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By Mark Bell | January 12, 2007

Getting ready to rock Park City all over again, and I can’t wait. In fact, to be honest, my Sundance started Monday of this week, when I started catching press screenings in Los Angeles.

Now, I promised I wouldn’t talk about those films until after they premiere (we call it “review embargo”), so I’m not going to give away any massive nuggets here (as in to say, not going to tell you what I’ve seen thus far), but I will say nothing has been horrendously bad. You would expect, in theory, that one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world (if not THE most prestigious) wouldn’t have any clunkers, but in practice I (and may others) know that is not the case. Thus far for me, however, nothing’s had me crying in pain.

And since I’ve been without a car for a couple months now, the last week has become a Bizarro-World Sundance experience in that I bus into Beverly Hills, Santa Monica or Hollywood from my apartment in the morning, get to the screening rooms and then watch 3-4 films in a row. The biggest difference between what I’m already doing now and what I will be doing in Park City is the lack of snow and cold in LA, though it has been a little cold lately (not real cold, mind you, but LA cold). On Tuesday I even found myself drinking and talking film with a great guy from the AP after a screening, and that was after walking 14 Santa Monica blocks with another writer to get to said screening so… Sundance has me, I’m already at the festival. Already pounding the vitamins, Airborne and copious amounts of water, too.

Onto some Sundance news that I think is worth mentioning now, and then hopefully clarifying when the official press release comes through later: is reporting that the Sundance Film Festival is partnering with iTunes to offer 38 of the 2007 festival’s short films via podcast for $2 a download.

The question becomes: who gets this money? Do the shorts filmmakers get a cut? As a form of digital distribution, did the shorts filmmakers sell their rights, or is this a part of the festival rights normal nonsense? Finally, are these the same short films that will appear on the Sundance website during the festival for free online viewing?

I currently don’t have the answers to the above, and will be asking questions (and reading the press release when it drops, damn Wired and their advance look) about the situation because its an interesting mix of the digital distribution era with the old “come to the theater” one and… it’s a building block.

As of right now, downloading feature length films is not a completely streamlined process. Download speeds are still a little too slow for the OnDemand crowd. But in the future, when folks are getting all their TV and movie content via internet rather than cable, that won’t be a problem. Which then begs the question, why put on a film festival in Park City, Utah (or anywhere), when you could stream the same films online during the festival for paid download? It would eliminate lines, folks wouldn’t get turned away from screenings, writers wouldn’t need to travel to cover the event (though I love it)… we’re looking at a precedent slowly being set. It starts with Ooohs, Aaahs and short films, and then there’s rights battles and biting…

Of course, this will not be an easy process, or one I see happening tomorrow. The rights issues, who gets the money and the consideration of whether a filmmaker looking for a distribution deal would allow their film to go into a potentially pirate-friendly arena should keep this one in debate for a while but there’s something brewing here.

Anyway, I’ve got one more press screening today, than a weekend of personal Sundance prep (take that to mean what you’d like, your imagination will probably offer more fun ideas than the truth of the situation). Let me know your thoughts on this “downloading short festival films for $2” adventure, and let’s get this Sundance started!

Oh, did I mention I will be wearing the following kick-a*s hat in Park City? The SuicideGirl named Noir made it (and makes many other awesome hats), and I can’t wait to rock it, Eagles-style…

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  1. Jason says:

    I am all about the free stuff…thanks.

  2. Rory L. Aronsky says:

    Just exclaim to him, “Yes! Yes! Oh god yes!”

  3. Mark Bell says:


    From what I’ve heard so far, there will be a number of lounges open to the public during the day. The New York one will have free bagels and coffee during the day, and the Airborne Lounge will have free tea, soup and, surprise, Airborne.


    We’re not in the same condo, so you won’t be missing any jacuzzi hijinks or Brokeback Bedroom-style antics. I will definitely drink a Coors in your honor, however. And if I see Matt Dillon…

  4. Michael Ferraro says:

    That’s what I meant by “good” bed Don. You weren’t above me or below me.

    And that rickety latter must go man. How many times did you hear me fall from the top at 7 in the morning? I feel sorry for the person sleeping up top this year, if they do indeed have the same condo.

  5. Rory L. Aronsky says:

    “Did you really…

    A) Want to see me climb onto the top bunk?
    B) Have me sleeping directly beneath you?”

    Cue the “Brokeback Mountain” music…

    He just didn’t know how to quit you!

  6. Don Lewis says:

    Did you really…

    A) Want to see me climb onto the top bunk?
    B) Have me sleeping directly beneath you?

    I think “the good bed” worked out best for all of us…

  7. Mike says:

    Mark… some of them will be 17. Remember, that’s illegal in the states dude.

    Seriously, I’m f*****g bumming. I’m really going to miss seeing you in a hot tub with Eric at 2 in the morning. Or sharing a bunk-bed with Pete, while Don gets the good bed. Or seeing Gore in a towel.

    I really am pretty sad. Mark, drink a Coors in my honor. I’ll be there in spirit.

  8. Jason says:

    My students are 17 to 18 years old. WE arrive on the 23rd and start our screenings on the 24th. We head back to Dallas on the 28th. I think you will be easy to spot. We will make sure and say hi.

  9. Mark Bell says:

    How old are the students? And I’ll be around town, wearing the above hat, so I’ll be easy to spot. Make sure you introduce yourself.

  10. Jason says:

    My students and I were invited to attend the second week of the festival. They were 12 of 100 students from around the country that were chosen. WE are very excited. I just read your guide to Sundance. That will help alot. Do you have any other advice? Where would be the best place for the students to go?

    We are attending a bunch of screenings, some popular (premeires of Black Snake Moan and Chapter 27) and some other works (short films and docs). Maybe we will run into each other on the mountain.

  11. Felix Vasquez Jr. says:

    A man wears a hat like that, and you know he’s not afraid of anything.

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