By the time this article posts, I’ll be freezing mightily in Park City. Even with cocooning myself in Arctic worthy thermals and a winter coat that’s thicker than me, I’m still frigid to the core and longing for Redondo Beach. But, don’t get me wrong; I love the Park City festival experience and I look forward to watching great films in this little snow-capped mountain town.
I’ve attended Sundance and Slamdance every year since the mid 1990’s and the experience is never less than magical, (especially in 2003 when I met my wife Shahina there). I’ve served as a World Cinema screener for Sundance and I’ve been a panelist for numerous Slamdance “Fireside Chats.”
Throughout my decade and a half of experiencing Sundance, I have learned some key tactical strategies that at first helped me survive, and in later years helped me thrive in Park City. Since one of my goals with Going Bionic is to significantly reduce the time needed for you to reach your goal, I’d like to share some key tactics with you.
Don’t Be A Party W***e
Sundance hosts some of the best festival parties in the Western Hemisphere and I absolutely love attending them. They’re posh, often times outrageous and always memorable. But, if you’re a filmmaker looking to be taken seriously, the last thing you want to become is an inebriated party w***e who tries to beg their way into the biggest bashes of the week. You should attend parties when you can, but always remember you’re there to enhance your career, not your blood alcohol level.
Collect A “C-Note” Of Business Cards
That’s right, your goal should be to wrangle 100 business cards from people than can enhance your career path. With tens of thousands of people attending Sundance and Slamdance within a 10-day period, meeting 100 of them isn’t too hard. Besides, if you fail miserably and only meet 31 people, you still have 31 more contacts than you do now.
Do As You Say, When You Say You Will
When you’re lucky enough to get a studio executive, agent or manager to give your work a look, always get it to them when you say you will. If you still need to touch up your work before you submit it, don’t promise a submission date you can’t deliver. Doing do will make you look incredibly unprofessional and your window of opportunity will be slammed shut.
Never Force A DVD Of Your Film Upon A Film Professional
When I attend a major film festival or film sales market, there are always several filmmakers who want to give me DVD copies of their films. While I’m always open to feasting my eyes on fresh new visionaries and storytellers, I have a deep aversion to jamming a stack of DVD’s into my overstuffed suitcase. So, I usually ask the filmmaker to mail me their DVD.
My aversion to taking DVD’s from filmmakers at festivals and markets is not an isolated condition; it’s an industry-wide epidemic amongst film professionals. In fact, while almost nobody will admit the following, I submit to you that more often than not, your indie film has a greater chance of being seen by the service crew at the hotel that the person you submitted to be staying at, rather than by the person him or herself. That’s right, most people won’t take the DVD’s home, they’ll just contact the filmmakers to get another copy.
The smart play here is to tell the film professional whose interested in your film that you’ll send it to their office a few days after they get home. Doing so will make it easier for them to consider your work.
Read The Trade Magazines Daily
Both Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter will have daily updates on the most recent acquisitions at Sundance. You should make it a point to be “in the know” about what’s selling because it will not only help you see what buyers are buying, but it’ll give you something to talk about when you meet that career-changing person at the party you were dying to get into.
Understand The Current Financial Climate
The most recent sign of our financial climate reared its ugly head when I read yesterday’s Daily Variety’s Sundance Updates. While describing the acquisitions of two films, the articles failed to reveal how much money the films sold for. Such a practice is a far cry from having a distributor boast about buying Little Miss Sunshine (2006) for $10.5 million or Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire (2009) for $5 million.
The reason distributors are not listing sale prices of the films they’re acquiring in Park City, is because those prices are a fraction of what they used to be. Simply put, it’s hard to brag about a sale price that’s ten times less than what they used to be as early as three to five years ago. The good news is distributors are still buying independent films. The bad news, however, is that they are paying a lot less for them.
Have A Clear Mission Before The Festival Begins
Know why you’re going, whom you are dying to have face-time with, how you plan to connect with them and what you expect to accomplish when you do. Taking this step will allow you to celebrate your daily successes as you strive toward your goal.
Send Out “Thank You” E-mails Or Cards
Everyone you meet in Park City should receive a “thank you” e-mail or card within a few days after the festival ends. Doing so reinforces your new connection(s) and creates good will. Besides, contacting someone four months after you met at Sundance and asking him or her to take a look at your project will seem like you’re using him or her for what they can do for you. Thus, it’s a far better play to nurture your new relationship from the get go.
Attending Sundance can be a rewarding experience that helps facilitate your career goals, but you have to take it as seriously as you want people to take your desire to be a filmmaker. Of course, the strategies we’ve discussed above can be applied to any major film festival or film sales market, so file them away in your arsenal of strategies and use them at the moment they can most benefit you.
Thank you for lending me your eyes, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!