"the worst, most anxious week for the entire American independent film community."
The cause? Sundance, the holy grail of indie filmmaking, is making its lists, checking them twice, and your gonna find out whether your film is welcomed into the cool embrace of indiewood's elite, or whether you are consigned to the scrap heap of worthless and failed attempts.
Or so one would have us believe.
As Poyser goes on to note:
"(I)f you don't hear anything by maybe Sunday night, you're not in. I've had at least four Thanksgiving's ruined by waiting for a phone call that never came - Thanksgiving 2000 (waiting to hear about Pleasureland), 2003 (Dear Pillow), 2005 (The Cassidy Kids), and 2006 (Grammy's). Of course, great things happened with all of those films after those sweaty-palmed Turkey Days, but the disappointment when the line-up announcements did pop up on Indiewire was still thick and undeniable. A sign of personal growth - the sting was less with each successive year."
"Here's the thing: Sundance will no doubt have an incredible lineup this year. But, for all those filmmakers who don't make the cut, fear not. This doesn't spell the end of your film's life, let alone yours. Year after year, I see filmmakers make themselves sick over this week. Stop it."
Here's the thing. For so many years, the Sundance myth has been drilled into our heads. Anyone who wants to make independent films sees Sundance as a make-or-break moment for their film, for their careers, for all that is good and holy in the world. But the truth is, while the Sundance brand can be great for a film, it doesn't guarantee success anymore than not premiering at Sundance guarantees failure. Look (if you can) at the controversial Oscar Shortlist. Sure, Sundance premiered more of the films than any other festival, but 2/3 of the list came from elsewhere.
I've been turned down by Sundance almost more times than I can count - films, grants, labs, you name it. And I seem to be doing OK. There actually came a day when I realized, huh, I'm going to do this without Sundance. With that I realized that perhaps I didn't recognize that such a thing was possible.
Oh sure, I'm planning on making enough films that I'll probably screen in Park City at some point. There will be a clerical error or somehow they'll mistake my film with the latest from Cam Archer.
But here's something funny. You can keep a secret, right? Because I've made two films that, generally, people are aware of, there's been so many times when someone has assumed that my films have screened at Sundance. For instance, earlier this year someone said to me, "I loved Gigantic. I saw it at Sundance."
Me: "Oh, on the Sundance Channel?"
Them: "No, at the festival. I think I saw it at the Library."
Me: "Oh. Oh sure. The Library. That's great. Thanks."
Remember, it's a secret.
For me, the excitement of this week is that it begins to close the book on one year's worth of films while teasing you with titles that will soon become second nature to us. MANDA BALA, WAR/DANCE, HEAR AND NOW, NANKING, NO END IN SIGHT, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO, IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON, THE UNFORESEEN - all of them completely unknown to us just a year ago, then just a list for a solid month and a half. So to will it be Wednesday and Thursday as the first names of the Class of 2008 are unveiled. And whatever the knocks that Sundance takes occasionally for the films it doesn't program, I tip my hat to the programming team there, all of whom are supremely decent people who have one of the most impossible jobs in indie film yet somehow manage to make it seem sort of effortless.
In the meantime, we must hasten the departure of 2007, and that comes first, with Tuesday's early morning announcement of the nominees for the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards. Much more on those nominations this week.