thursday, and much of the town is preparing.
This week, residents will begin to see the changes around town. Banners will go up on the lampposts and by midweek, barriers will likely begin to mark off certain areas of Main Street, and while many businesses are only now beginning to ready themselves, one man has been planning for this week for months.
And he doesn’t even live in Park City.
Sundance Film Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore who normally works out of the Sundance Institute’s California office was preparing for the 2006 Sundance Film Festival long before the ski season took hold in Park City, but this is still his busy time of year. During the film festival, Gilmore is a tough man to catch; he’s always talking to someone, organizing something or going somewhere.
"I’m the host," he said. "I certainly think that there’s a lot that I do that I think keeps me occupied that keeps me occupied from morning to night. I can’t tell you I just hang out. I introduce things, I’m hosting receptions I’m holding the hands of filmmakers and sponsors sometimes alike.
"You’re doing a range of different kinds of things. And, you know, I enjoy it. I find myself in a situation every year where I experience a lot of things and get energized by it."
Many people be they filmmakers, media members, festival workers or party-goers find themselves nearly constantly busy during the 10 days of Sundance and Gilmore said he was no exception.
With so many people in town for the festival and so many programs running, Gilmore said he had little time to sit.
"It’s work, there’s no question that it’s work," said Gilmore. "There’s parts of it that are fun and there’s parts of it that are enjoyable but it’s also work."
The festival itself is both a tremendous opportunity and an enormous task, he added.
"I know that for me it’s a question of trying not to be overworked," Gilmore added. "There’s certainly a level at which I’d love to sit back a little more than I have a chance to, but I very much enjoy it. I like the town. I very much enjoy the experience that I think we offer people when we come to Park City. I think it’s really a place that people genuinely like to come back to. They love the atmosphere, they like the facilities that the town has to offer and they enjoy the festival."
This year, Gilmore said festival-goers will see a few changes from the event’s past incarnations. The old American Spectrum category was changed to the Spectrum category, and the World Dramatic and World Documentary competitions were each expanded to include 16 films, instead of 12.
"What we did is we broadened the Spectrum category to make it more flexible and to allow us basically to showcase international films in that category as well as American films, documentary or dramatic films," Gilmore said. "And that was basically to create kind of a 25-film, non-competitive basket that would allow us to program whatever we wanted on top of the range of work that we have in the competitions, the premiers and the special sections."
Otherwise, he noted the expanded World Cinema categories and the expansion of the industry office so it can offer more services to the film industry members on hand for the festival.
Gilmore also noted the evolution of the Digital Center, located in the basement of the Main Street Mall. For 2006, there will be more technology present in each of the areas the Sundance Institute hosts around Old Town, and while the digital center will still host many of the technology-focused seminars, it will also host other events throughout the festival.
"Basically what we’re saying is that the technology and film center, and the filmmaking center and the Sundance House will all work together as places for the filmmakers and guests to go hear seminars and deal with a range of different programs over that week," said Gilmore.
"But," he noted, "the focus specifically on the digital center will continue in some of the technology presentations that will go on at the festival. But we didn’t want to separate the digital world out from the rest of the festival, we wanted to reintegrate it."
With regard to the festival films, Gilmore said there were a few different threads and themes that seemed to emerge from the 2006 festival programming, but he noted one in particular.
"We’ve talked a lot about looking at this program and saying, it feels a lot like an American independent festival, a program that’s gone back to its roots, that’s gone back to the kind of edginess, the quirkiness, the kind of taking-itself-seriously and aesthetic experimentation," he said.
What was once new and then old is now coming back around, he noted, so it’s new again.
"I think you very much have an arena, the American independent arena, that continues to change and continues to evolve, but when people talk about it going mainstream, this is, I think, a representation of work that’s going in the opposite direction," said Gilmore.
So, he said he believes the festival is moving back toward its roots as an entity on the cutting edge of independent filmmaking.
Ultimately he said there would be a variety of programs, events and films that festival fans will find interesting.
"Every year I always think there’s a lot that’s going to be cool. I think there’s a number of films that are going to be great," Gilmore said. "I’m looking forward with real excitement to the discovery a lot of filmmakers there. I think we’ve got panels that people are going to find fascinating.
"I think there’s some of the stuff we’ve done last year with Film Church and kind of analysis of the films at the Sundance House I think people are going to have a big kick out of."
Gilmore noted that the festival is so big, with so many events, that it’s tough for him to pick out any one single event or facet of the festival that he particularly enjoys over another.
And that might sum up a whole way to look at the Sundance Film Festival. There’s so much happening, so much to do and so much to see, that really, one can’t fully appreciate it all. He or she must simply prepare for everything he or she can and work to see those portions of the event. Gilmore, after all, has the big picture covered.
"It’s a 10-day festival. Every day there’s events and programs that we look forward to" he said. "So for me to say is any of it exciting to me, yeah, the whole program is exciting to me."
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