Sundance Film Festival's Evolution: From Boy's Club to Celebration of Empowerment

Posted by Samantha Stallard on January 31, 2018
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The 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT was action-packed with screenings, political marches, and below freezing temperatures. Delivering on the spirit of founder Robert Redford’s mission to celebrate creativity, Sundance brings independent films to life. But, gone are the days in which Harvey Weinstein roamed the mountains, bringing with him male-centric films like “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Reservoir Dogs” to theaters, with a greater focus on parties, sponsorships, and Paris Hilton-sightings than film making. 

This year's festival was a women's showcase — highlighting films directed, produced and written by women, films with female leads, and special and events focused on female empowermentThe first of those event's was the Women’s March rally through downtown Park City, led by feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, through 22 degree temperatures and falling snow. 

There are major documentaries on Allred, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Fonda, Joan Jett, and artist Yayoi Kusama, with additional films around gender bias in Hollywood, activism, and survival. Forty-five of the festival's 122 feature length films are directed by women and some of the most buzzed about films star the actresses Chloë Sevigny, Laura Dern, Carey Mulligan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kathryn Hahn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rose Byrne, Daisy Ridley, Blythe Danner, Hilary Swank and Kelly Macdonald.

Practicing what they preach in response to concerns over sexual harassment and abuse, the festival created a new code of conduct for attendees, available on the Sundance website and app, and, in partnership with the Utah attorney general's office, established a 24-hour live hotline to report any violations.

Of course, its not Sundance without a myriad of activities for attendees from early morning ski runs to late-night after parties. Some of the most buzzed about parties, activations, and brand experiences included:

  • Sundance Film Festival Official Kickoff Party: The third annual kickoff party inside SundanceTV HQ— an invite-only affair — was hosted by SundanceTV, Sundance Institute, and Sundance Film Festival founder, Robert Redford; executive director of the Sundance Institute, Keri Putman; president and general manager of SundanceTV, AMC & AMC Studios, Charlie Collier; and general manager of SundanceTV and Sundance Now, Jan Diedrichsen
  • TimesTalks: The New York Times live talk series presented conversations with Gus Van Sant, Hari Nef, Ira Glass, Kelvin Harrison, Miranda July, and will.i.am, among others
  • #HereWeAre Brunch: The invite-only brunch for women (and men, too!) was the first of its kind, celebrating women and underrepresented filmmakers, storytellers, artists and advocates
  • #NotAPanel: In what has become a festival tradition, the “non-panel panel” featured Josephine Decker, Jim Hosking, Crystal Moselle, and Boots Riley tasked with the mission to “share objects, stories, or any sensory representation that has influenced their work and helped shape their vision as artists”
  • Midnight: A panel conversation with Midnight category directors, producers and distributors on genre and horror filmmaking in 2018 and beyond. Presented by Shudder
  • The Power of Art in Education Panel: Sundance Film Festival filmmakers discussed the long-lasting impact that art education has had on their lives. Presented by LIFEWTR

While a love of film and filmmakers serves as the great uniter of all industry folks, brands, marketers, PR execs, its impossible to ignore that the movie business is in a state of flux. Traditional distributors, while still in attendance, continue to question how to respond to streaming services, release movies in theaters, and make money doing it. Last year Netflix, the holy grail of streaming services, won the festival's top prize. However, several titles that launched at Sundance 2017 have had immense box office success and award nominations, including "The Big Sick," "Mudbound," "Get Out" and "Call Me by Your Name."

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Topics: marketing news, news, festivals

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