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Weekend Reading: The History of Sundance



This year marks the 25th anniversary for the Sundance Film Festival, which is about as long as some of us have been alive. It's easy to take for granted the fact that this festival held in a snowy little Utah town wasn't always the influential mega-event it is today. Recently the LA Times had an interesting retrospective about the festival's origins and the way it revolutionized independent film.

Some interesting nuggets:

  • Steven Soderbergh's debut feature film is partly responsible for the festival's success. Director Bryan Singer reminisces, "Sex, Lies, and Videotape made guys like me go, 'If I can get into the Sundance Film Festival, I'll have a shot at a career.'"

  • Aw, Kevin Smith was working as a convenience store clerk when he brought his little movie Clerks to Sundance. He says of the heady experience, "It was basically me showing up in Utah and the Mormon God saying, 'I am going to grant you every wish you ever had, including some you never thought of.'"
  • Also, Smith tells the reporter that Clerks was made for $27,575.
  • Originally the festival was called The Utah/U.S. Film Festival but after Robert Redford's gang took over in 1989, some changes were made. "Organizers began to shift the festival's focus toward contemporary films that took storytelling risks."
  • The article asserts that "nobody embodies the go-for-broke moviemaking ingenuity now commonly associated with Sundance entries more than. . . Robert Rodriguez." Apparently Rodriquez (director of Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City) raised money for one of his movies by "volunteering for experimental clinical drug testing." Hard core.

Photo courtesy of Sundance

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