Sundance Film Festival is one of the biggest independent film festivals in the world. If you can’t make it to the actual festival then being aware of what it is and which films will appear at the festival is a must for any screenwriter.
It’s particularly important for any filmmaker who wants to enter Hollywood and the mainstream industry rather than cut their teeth on independent films.
Here iseverything screenwriters need to know about Sundance Film Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival is an annual film festival, organised by the Sundance Institute. The festival is one of the largest independent film festivals in the world.
Since its launch in 1985, hundreds of films launched at the festival have reached worldwide audiences eager for fresh perspectives and new voices, many of which have also gained critical recognition.
Sundance Film Festival acts as a showcase for international and independent filmmakers, bringing together original storytellers and featuring a packed program of content and storytelling in the format of films, documentaries, panel discussions, workshops, performances, exhibitions, events and parties.
The Sundance Film Festival takes place each January in Park City, Utah.
Next year’s film festival will run from January 18th to 28th, 2024.
The festival shows approximately 200 films during its 10-day run and offers prizes in several competition categories.
The program includes competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature films and short films, and a group of out-of-competition sections, including NEXT, Midnight, Sundance Kids, New Frontier, Spotlight, and From the Collection.
Approximately 50,000 attendees attend the film festival, including industry insiders and the filmgoing public.
Sundance Film Festival is open to everyone. All you have to do is buy a ticket – there’s no compulsory registration or accreditation required.
Entry options include a festival pass, a ticket package, or an individual ticket if you want to see any films, access official venues, or attend festival events.
Sundance began in Salt Lake City in 1978 and was originally known as the Utah/US Film Festival. Its aim was to showcase American-made films, highlight independent films, and increase visibility for filmmaking in Utah.
It was founded by Sterling Van Wagenen (head of Robert Redford’s company, Wildwood) and John Earle, of the Utah Film Commission.
Actor and director Robert Redford, who lived in Utah, was appointed the festival board’s first chairman, and his involvement helped raise awareness and funds for the new festival. The first festival in 1978 featured films such as Deliverance, A Streetcar Named Desire and Midnight Cowboy.
The Sundance Institute is an internationally recognised resource for thousands of artists, and was founded by Robert Redford in 1981 in Utah. The Institute is a non-profit organisation that seeks to advance the impact of independent storytelling worldwide through the festival and its artistic development programs.
The Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for independent artists to create and present original and authentic new work.
The festival offers prizes in several categories of competition. Among these honours are the Grand Jury Prize, awarded for documentaries and dramatic films originating in the United States, and the World Cinema Jury Prize, given for documentaries and dramatic films originating elsewhere.
There are many other awards, including the Directing Award, Special
Which famous films and filmmakers have been featured in the Sundance Film Festival?
Many films premiering at Sundance have gone on to be nominated and win Oscars. Notable independent filmmakers and directors who received their big break at Sundance include Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Todd Field, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky and James Wan.
The festival also brought attention to now well-known films such as Saw, American Psycho, The Blair Witch Project, Reservoir Dogs, Little Miss Sunshine, Donnie Darko, Napoleon Dynamite, Whiplash and Boyhood.
Many films from the festival have received critical acclaim and mainstream popularity. For example, in 1999, the film Three Seasons made festival history as the first to ever receive both the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award
And three films from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival went on to garner eight Oscar nominations. Manchester by the Sea led the Sundance-supported films with six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
The following year, about 40 films from the festival were acquired by distributors, including Amazon, Netflix, and Universal. At the 2021 festival, CODA was the first Sundance film to win an Oscar for Best Picture at the 94th Academy Awards.
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